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Right-wing fascists are trying hard to convert India into a Totalitarian State. What they don’t seem to realise is that, a diverse nation of 1.4 billion with strong democratic ethos cannot be ruled by force. One need to look no further than Kashmir to comprehend the futility of the so-called “Muscular Approach”.

Peace is still elusive in the valley, even after the deployment of seven hundred thousand strong military force. Primary reason for this is the alienation of Kashmiri Muslims. Imagine what will happen if a substantial section of India’s 200 million Muslims get alienated?

To comprehend the gravity of such an eventuality, we need to analyse few   external and internal threats India is currently facing.

The threat that China – Pakistan bonhomie poses to India cannot be overstated. Only last week General Charles A Flynn, Commanding General of the United States Army Pacific, warned us about the infrastructure build up by China in the border areas. The fact that large swathes of Indian land, all across the Northern border from Arunachal Pradesh to Kashmir is under Chinese occupation is also an open secret. What hostile actions against India will originate from this front in future is anybody’s guess but to wish away the problem will be suicidal.

Nearly 40 billion dollars come to India annually from Middle East as remittances. Around 7.6 million Indian citizens work in Gulf countries. BJP , India’s ruling party, swiftly suspended two of their office bearers as soon as governments of gulf countries objected to their insult of Prophet Muhammad. Importance India accords to this region can be gauged from this action of the right-wing party. Danger is , there is no guarantee of such incidents not happening again. Government or party have little control over the communally polarised masses. In case of such an event, even if the government is able to diplomatically handle governments of these countries no one can predict how ordinary citizens of these countries will react. If employers decide to reduce Indian work force and boycott Indian businesses and products, there is nothing anyone can do about it. Consequences of such an action will be unpredictable and very detrimental to India.

Ever since Modi government has come to power,  foreign governments , International organisations and human rights agencies have been criticising India on lack of religious freedom , human rights abuses and suppression of dissent. Recently, the scale of criticism has gone up as can be seen from the following examples  “…in India, the world’s largest democracy and home to a great diversity of faiths, we’ve seen rising attacks on people and places of worship,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a press conference recently . He was speaking at the release of US State department’s “2021 Report on International Religious freedom”. In the backdrop of Insult of Prophet controversy, OIC had called on the Indian authorities to decisively address these incidents of defamation and all forms of insult to the noble Prophet and Islam and to bring those who incite and perpetrate violence against Muslims to justice and hold those behind them accountable. Amnesty international India released a statement on June 14th that said , “The state’s response to current protests is not only deplorable but also marks the latest escalation in the suppression of dissent. The Indian authorities must carry out a prompt, thorough, effective, impartial and independent investigation into all the human rights violations allegedly committed by law enforcement officials and other public officials against protesters and human rights defenders”. These  criticisms have severely dented the image of India among the nations of the world.

In most parts of the country, India resembles a divided house today. In states where  BJP is in power , the party  has succeeded in communally polarising the people along religious lines. The situation is especially grave in the Hindi heartland. Muslims are not the only minorities who feel antagonised. Recently there have been an increase in the attacks by the right-wing on Christians. Recently slogans supporting Khalistan was raised in Punjab which is seen as sign of agitation among the Sikhs.

Divisions are not along the religious lines alone. In Bengal there is an ongoing  civil strife  between BJP supporters and TMC supporters. Most non Hindi States are up in arms against Centre’s Hindi imposition. Almost all the non bjp governments are in conflict with the centre over a variety of issues. Chief Ministers like Stalin , Pinarayi Vijayan , KCR and Mamta Banerjee have been vociferously protesting against the centre’s actions that are weakening the federal structure of the country. Their complaints about Centre usurping the powers of the States are not without valid reasons. Governors appointed by the BJP are notorious for their overreach. Most non BJP Chief Ministers have a very hostile relationship with their respective Governors. Many State governments have passed laws curtailing their respective Governor’s powers. In short relationship of States to Centre is one of mistrust and antagonism.

Ever since  Modi government came to power there has been one agitation after another by different groups. Muslims against CAA , Farmers against Farm laws, Opposition parties against Land Acquisition reforms, Occupy UGC Movement by Students, Kashmiris against aborgation of Article 370 and now the youth against Agneepath Scheme. These are the major protests that brought country to a standstill during the Modi regime. There were many more smaller protests during the same period. Anger against government is simmering among all these groups, how and when this anger will boil over is unpredictable.

As if all these problems aren’t enough , India has an economy that’s in shambles. Ill-conceived demonetisation, faulty implementation of GST , Covid pandemic, mismanaged lockdown and a number of poor policy decisions have destroyed the economy that was growing quite well before Modi came to power. GDP is down, rupee is sinking, Wholesale Price Index is headed north, unemployment is at an all time high, businesses are down, MSMEs are going bust on an alarming rate and the investor confidence is at an all time low. In short economy is in a very bad shape and it’s the ordinary citizens who are bearing the brunt of the situation.

This is the precarious situation that the country is in today. In such a situation , can India afford to alienate its largest minority community?  If BJP doesn’t make a course correction now , such an eventuality cannot be ruled out. Consequences of such a scenario will be very difficult to predict. Civil war , balkanization of the country, nothing can be ruled out.  We can only hope that good sense will prevail.

Shakeel Mohammed is a social activist based in Kochi. He is  a Trustee of Manav Migrant Welfare Foundation.


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