India projects itself as the “world’s largest democracy”. It also claims to be a secular and peaceful country. Western Indophiles have unquestioningly accepted these claims. But the Hindu chauvinist, racist and fascist policies of the Modi government have now compelled a reality check. The most forceful eye-opener has been the unfolding genocide in India-occupied Kashmir (IOK), especially after the recent illegitimate annexation of the former princely state. Now even the fig-leaf that was used to cover up the naked occupation of IOK has been removed, and there can no longer be any pretence about Indian democracy, secularism or commitment to peace. In short, India now stands exposed as the world’s largest hypocracy.
But, while it has taken a fascist demagogue like Modi and his RSS thugs to expose the real face of India to the world, this façade has existed since Indian independence. Though India has held regular elections, real democracy is more about empowerment of the people, ensuring equality and providing justice. In this respect, Indian democracy has failed miserably. India continues to be riven by caste and communal differences, where the so-called lower castes, the Dalits, the Muslim and Christian minorities, and the diverse indigenous peoples in rural areas particularly, are repeatedly subjected to discrimination and abuse. Real power continues to be wielded by the upper caste Hindus, with token representation by the downtrodden. The poor and the minorities, therefore, continue to be marginalised despite the claims about democracy.
Even worse has been the denial of democratic rights to the Kashmiris. Apart from refusing to hold a plebiscite as mandated by the UN Resolutions initially accepted by India, every successive government in New Delhi has rigged elections in IOK. Even its own quislings have been summarily removed on several occasions after imposing governor rule in the region. When the Kashmiris rebelled against such machinations in 1990, a virtual state of military occupation was imposed with over 700,000 troops in the valley, whose special powers ensured they were above the law. Since then, a sign of terror has been unleashed with massive and widespread human rights violations, including the use of torture, illegal detentions, extrajudicial killings and even rape as instruments of policy. The Modi government has taken such repression to even greater depths of barbarity, with the use of pellet guns to blind and maim women and children. In the latest phase, Modi has imposed a complete lockdown which has now been in place for over five weeks. Over 10,000 people — mostly youth — apart from all political leaders and civil society activists, have been arrested and tortured. Access to food, medicine and education has been denied. The calculated objective is to bludgeon the Kashmiris into submission while encouraging Hindu settlers to change IOK’s Muslim majority demography. This has been recognised globally as genocide and ethnic cleansing. Consequently, now even the fawning West is questioning India’s commitment to democratic and human rights values.
The situation is equally grim with regard to Indian secularism. Modi, the “Butcher of Gujarat”, who, as Chief Minister of the state, connived with Hindu fanatics to massacre over 2,000 Muslims in 2002, led the BJP to victory in 2014 and again in 2019. The fact that he campaigned on a divisive agenda targeting India’s minorities, especially Muslims, and won these elections with heavy majorities, speaks volumes about India’s secular credentials. Driven by his RSS roots, Modi has pursued the Hindutva objective of forcibly creating a Hindu Rashtriya or state. Pogroms against Muslims by Hindu vigilantes have been unleashed across the country with forcible conversions of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism. Lists of Muslims are also being drawn up on the pretext of identifying illegal immigrants. All these measures are reminiscent of Nazi fascism — and flagrant violations of secularism.
But India’s façade of secularism precedes Modi. Gandhi initially introduced religion and communalism into Indian politics even before independence with concepts like swaraj (self-rule) to attain Ramarajya (Hindu rule), giving rise to Hindu-Muslim communal riots that have recurred ever since. It was Nehru’s “secular” Congress Party that refused constitutional guarantees for Muslims, thereby creating the basis for Pakistan’s creation. The same Congress Party leaders repeatedly played the communal card by pitting Hindus against Muslims to win elections in UP and Bihar. It was Mrs Indra Ghandi, the Congress prime minister, who claimed to have avenged a thousand years of Muslim subjugation after the 1971 war. The same party under Narasimha Rao stood on the sidelines when Hindu fanatics demolished the Babri Mosque in 1992. In fact, Indian secularism has been a political gimmick to bind together India’s caste and communal divisions and not a genuine commitment. Modi has simply uncovered the true face of Indian Hindu bigotry.
As for India’s non-violent and peaceful credentials, history provides evidence to the contrary. From the occupation of Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagarh and Sikkim, to the Balkanisation of Bhutan, aggression against China and Pakistan and the promotion of Tamil terrorism in Sri Lanka; successive Indian governments have used force to achieve hegemonic ambitions. India also proliferated nuclear weapons in South Asia and blatantly employs terrorism against Pakistan while hypocritically raising the bogey of terrorism against itself.
Modi’s latest excesses have finally forced the world to see the real face of India — a reality that Pakistan and other Indian neighbours have known for long. It is now undeniable that Indian claims about democracy, secularism and non-violence are a sham. It is about time that India is recognised for what it is — the world’s largest hypocracy.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2019.