By Iqbal Jassat
It is not uncommon for Modi to publicly make bizarre islamophobic statements that inevitably spill over into disastrous anti-Muslim riots. In one such callous speech, he linked India’s historic Muslim icons to current-day ‘terrorism’.
As South Africa grapples with the conundrum of hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the forthcoming BRICS summit, much less attention has been placed on India’s notorious Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Apart from Modi’s role in the horrific Gujarat Massacre which led to the brutal slaying of thousands of Muslims by gangs of extremist Hindus during his reign as Chief Minister of Gujarat, his leadership of the ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continues to terrorize Non-Hindus.
Shockingly, though human rights violations and bloody attacks on Muslims, Dalits, and Christians have intensified, Modi’s rule is romanticized as a “hero” in typical Bollywood-style fanfare. Surely a lack of critical appraisal of his hate-filled policies is an injustice to his victims.
Since coming into power, India under Modi has instituted a culture of impunity against opponents that has escalated with no end in sight. Though India is ostensibly a multiparty democracy, Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP have presided and executed discriminatory policies and a rise in persecution of Muslims.
And despite the constitution guaranteeing civil liberties including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, harassment of journalists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and critics of the government, has become a frightening reality. Discrimination akin to apartheid has resulted in the marginalization of Muslims, Dalits, and Adivasis.
Modi’s reign has cast a huge shadow over India’s modern history. While it is true that the Biden administration and America’s capitalist elites do not care about the extreme violations of human rights, India’s glorious past as a pivotal part of anticolonial struggles and a leading light in opposing South Africa’s apartheid state, has been severely compromised under Modi.
Having abandoned Palestine’s freedom struggle by cozying up to the settler colonial regime of Israel, Modi has trashed the values of freedom and liberty that India proudly upheld since overcoming British imperialism.
In fact, by extending and entrenching India’s domination of Kashmir instead of complying with UN Resolutions that seek to allow the indigenous Kashmiri population self-determination, Modi has followed Israel’s outrageous practice of defiance and non-compliance. Such anti-democratic policies relegate India’s status under Modi to that of a settler-colonial regime.
Incidentally with the approach of the BRICS summit during August, annually since the 2019 unilateral change of Kashmir’s special status through the abrogation of Article 370 by the Modi regime, the 5th of August is commemorated as a “day of disempowerment”.
The consequences of it have been disastrous for Kashmir. It saw dramatic changes in the demography – not by accident but by design. Thousands of Indian settlers have been moved into Kashmir, taking forceful control of key levers of power. A replica of Zionist settler-colonialism in Palestine is playing out in Kashmir, with zero or totally inadequate media coverage and hardly any outrage in Western capitals.
The impunity associated with Modi’s conduct to disempower Kashmiris was evident in the brazen plan outlined by his US-based consul-general Sandeep Chakravorty. In November 2019, at a private event in New York, he announced that India will build settlements in Kashmir modeled after Israel.
Though the issue of Kashmir’s quest for independence dates back to 1948, successive Indian governments have allowed it to drag on at a huge cost to the lives and liberties of Kashmiris.
Modi’s reign has intensified military control and suspended civil liberties including curtailing media freedoms. As in Israel where occupied Palestinian people are subject to sub-human treatment, so too is the reality in Indian-occupied Kashmir: discrimination, imprisonment, and torture.
With a fresh application to South Africa’s National Prosecution Authority (NPA) by the Muslim Lawyer’s Association (MLA) and the SA Kashmir Action Group (SAKAG) to investigate charges of war crimes against Modi and to secure his arrest when he lands here for the BRICS summit, one wonders whether the ANC-led government will review its foreign policy on India.
After all, given that a number of international human rights organizations have documented how Israel is an apartheid regime, and that similar racist practices are perpetrated on Kashmiris by Modi’s India, it is reasonable to expect South Africa to adopt a more pronounced stance in defense of Kashmir.
India today is gripped by BJP’s ultra-nationalist agenda in a headlong march to entrench right-wing Hindutva as a dominant force by obliterating all traces of Islamic civilization. Muslims as indeed other minorities are viewed as both a threat and an impediment to Hindutva, and thus extremely vulnerable as victims of hate and racist rage.
It is not uncommon for Modi to publicly make bizarre Islamophobic statements that inevitably spill over into disastrous anti-Muslim riots. In one such callous speech, he linked India’s historic Muslim icons to current-day “terrorism”. Al Jazeera columnist Apoorvanand, who teaches Hindi at the University of Delhi, commented that Modi’s speeches imply that Muslims should be held responsible and punished for the alleged crimes committed by their “ancestors”.
“Today, far-right Hindu nationalists, with the support and at times encouragement of the government and local authorities are making it clear to Muslims that they are no longer seen as equal citizens in their own country. Their dietary habits and religious rituals are being attacked and even criminalized. Muslim women are being humiliated and harassed just because they are Muslim. Muslim livelihoods are under threat. Calls are being made for the genocide of Muslims. It is no longer safe to be Muslim in BJP’s India”, wrote Apoorvanand.
And neither is it safe to be Christians in India under Modi’s emboldened right-wing reign. Reports reveal that laws banning conversion are being enacted in state after state and “Christians are being blamed for forcibly converting poor Hindus and tribals. This is turning public opinion against Christian communities. Christian Sunday prayers are being disrupted repeatedly, churches are being attacked, priests are being beaten up”, observed Apoorvanand.
While speculation abounds on whether Russian President Putin will be traveling to South Africa for the BRICS conference given the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court, it will be equally interesting to see how the NPA responds to the complaint against Modi.
Sectarian violence and majoritarian tyranny against vulnerable minorities in India are evident from extensive investigations by courageous journalists as well as civil rights movements. That they do so at great peril to expose BJP’s violent practices is admirable and needs to be applauded.
For as long as Modi is hailed as a “great leader” by the likes of American President Biden, he will remain intransigent in pursuing BJP’s genocidal policies, of which he is the chief architect.
– Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the South Africa-based Media Review Network. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com