The waters of fascism have risen in the country where I was born and the country where I have citizenship. Both countries need sustained, non-violent, mass protest to demand the removal of fascist regimes.

As morose as it sounds, I sometimes think about where I would be sent if I were deported. I’m a naturalized U.S. citizen, with no guarantee of a permanent home as the Trump Pence regime tests out ways to de-naturalize citizens.

I left India when I was two years old, and have not been a citizen of that country since I was sixteen. Once, someone who meant well told me that if things got bad for me here, I could go back to India and still have a home. At one time, I probably would have accepted that, but now I feel that for people who care deeply about humanity, there are no homes and no safe spaces.

In November, I went back to India for the first time in fifteen years to attend two weddings. I dreaded going, especially the prospect of finding out how much of my family has aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political wing of the Hindu fascist movement that has risen to the highest levels of power in India. After Modi’s re-election in early 2019, the BJP has accelerated the process of fascist consolidation in horrifying ways. Just as the Trump Pence regime’s assault on immigrants has been the linchpin and battering ram of a whole fascist program of white supremacy, misogyny, and xenophobia, Modi and the BJP’s war on Muslims has escalated to a genocidal ethnic cleansing and the re-making of India as a “Hindu Rashtra,” a theocratic state for the protection and benefit of Hindus. When Modi revoked Kashmir’s special status and put the region under military lockdown, a beloved cousin was happy that Kashmir would finally be “integrated” into the rest of India. A cousin I used to be close to is married to a BJP politician. These are conversations I didn’t want to have in person, especially during a family celebration.

But visiting India, especially the relatively progressive city of Kolkata, perhaps feels akin to walking around Berlin in 1935. On the surface, things can look normal, even pleasant. The Hindu wedding season had just begun, and I saw on the streets of Kolkata a lot of joy, diversity, and vitality. Yet you read the paper, or get into an even shallow discussion on politics, and you can begin to understand how far into fascism India has fallen. Some greet it with a mixture of fear, despair, and grief for the lost dream of a secular India. Some think they can support the BJP for cleaning up the streets of Benares (where some of my family lives) and reject the lynching of Muslims. In a country of over a billion people, with a history of protest and civil disobedience, any organized opposition in the streets to the BJP’s Hindu fascist vision of India has paled in comparison to what is needed and what is possible.

The latest terror the BJP is spreading across India, the Citizenship Amendment Bill (now called Citizenship Amendment Act) in combination with the National Register of Citizens, has finally sparked mass determined protests across the country, particularly on campuses after the Delhi police stormed Jamia Millia Islamia University and brutalized students. The NRC was the mechanism by which, virtually overnight, almost two million people, many of them refugees from the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war who fled to the northeastern state of Assam, lost their citizenship. Because some of these people who were left off the registry of citizens were Hindus, the Citizenship Amendment Bill of 2019 was introduced to separate those seeking citizenship or residency to non-Muslim refugees and Muslim “infiltrators.” The Citizenship Amendment Bill just passed in the Lok Sabha, which means this terror has become the law of the land, and could be the precursor that threatens the citizenship and residency rights of 20 million Indian Muslims. At the same time, the government is ominously building massive concentration camps, testing and fortifying a more brutal surveillance and repression apparatus, and unleashing a rabidly violent Hindu fascist base. In the last decade, 90% of religious violence, overwhelmingly against Muslims, has occurred since Modi and the BJP took over in 2014.

Modi’s regime is committing greater crimes against humanity each passing day and must be removed from power through non-violent mass protest. The student protests against CAB have spread, and some opposition party leaders have called people into the streets, but it won’t be enough to stop the Hindu fascists from cementing their vision of India as long as Modi and the BJP remain in power. All these fascist regimes, the Trumps and the Modis, must go now, and only millions in the streets can create the kind of political crisis to drive them out.

It was surreal to experience the fascist collapse of the country where I live and the country of my birth from two different vantage points. In the U.S., the white supremacy of the Trump regime puts me constantly on edge, while in India, my family of upper caste Hindus, even if they don’t like Modi, are not in the crosshairs and can pretend it isn’t happening. Then there are loved ones who have jumped into the Hindu fascist tide, lining up behind monsters on a march to genocide.

On the plane coming home, I happened upon a playlist of Bob Dylan songs. In the current climate, the lyrics of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” sounded bitterly ironic.

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

The rising waters of justice and revolution that Dylan was writing about have receded and given way to the rising waters of fascism. Today, it’s the people on the side of humanity who need to start swimming, and it’s humanity itself that will sink like a stone if we don’t awaken the millions who can be the only force to stop this global catastrophe. Fascism is seductive to some, overwhelming to others. It isn’t understood deeply enough, or hated with enough passion, or resisted with enough determination.

The people of India, and the world, deserve better — lives free of oppression and the temptation to oppress. From here, I will continue to kick at the dam until people flood the streets in non-violent resistance to force back the fascist tide, and the waters that can cleanse the world of fascism can rush and rise again. We must do this, because in the fight against fascism, it can become too late at a moment when the fate of humanity and the planet hangs in the balance. The times have changed, but the future is still unwritten.

Coco Das is on the editorial board of Refuse Fascism


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