Almost immediately after winning a second tenure in office on May 23, India’s Prime Minister Modi Made a speech making light of parties and individuals who had adopted secularism over the past five years.
In the course of five years while the Indian government has been led by Modi and the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party – or BJP – numerous Muslims were hanged on allegations of eating beef or even just transporting cattle for slaughter. As the number of attacks on Muslims grew, Modi mostly stayed silent.
Eating beef in India has long been a divisive issue because many Hindus believe that the cow is a sacred animal. Cow slaughter and ingesting beef have long been banned in 24 out of 29 states across India.
Notwithstanding this concession to orthodox Hindu feelings, India has a constitutional promise to secularism. Unlike in the West, where secularism calls for a severe separation of church and state, Indian secularism is based on the principle of respect toward all faiths.
Following revisionist powers and economic disasters, shifting local politics in an era of slow growth and rising inequality poses the grave threat to the health of the world order. Using South Asia as a core case study to analyze the third potential risk, one can easily understand how Modi’s aggressive India is posturing risks to the post-World War order.
To further substantiate the argument, the expansive tendencies in Imperial Japan hold many lessons to understand the costs for not following the rules of the outline of international institutions and order.
Similar to the 1930s Imperial Japan, India originates expansionist trends in ideological, territorial and economic terms. For its misdiagnosed national interests, India worn the United Nations’ resolutions on Kashmir the way Imperial japan did to the League of Nations in the case of Manchuria.
Due to failure of institutional apparatus and deterrence of democratic powers, the world slid into the Second World War, pulling down the world order in stemming instability. If India does not change its current course and the civilized world does not take notice, this time the consequences could be severer and far reaching.
The present blaze has three fuses. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is to be executed in 2020 and requires people to produce proof of their Indian citizenship or risk deportation. Introduced in the northeastern state of Assam in 2018, its purpose was to send illegal Muslim migrants back to Bangladesh. But this is in a country where the possession of citizenship documentation is the exception and not the norm. Among me and four siblings, for instance, none had a birth certificate.
In August, the government also cancelled the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state. Finally, in December, Parliament passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). This will permit pre-2014 migrants from the bordering Muslim-majority countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who are Hindu, Christian, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh, but not Muslim, to become Indian citizens.
The CAA was passed by both houses through instinctive majority without consultation and the Supreme Court may well find the CAA unconstitutional for biased claims to citizenship on grounds of religion.
The CAA proved to be the last straw and dissents broke out in Assam and have spread all over the country. Ironically, the Assamese object to all “migrants” — Hindus from India as much as Muslims from outside.
Footage of police attacks on students remonstrating against the CAA at the Muslim-majority Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University educational institutions expelled pent-up fury against the crackdown. The protests have escalated to become the largest in decades and represent the most significant mass mobilization against the Modi government. By late December violence across India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, had caused 23 deaths — many by police bullets.
The end to Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was followed by the shutting down of telecommunications and prohibiting of public gatherings. Initially, out of sight became out of mind for the rest of India, but now these state-ordered limits have hit them all and communications shutdowns and curfews are suddenly more than an abstraction.
Trust in the top political leadership has also been hurt by the mess of contradictions, inconsistencies and lies with respect to the linkage between the CAA and the NRC, and the creation of detention centers to hold those without the necessary documentation.
The city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat looks rather new, with an uncurled river running through the center and separate tracks having been set aside for buses. But something is different in comparison to other Indian cities: There are far fewer mosques or people in Muslim dress to be seen. It’s almost as if Islam doesn’t exist here.
Finally, the Muslim students, particularly young women, have been most politically savvy in defying Hindutva hardliners. They were intensely clever in wearing identifiably Muslim dress like the hijab but wrapping themselves in the Indian tricolor, chanting the national anthem and reading extracts from the Indian Constitution.