Under Modi’s despotic rule, minorities quarantined, democracy shrunk: Indian writer

ISLAMABAD, May 30 (APP):A renowned Indian journalist has said that being a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, (the ruling party)and carrying out its political agenda in India, you can advocate violence and even carry it out, spread hatred against religious minorities, humiliate and abuse the poor, without worrying about being asked to render account in a court of law.
In New Zealand, an Indian origin Justice of the Peace was sacked for advocating an economic boycott of Muslims in India. In Uttar Pradesh, two MLAs were caught on camera doing the same thing on the ground, yet they got to keep their jobs and the police insisted there was no reason to file charges.
Siddharth Varadarajan, a founding editor of ‘The Wire’ and a seasoned journalist, in his scathing article appearing on the web edition on Saturday, said gone was the pretence of development and growth, used as a camouflage during the first term of Modi’s government to avoid a backlash to the BJP’s communal agenda.
The only “accomplishments” the BJP can point to in the first year of Modi’s second term all related to its anti-Muslim mindset.
First, came the gratuitous criminalisation of Muslim husbands who abandon their wives without properly divorcing them. (However, Hindu husbands who do the same have nothing to fear.)
Then on August 5 last year, came the scrapping of Article 370 and the imposition of illegal communications blockade on the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir that ran for six long months and has still not been fully lifted.
Next, the Modi government pushed for, and secured, a favourable (if manifestly absurd) verdict from the Supreme Court on the Ayodhya issue that would see the fulfilment of the BJP’s long-standing agenda of building a Ram temple at the site where its leaders and supporters destroyed the Babri Masjid in 1992.
Last December saw the Modi government’s third ‘accomplishment’, the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Home minister Amit Shah’s infamous ‘chronology’ made it clear the government intended to proceed next to creating an all-India National Register of Citizens.
The government’s next ‘accomplishment’ was to use communal violence in Delhi to break the resolve of the anti-CAA protests. When that process failed – or was interrupted by the coronavirus – it spun a yarn about the violence being the product of an
‘Islamist-Marxist conspiracy’ and arrested several activists at the forefront of the protest against the CAA under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
This despite the fact that the whole world knows the violence was overwhelmingly targeted at Muslims.
The writer said in many parts of India today, the right of the people to mock or even criticise their leaders no longer existed or hung by a slender thread.
“Last week, the police in Madhya Pradesh registered a criminal case against a journalist for referring to the prime minister as a ‘gappu’, or braggart. In Agra, a man who called the Uttar Pradesh chief minister a ‘dog’ has been charged with sedition. Last month, a young photographer in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir was threatened with arrest under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as a terrorist for a photograph she posted on Instagram in 2018,” he added.
Siddharth, a former editor of the Hindu and a recipient of the Ramnath Goenka Award for journalist, further said the purpose of these ‘individual’ cases was to scare others into silence.
“The amended UAPA has also given home minister Amit Shah the power to designate any individual as a “terrorist” without a trial or even the filing of charges,” he added.
The writer said Thakur, a junior minister of finance in Modi’s government, spoke about killing. From the stage of a public event in Delhi, he exhorted a crowd of Bharatiya Janata Party supporters to shout “Shoot the Traitors”.
The ‘traitors’ were not an abstraction but the women and men of Shaheen Bagh and elsewhere who had been protesting the government’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
A few days later, in fact, someone actually fired on the protestors at Jamia Millia. However, the police has yet to file a case against Thakur, let alone seek to take him into custody. “The time is not right”, a top law officer of the government told the Delhi high court when asked whether the police intended to register an FIR against the minister.
The Indian writer said not since the emergency of Indira Gandhi had so many people across India spent so much time in custody for political reasons than in the past year, and never before has the sword of arrest and detention hung over more heads. One former puppet chief minister of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, was now into her ninth month of incarceration.
“Modi’s disregard for democracy runs deep and wide, and extends to every institution that is meant to serve as a check and a balance to the exercise of executive power. In his first term as prime minister, he undermined the judiciary, the Reserve Bank of India, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the country’s university system, the Central Vigilance Commission, the Right to Information, Parliament and its committees,” he opined.
In his second term, Modi further undermined the independence of the judiciary to ensure his assaults on the human ad democratic rights of the people from the Indian Occupied Kashmir to Kanyakumari were not challenged.
“As COVID-19 spreads and the economy flounders, the coming year will prove far more damaging for Indian democracy than anything we have seen thus far,” the writer concludes.