Rise of fas­cism in In­dia should be reg­is­ter­ing on our con­science

World’s largest democ­racy un­rav­el­ling as politi­cians stoke ha­tred against non-Hin­dus

Pretoria News - - OPINION - SHAN­NON EBRAHIM Jai Shri Ram “Goli Maaro Saalo Ko” Ebrahim is the group for­eign edi­tor at In­de­pen­dent Me­dia

IT RE­ALLY doesn’t take much to un­leash the de­mons of re­li­gious ha­tred. His­tory has taught us that when you com­bine in­cite­ment on the part of prom­i­nent politi­cians, com­plic­ity of the po­lice and pli­ant judges, it is a recipe for pogroms and mas­sacres.

This is pre­cisely the sit­u­a­tion in In­dia, but it is also so much worse. Worse be­cause we are see­ing the un­rav­el­ling of democ­racy in the largest democ­racy in the world, and wan­ton dis­re­gard for the fun­da­men­tal tenets of the In­dian con­sti­tu­tion.

Just as it hap­pened last year in Su­dan, it is the women of In­dia who are lead­ing the peace­ful demon­stra­tions and sit-ins against the in­jus­tices sanc­tioned by the state.

It is the first time so many In­dian women are com­ing out on to the streets on a national is­sue. They are Mus­lim and Hindu women who have cloaked their protests in national sym­bols – the In­dian flag, national icons and the pre­am­ble to the con­sti­tu­tion.

It has be­come the largest civil move­ment in In­dia in 30 years, and the mes­sage is “we are all In­dian first, and Mus­lim and Hindu sec­ond – we are all equal and we need to take back our coun­try”.

A series of re­cent de­vel­op­ments laid the ground for an orgy of vi­o­lence but, con­trary to the of­fi­cial narrative, it was not sim­ply “clashes be­tween Mus­lims and Hin­dus”, but rather vi­o­lence be­tween fas­cists and non-fas­cists.

The hate speech against In­dian Mus­lims on the part of cer­tain prom­i­nent mem­bers of the rul­ing BJP, the in­tro­duc­tion of the Cit­i­zen Amend­ment Act (CAA) that dis­crim­i­nates against Mus­lims, and the National

Reg­is­ter which ob­li­gates citizens to prove their In­dian ci­ti­zen­ship or face de­ten­tion, be­gan the le­gal­i­sa­tion of dis­crim­i­na­tion in the coun­try.

Le­gal ex­perts al­lege that such leg­is­la­tion is in clear vi­o­la­tion of the In­dian con­sti­tu­tion, which guar­an­tees the equal­ity of all citizens.

As Han­nah Arendt said, to have ci­ti­zen­ship is to have rights. With­out ci­ti­zen­ship peo­ple are stripped of their right to land, prop­erty, so­cial se­cu­rity, and the right to vote.

It is widely recog­nised that the National Reg­is­ter will be used to dis­crim­i­nate against Mus­lims in par­tic­u­lar. It will leave them vul­ner­a­ble in their own coun­try and tar­gets of per­se­cu­tion.

Un­less one saw the vis­ual im­ages and video footage of the type of vi­o­lence meted out on the streets of New Delhi against Mus­lim men re­cently, it is hard to feel moved by just more vi­o­lence, in yet an­other coun­try, in a world that has lost its moral com­pass.

Many of those at­tacks were the re­sult of vis­ceral ha­tred – ha­tred stoked by politi­cians who en­cour­aged the singing of ul­tra-na­tion­al­ist songs that in­ferred the su­pe­ri­or­ity of the Hindu re­li­gion over that of other re­li­gions. The chant­ing of the favoured slo­gan of the BJP, Jai Shri Ram, mean­ing “vic­tory to Lord Ram”, was en­cour­aged.

One im­age from Fe­bru­ary 24 said it all: a young Mus­lim man dressed in white cow­er­ing on the ground with his arms try­ing to cover his head, his white garb drenched with blood. Over him surged a mob of men armed with long thick wooden sticks (sticks longer than the height of a man) which were used to beat the man.

The bru­tal­ity of the mob ex­posed the ex­tent of bar­barism that had taken over the streets of the cap­i­tal, and the men sang as they beat the man sense­less.

This scene was repli­cated in lo­ca­tions across the city and, in many in­stances, the po­lice stood by and watched, lead­ing to ac­cu­sa­tions of their com­plic­ity in th­ese crimes.

There were also re­ports of the po­lice smash­ing CCTV cam­eras to pre­vent the mob vi­o­lence from be­ing recorded, and also of the po­lice beat­ing wounded Mus­lim men piled up against one an­other, and forc­ing them to sing the national an­them.

The rea­son the po­lice are so eas­ily com­plicit is due to the pro­nounce­ments of se­nior politi­cians, in­clud­ing min­is­ters, chief min­is­ters and, most im­por­tantly. the min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs Amit Shah who have stoked in­cite­ment against In­di­ans of Mus­lim faith.

Shah had re­ferred to Bangladesh­i mi­grants as “ter­mites”, who would be dealt with. In­flam­ma­tory speeches lasted a month, and be­gan with the min­is­ter of State for Fi­nance Anurag Thakur say­ing which means “shoot the traitors” – the traitors be­ing the pro­test­ers against the CAA. Then there was BJP mem­ber of par­lia­ment Parvesh Singh Verma, who claimed the fe­male pro­test­ers in the sit-in at Sha­heen Bagh were go­ing to “rape our mothers and sis­ters”.

And one of the New Delhi BJP politi­cians and for­mer mem­ber of the leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly Kapil Mishra threat­ened that if the pro­test­ers were not cleared out in three days, he would do it him­self. Mishra de­liv­ered what was deemed hate speech while stand­ing next to the com­mis­sioner of po­lice be­fore the out­break of vi­o­lence.

In the state of Ut­tar Pradesh, where 20% of the pop­u­la­tion of 200 mil­lion is Mus­lim, the state gov­ern­ment is led by Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu na­tion­al­ist monk known for his vi­o­lent and Is­lama­pho­bic state­ments.

It is time to ac­knowl­edge, as the Ahmed Kathrada Foun­da­tion and many other civil so­ci­ety for­ma­tions did this week, that the be­hav­iour of the BJP and RSS has been out­right fas­cism. South Africans of In­dian ori­gin are col­lec­tively say­ing “Not in my name”.

| AIJAZ RAHI | AP

IN­DIAN women and chil­dren dis­play slo­gans writ­ten with henna on their palms dur­ing a protest against a new ci­ti­zen­ship law in Ban­ga­lore, In­dia. Op­po­nents say it fur­ther marginalis­es the 200 mil­lion Mus­lims in the coun­try.

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