India’s Convoluted Elections And The Threat To Minorities

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Khurshid Alam

Shawwal 22, 1445 2024-05-01

News & Analysis

by Khurshid Alam (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 54, No. 3, Shawwal, 1445)

Image Source - Pixbay Free Content

India is in the throes of elections that will last for six weeks. Given its population size—more than 1.4 billion people—elections are staggered according to regions. Final results will be announced on June 4.

It goes through this ritual every five years giving the impression that it is a democracy. Tall claims like the “largest democracy in the world” are frequently touted. Ground realities show that it is anything but.

Ask the 200 million Muslims of India. They are not only marginalized, there is a systematic campaign to target them. Two-time prime minister and expected to be a winner the third time, Narendra Modi has much to do with this state of affairs.

Throughout his political career, Modi has stoked anti-Muslim sentiment, accusing them of being “foreigners” and responsible for all of India’s ills. Modi emerged from the bowels of Hindutva, an extremist Hindu ideology that does not tolerate the presence of other religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, in India.

Hindutva ideologues like Vinayak Damodar Savakar, whose 1923 Essentials of Hindutva and Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar’s We or Our Nationhood Defined (1939) have made no secret of forcing Muslims to convert to Hinduism or face extermination. The other option for Muslims is to leave India. These blood-curdling threats have become mainstream under Modi.

As chief minister of Gujarat state, Modi presided over the pogrom of more than 2000 Muslim men, women and children in 2002. Some were burnt alive. Modi prevented the police from protecting Muslims as they were hacked to death.

Lobbying by human rights groups led to a ban on Modi’s entry into the US in 2005. He earned the dubious distinction of being “the only person ever denied a US visa based on a little-known law on religious freedom,” wrote the Wall Street Journal. The business mouthpiece lamented the ban; it did not support religious freedoms.

The ban was overturned when Modi became prime minister in 2014. He has since been feted in the US, the last being in June 2023 when President Joe Biden threw a lavish state dinner in his honour.

Commenting on Biden’s fawning over Modi, Politico wrote: “Though he leads the world’s largest democracy, Modi has ruled as an autocratic-leaning Hindu nationalist whose government has overseen a crackdown on everyone from journalists to political opposition leaders as part of a larger targeting of Indian Muslims.”

Clearly commercial, political and geostrategic interests trump human rights, every time. The US dictum is, ‘no permanent friends, only permanent interests.’ Since it has designated China, Russia and Iran as enemies, Washington is courting India to undermine these countries.

This was spelled out most recently in the US intelligence community’s annual threat assessment, which focused on worldwide threats to America’s national security. The document reflects the collective analyses and insights of more than 16 US intelligence agencies.

To get a glimpse into their collective thinking, the report’s foreword makes clear how the agencies see the world. “During the next year, the United States faces an increasingly fragile global order strained by accelerating strategic competition among major powers, more intense and unpredictable transnational challenges, and multiple regional conflicts with far-reaching implications.”

It gets specific: “An ambitious but anxious China, a confrontational Russia, some regional powers, such as Iran, and more capable non-state actors are challenging longstanding rules of the international system as well as US primacy within it.”

Thus, China is designated as an enemy because it wants to develop economically. Russia is condemned for protecting its interests by not allowing NATO expansion into Ukraine. And Iran is a villain because it wants to protect its independence and sovereignty against predatory powers like the US, zionist Israel and their allies.

Where does India fit into this? The Washington warlords want to befriend India not only for its economic progress—China offers a better alternative—but because the Americans want to use it against China. The wily Indians are using everyone—the US, China, Russia and Iran—to advance their own interests. One can hardly blame them for this.

India’s claims to democracy—and the largest in the world, at that—are clearly problematic. Modi has played on the worst fears of the Hindu majority by painting Muslims as “the enemy” to garner public support. In this charged atmosphere, any lie against Muslims is believed by the Hindus.

Take the recent totally false allegation by Modi that if voted into government, the opposition planned to use an inheritance tax to appropriate Hindu property and distribute them among Muslims. The irony is that even educated Hindus have bought into this canard.

While representing the interests of upper caste Hindus—Hinduism’s rigid caste system places Brahmins at the top of the caste pyramid—Modi has even garnered the support of lower caste Hindus. How has be achieved this feat of political engineering?

The lowest caste, called Dalits, have been set against Muslims by telling them that they (Muslims) compete with them for jobs. This is the same tactic the capitalists use to pit one minority group against another in their societies.

Dalits are forced to do the dirtiest jobs in society: clean people’s toilets (most households do not have flush toilets and defecate between two raised platforms) and sweep India’s filthy streets. Despite material progress in some areas, India remains one of the dirtiest countries in the world.

According to Hindu practice, Dalits cannot draw water from the same well as the upper caste Hindus, nor can they use the same utensils. They will become polluted. Yet the same lower caste Hindus have been turned against Muslims as if they are responsible for the Dalits’ degrading treatment.

As the electoral process continues, there are fears that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will get an even larger share of seats in parliament than it did in 2019. Analysts predict that the BJP is set to grab 400-plus seats in a 543-seat lower house called Lok Sabha.

While much of the world will proclaim this as the triumph of democracy, India’s 200 million Muslims will bear the brunt of this “electoral” exercise that will consolidate Modi’s stranglehold on India even more.

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