Why hash­tags are not enough

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Yasir Piracha Com­men­tary Writer

On June 28, thou­sands of peo­ple gath­ered in cities across In­dia to protest a cat­a­strophic wave of at­tacks on Mus­lims by mobs of up­per -caste Hin­dus. Hold­ing signs with the tag line# Not in my name, the demon­stra­tions stood in stark con­trast to the gov­ern­ment’s telling si­lence. At the cente of the protests in New Delhi, hun­dreds gath­ered around a stage to hear poetry, speeches, and dis­course. Sto­ries of the now as­ton­ish­ingly com­mon shoot­ing and lynch­ing of Mus­lims and lower-caste Hin­dus were shared by fam­i­lies of vic­tims. By demon­strat­ing their anger, pro­test­ers hoped to send a mes­sage to the gov­ern­ment and the world that this re­li­gious and cast e-based vi­o­lence would not be tol­er­ated. Since then, the move­ment has been re­launched in­ter­na­tion­ally, prompt­ing more hash tags, mu­sic videos, per­for­mance art, and more. In In­dia, how­ever, protests and hash­tags alone are likely fu­tile.

The cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia, Naren­dra Modi, has been hailed by some as an eco­nomic re­former, cred­ited with con­vert­ing In­dia into a global fi­nan­cial des­ti­na­tion. How­ever, this dis­guise is weak and trans­par­ent. Mo di isles so fan econ­o­mist and more of a chau­vin­ist, build­ing him­self from a ground­work of na­tion­al­ist zeal.

This foun­da­tion upon which Modi’s state has been erected is stead­fast. Mo di is the leader of the B ha ra ti ya Janata Party (BJP), home to the re­li­gious right and po­lit­i­cal sub­set of the Hindu fun­da­men­tal­ist group Rashtriya Swayam­seva K Sangh (RSS). The RS Sis a cat­e­gor­i­cally Hindu na­tiona list or­ga­ni­za­tion, and has in­volved Mo di since he was just eight years old. His­tor­i­cally, the RSS idol­ized fas­cists such as Hitler and Mus­solini, and ad­mired the way Nazi sm quickly built an eco­nom­i­cally sta­ble state un­der the ban­ner of pa­tri­o­tism. With this phi­los­o­phy, the RS Sc overtly be­gan stir­ring up ha­tred toward non-hind us by blam­ing them for train wreck sand vi­o­lence, ar­gu­ing that re­li­gious and ca ste dif­fer­ences were the root of the prob­lem. They have since cre­ated over 150,000 pro­gram mess cov­er­ing health, ed­u­ca­tion, and de­vel­op­ment to help strug­gling lower-class Hindu com­mu­ni­ties while si­mul­ta­ne­ously in­doc­tri­nat­ing eth­nic and re­li­gious ma­jori­tar­ian be­liefs. Through th­ese op­er­a­tions, the RSS has be­come the van­guard of Hindu na­tion­al­ism, and has in­fil­trated al­most ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion in In­dia – in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion, the ju­di­ciary, demo­cratic min­istries, and more. They are re writ­ing his­tory text­books and cre­at­ing pro­pa­gan­dist train­ing camps to in­cul­cate chil­dren with their cause. With as­tound­ing suc­cess, the RS Sis purg­ing In­dian so­ci­ety of all left­ist in­flu­ences.

Since the be­gin­ning of his ca­reer, Modi has em­ployed the RS Sand its phi­los­o­phy as a po­lit­i­cal tool. He was the chief min­is­ter of Gu­jarat dur­ing the ri­ots of 2002, which accu- mu­lated over 1000 fa­tal­i­ties, most of them Mus­lims. Con­ve­niently, the Gu­jarat vi­o­lence hap­pened close to elec­tion time and po­lar­ized the vote, pro­pelling Mo di into vic­tory. Many re­ports ac­cuse Modi’s po­lice of de­lib­er­ately in­cit­ing vi­o­lence against Mus­lims and of­ten lead­ing the mobs of Hin­dus dur - ing th­ese ri­ots. By re­fus­ing to con­demn the at­tacks and do­ing ar­guably noth­ing to stop the mas­sacres, Mo di has built his ca­reer on a cul­ture of hos­til­ity, cru­elty, and na­tion­al­ism–a cul­ture that has since been in­jected by the RSS into the in­sti­tu­tional body of In­dia. When asked later if he re­gret­ted what had hap­pened to Mus­lims dur­ing the Gu­jarat ri­ots, Mo di re­sponded that even if“a puppy comes un­der the wheel of a car, one feels sad.” Fol­low­ing the vi­o­lence, the BJP w as able to cap­i­tal­ize on the re­li­gious ten­sions cre­ated in Gu­jarat for years, al­low­ing them to claim the ma­jor­ity Hindu vote in the gen­eral elec­tion of 2014. By us­ing com­mu­nal killing as a form of elec­tion­eer­ing, Modi man­u­fac­tured a climate in which his elec­tion was in­evitable.

