Friday, 24 May 2019

Modi 2.0: Indian Muslim survival kit


On the renewal of his mandate for another term by India’s voters, Narendra Modi has reportedly promised inter-alia an ‘inclusive’ India. Normally it would not be fair to question a positive intent within days, but in light of Modi’s past five years at the helm it is easy to agree when some question his commitment to inclusivity.
The principal features of his first term has been the political marginalization of Muslims, their invisibilisation from democracy’s representative institutions and instilling of fear through micro-terrorism practiced by his supporters, the most visible form of which being lynchings. His elevation of a monk with known anti-Muslim predilections to the chief ministership of India’s largest state, that has 20 per cent Muslim population, and—the final straw—the nomination for parliament of terror-accused, Pragya Singh Thakur, are illustrations of what can be expected from his regime continuing.
In Kashmir, the killings this year are just shy of the three figure mark. Arguably, the operational zeal of security forces resulted in the Pulwama terror attacked, that was in turn capitalized on by Modi for political gains. Now that he has returned to power, it is a no-brainer that the antecedents of the terror attack will be glossed over, such as where the 80 kgs of explosives was obtained from by the terror group in the most heavily militarized and surveilled place on earth. The fact that the Jaish member who set off the car bomb, Adil Ahmed Dar, was earlier picked up by security forces from an encounter site in which two Hizb militants died will be covered up. Suspicion will therefore forever cloud the incident that led up to the Indian reprisal with the Balakot aerial strike.
By his own campaign-time soliciting, Modi’s election sweep can be attributable to the decision to strike back. Never mind that there is no evidence of any damage at the target end, reportedly due to his decision to go ahead in a cloudy night (which to his mind would limit radar effectiveness!) that led to no photographic evidence with India to show for bomb damage. It is a separate story that the Pakistanis hit back with alacrity and in the ensuing dogfight India lost a plane, with the pilot being captured. The rest – a downed F-16 – is information war. Modi’s claim that his threats to bring down a ‘qatl ki raat’ on Pakistan is just that, a story which even he does not take ownership of, but attributes to some western sources.
It is this so-very convenient timing of the incident for Modi compels ruling in other explanations — such as Pulwama being yet another black operation — than Pakistani sponsorship alone, reminiscent of the Parliament attack. In the 26/11 episode, it bears recall that the so-called Deccan Mujahedeen that made a guest appearance has not been seen since. It enabled the ruling party to escape answering tough questions of significance for voters, forcing these off the radar by the diversionary resort to faux nationalism for vote-fetching purposes. It enabled Modi to don the mantle of Hindu Hriday Samrat, worthy of a statue on retirement taller than the one he built of the Iron Man of India, Sardar Patel. For his showing in putting India’s Muslims into a corner and intimidating Pakistan, he received India’s largest mandate.
The magnitude of his vote share is of significance in thinking about the next five years. That 37 per cent of the voters voted for him suggests that the earlier patronizing perception of the native wisdom of the electorate is no longer valid. Modi’s New India is just that, a New India, with a new, ugly Indian. Such voters bought into the line that it is payback time for Muslims for their over-lordship of India for some seven hundred years. They are the potential foot soldiers who will indulge in one-sided violence on call and form part of lynch mobs. To expect them to snap out of their trance in the next five years is na├»ve. They are the product of thirty years of brainwashing by an organization with the largest membership in the world, the Sangh Parivar.
The next five years are likely to see an intensification of the conditions that prevailed in the last five. Modi’s first tenure was heralded by the killing of a techie in Pune, who as the killer mob later claimed ‘looked like a Muslim’ and - therefore - beaten to death. Modi’s parliamentary majority will be deployed for making constitutional changes to further throttle secularism. There is the Citizen Amendment Bill issue to be taken forward. Now that the north-east that had some reservations is in the kitty, it can be proceeded with. Its provisions define Indian identity, restricting it to those with religious affiliations anchored in the subcontinent.
As sop to his north-eastern voters and those who voted for him in West Bengal, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be taken to its logical conclusion. In the north-east, gulags will likely be established to place the forty lakh odd people falling afoul of the procedures mandated by the Supreme Court-monitored process. The ruling party head has promised to extend the NRC elsewhere in the country, which perhaps fetched his party some Bengali votes. The Supreme Court is seized with hastening the matter, having ruled against the intervention of an activist, Harsh Mander, on the process outcome.
The most deadly terror attack in South Asia, the Sri Lankan Easter day terror attack, has put the spotlight back on terror in India, this time in South India. Apparently the intelligence on the impending attack in Sri Lanka was provided by Indian agencies after interrogation of a Tamilian involved. The Sri Lankan army chief claimed the bombers had visited Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Bangaluru. The National Investigation Agency can be expected to deploy its resources more diligently on this case than the manner it investigated the Samjhauta blast and the Abhinav Bharat cases. This will put the Muslim communities that are relatively forward under scrutiny.
In Kashmir, the threat to Articles 35A and 370 looms. It is of an existential nature to the culture of Kashmir. Any constitutional and legal tinkering will provoke a political fight back, with youth liable to join with violence. There are also some 340 militants yet to be wrapped up in Operation All Out. The usual 100-odd terrorist infiltrations may compensate for some of those killed. While 40 youth signed up this year so far, the number could cross a 100 by year end. This means that there would still be some 300 odd militants left over as the assembly elections loom large sometime in autumn. The pressure cooker in Kashmir can thus be set to continue, even though the government could well change tack. Having demonstrated its muscles and winning the national elections, the hardline is expendable now.
What line it pursues in Kashmir would be dependent on what it plans to do with Pakistan. Pakistan for its part has offered talks. The chances of this are bright, if only so that on terminating these down the line sometime, India cannot be blamed for not having tried the talks route. It is apparent that the pressure of the United States on both sides, emanating from its overriding need to exit Afghanistan, is more likely to see the two sides talk rather than not. This may be useful in letting up the anti-Muslim pressures within the country, since some bhakts are apt to conflate Indian Muslims with Pakistan.
The survey of the security environment besetting the minority suggests that the insecurity will persist for another five years. It may do so indefinitely till a balance reemerges in Indian politics against the current sway of Hindutva forces. Muslims would require surviving the interim. This might entail continuing the pragmatic policy of the last five years in which they concentrated on bread and butter issues and long-term improvements as education and employment. They must not be left out of the handouts by the regime, since reportedly the economy is liable to slow down ahead. The key to survival is to keep the focus on outlasting the regime, with the help of liberal and progressive forces. There is no call to be the foil in the resolution of the dilemmas internal to our compatriot Hindu society.