The other ma­jor party in In­dian pol­i­tics, the Congress Party, didn’ t stand a chance. They quickly lost their she en when com­pared to there form pro­posed by the BJP . Their cor­rupt, high- so­ci­ety mem­bers w ere dis taste­ful when com­pared to Modi, the sup­posed every­man. The Congress Party was forced into the back­ground, and be­came vir­tu­ally nonex­is­tent in many parts of In­dia.

The elec­tion of the BJP al­lowed ag­gres­sion to grow ex­po­nen­tial ly. The Isl a mo pho­bic vi­o­lence oc­cur­ring in In­dia now is a new de­gree of ter­ror. Mus­lims live in fear as hos­til­ity con­tin­ues to grow–the re­cent mur­der of a 15- year-old Mus­lim boy has brought to light the sever­ity of the prob­lem: on June 22, Hafiz Jun aid was stab bed to death at a rail­way sta­tion in Asoti, In­dia over as eat­ing dis­pute. The as­sailants flung his body onto the rail­way plat­form, as a crowd of 200 as­sem­bled near the at­tack. Jun a id’ s com­pan­ions were also crit­i­cally in­jured in the as­sault, re­sult­ing in an am­bu­lance be­ing called. How­ever, the sub­se­quent po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion was al­most im­me­di­ately stopped in its tracks; of the 200 peo­ple on the plat­form, not one claims to see what hap­pened. The po­lice can­not find a sin­gle per­son who says they wit­nessed the mur­der or the af­ter­math. The corn-ven­dor whose shift co­in­cides with the time of the at­tack says he wasn’t there. Nei­ther the sta­tion-mas­ter nor the two staffers who went to in­ves­ti­gate saw the event at which they were present. The post-mas­ter man­aged to be in two places at once: in his of­fice fr om which he called the am­bu­lance , while at the same time at home “re­lax­ing”. Col­lec­tively, the en­tire crowd of Hin­dus at the train sta­tion chose to not see the event.

Analy­ses of this in­ci­dent have dis­cussed how Mus­lims are ef­fec­tively be­ing pushed out of the so­cial body and de­nied ac­cess to ba­sic hu­man­ity, as their mur­ders and lynch­ings have been ren­dered a non- event. Through the ex­posé of Ju­naid’s stab­bing, we can be­gin to un­der­stand that the days of the Gu­jarat mas­sacres are long gone. In 2002, Mus­lims begged for their lives at the feet of Hindu mobs. In 2017, there is noth­ing to see. It is a ter­ri­fy­ing rev­e­la­tion that crowds of Hin­dus can make the agen­tive de­ci­sion to see and un-see the sav­aging of a Mus­lim boy. The vig­i­lante Hindu s across North In­dia hunt­ing Mus­lims for sport do not need to worry about wit­nesses: there will never be any. In­dia has en­tered an era where or­di­nary Hin­dus do not feel any obli­ga­tion to even ac­knowl­edge the pres­ence of a Mus­lim boy. And Mo di con­tin­ues to look the other way, tac­itly en­dors­ing the at­tacks, while his si­lence is re­pro­duced in the si­lence of right-wing Hindu cit­i­zens.

Re­ports of vi­o­lence against non-hind us are con­tin­u­ing to emerge, from the mob at­tack on a Mus­lim woman to the mur­der of a Mus­lim stu­dent leader. How­ever, th­ese re­ports barely scratch the sur­face; many as­saults are sim­ply not re­ported by any main­stream source. The lack of cov­er­age is lead­ing to a blan­ket of ig­no­rance sur­round­ing the vi­o­lence, ob­scur­ing the sever­ity of the is­sue.

Some­thing needs tobe done to halt the cur­rent tra­jec­tory of fun­da­men­tal­ism in In­dia. Fear grips the po­lit­i­cal left, re­sult­ing in pas­sivism in­stead of re­sis­tance. The protests tak­ing place are com­mend­able, but aren’t enough to face the silent, pre­vail­ing gov­ern­ment. The fun­da­men­tal­ist phi­los­o­phy di­rected by the RS Sand the BJP has slowly sat­u­rated In­dia, mak­ing re­sis­tance more dif­fi­cult than ever. Bat­tling and pe­ti­tion­ing the gov­ern­ment isn’t easy when the gov­ern­ment con­trols most in­sti­tu­tions.

Dras­tic steps need to be taken, and we need to be do­ing all we can to help and sup­port Mus­lims and left-wing Hindu sin their fight against Hindu fun­da­men­tal­ism. While more safe protests need to be or­ches­trated, re­sis­tance groups and left-wing me­dia sources also need to be sup­ported to en­sure that the RSS’S in­flu­ence and con­trol is coun­tered. Fo­cus­ing on the vi­o­lence is not enough – we must dis­man­tle the sys­tem that cul­ti­vates it.

Sup­port lo­cal left -wing or­ga­ni­za­tions/news sources work­ing against fun­da­men­tal­ism: The W ire, S, Te­helka, Car avan Mag­a­zine, NDTV, For­ward Bloc, R evo­lu­tion­ary So­cial­ist Party (In­dia). Help spread the word.

Modi is less of an econ­o­mist and more of a chau­vin­ist, build­ing him­self from a ground­work of na­tion­al­ist zeal. With as­tound­ing suc­cess, the RSS is purg­ing In­dian so­ci­ety of all left­ist in­flu­ences.

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