The coronavirus epidemic, and its continuing spread across the globe, has exposed the brittle fabric of our modern society. As health systems and governance structures collapse throughout the most powerful countries, the hubris of the Western World is having trouble grappling with the magnitude of this new reality. With almost 90,000 deaths (till date) across Europe and the United States, leaders of the ‘free world’ are unable to find an enemy to pin the blame.
Who should the United States bomb this time? Can’t blame the spread of this virus on some obscure dictator in the Middle East. What about Al-Qaida, or Hizbullah, or the Palestinians, or ‘radical Islamic terrorism’? No (darn it!). For a moment, the United States tried blaming China by dubbing COVID-19 as the ‘Wuhan Virus’. But no one was willing to buy that for too long.
In the absence of a tangible enemy, Western societies have turned on themselves. Italy, the worst affected of all the European nations, has threatened to end their inclusion in the European Union. And why not? What good is the EU if it will merely close its borders to the Italians in their darkest hour. The Americans, didn’t have an EU to blame.
Modi was racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-minorities. The resulting clashes across India, especially in and around Delhi, displaced hundreds of thousands of minority individuals (mostly Muslims) from their homes
As a result, they have turned on institutions of global governance: The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations. Why do we even need the WHO and the UN? Why did the WHO not predict the spread of this epidemic sooner? Why has the WHO refused to call it the ‘Wuhan Virus’? They must be conspiring with the Chinese, to bring down the Western World. Let’s stop their funding. Something, anything, to placate the bruised American ego.
But nowhere has the national fabric of a nation crumbled more, during the coronavirus epidemic, than it has in India. Modi’s Hindutva government, which was already at war with almost half of its (moderate and minority) population, has made this virus a communal issue, and completely slipped into a downwards spiral of intolerance and self-immolation. A spiral that is all too identifiable for Pakistanis, who have only broken its yoke after three decades of pain and violence.
But truth be told, India’s existential suicide didn’t start with blaming the Muslims for coronavirus. It has merely matured to this point through concerted efforts of Hindutva racism over the course of the past several years. Let’s pause to examine this claim.
Read more: India no longer Secular after Kashmir move
At the turn of the century, a tolerant and burgeoning Indian society was poised to become the next big thing in Asia. We watched, enviously from across the border, as India’s facade of an inclusive democracy won allies across the world. Just as Pakistan was getting swallowed by the menace of intolerance, extremism, and in-fighting amidst different sections of the society, India was accosting the world to its many opportunities.
Kashmir had been all but forgotten. Even the Muslims of mainland India had turned a blind eye to the atrocities in the Valley, choosing instead to participate in the Indian dream. The policy of projecting Pakistan as a haven for terrorism and intolerance was working. And the new America-India strategic partnership was bearing geopolitical fruits.
In walks Modi. Once known as the butcher of Gujrat, Modi had rebranded himself as a mascot for ‘Incredible India’. But, in reality it was just that: branding. Simmering under the carefully constructed veneer of democratic ideology, Modi’s Hindutva ideology was waiting for an appropriate moment to strike. And then, during his re-election campaign, the moment presented itself.
There are no such thing as equal rights. [Minorities] are not in an equal category. And they would do well to stay away from India
Under the false flag pretext of Pulwama attack, Modi decided to attack Pakistan in February of 2019. It was just the ‘first drop of the ocean’ he would say later. Nothing short of ‘Akhund Bharat’ was the aim. His energised right-wing Hindu base loved the idea, giving him overwhelming majority in the May 2019 elections.
This victory gave the Hindutva goons to take even bolder steps to entrench their ideology of hate. Next came the long-promised goal of revoking Kashmir’s autonomous status, in August of 2019. And with it, the wheels started to come off Modi’s Hindutva wagon. India’s right-wing fascist ideology was at display for the entire world to see. Even within India, the saner voices started to question Modi publicly. Muslims, Christians, even lesser caste Hindus, started to view their own State as enemy of the people. But the fascist Modi did not stop here.
Next came the even more controversial Citizenship Amendment Act – a law that revokes citizenship of Muslim immigrants of India. As millions of people gathered on the streets to protest this move, across India, Modi doubled-down on his bet. He allowed his right-wing party goons to terrorise and torture Muslims. Saner people within India, and across the world, started to recognise that Kashmir was not a one-off thing.
Read more: Hypocrisy of Modi’s Secular India
Modi was racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-minorities. The resulting clashes across India, especially in and around Delhi, displaced hundreds of thousands of minority individuals (mostly Muslims) from their homes, which had been burnt to the ground by Hindutva goons. Overnight, these minorities became the largest group of internally displaced people in Asia. India’s sham secularism stood exposed in all its shame.
Modi had not yet recovered from this, when coronavirus arrived to the shores of India. And suddenly, India’s soft underbelly in terms of poverty, displacement, unemployment and a weak social security structure was visible for everyone to see. And making matters worse, a large chunk of India’s population (some 500 million minority people) saw Modi’s government has their enemy.
Amidst this chaos, Modi’s government made its next big mistake: of shutting down India with a mere 4-hour notice. What followed was a mass exodus of the working class. Millions of families, left without food or shelter, who decided to walk (literally) hundreds of miles across the span of India. Videos from this exodus show a cesspool, in which coronavirus would spread like wildfire. The world watched aghast, in horror, as Modi ensured that coronavirus is carried throughout the poor segments of India’s diaspora.
In the words of India’s BJP Senator Subramanian Swamy, during his interview to an international news organisation “all people are not equal”. Minorities are not equal citizens of India
Facing the inevitable spread of coronavirus across India, Modi’s racist regime turned to the tactics it knows best: blaming the Muslims for their problem. Singling out one gathering of (foolish) Muslims in Delhi, the Tablighi Jamaat, where several participants tested positive for coronavirus, Modi’s Hindutva government decided to turn the epidemic into a purely communal issue.
Phrases such as ‘Corona Jihad’ and ‘Tablighi Jamaat Virus’, were used by Modi’s ministers. The abominable right-wing Indian media was all too happy to jump on this bandwagon. And overnight, in India, coronavirus became another weapon at the hands of Modi’s fascist regime, to turn peaceful Indians against one another.
The news and narrative coming out of India over the past few months, is scarcely believable. When Modi was elected to power for the second term, everyone had expected that he will implement right-wing policies; however, no one could expect that he would bring India to the edge of intolerant fascism, and then jump off the cliff.
The project of undoing Indian secularism, which was formally kicked-off through revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in August of 2019, seems to have reached its fruition. Modi’s fascism has dispensed with all notions of democracy, constitutionalism and equality.
In the words of India’s BJP Senator Subramanian Swamy, during his interview to an international news organisation “all people are not equal”. Minorities are not equal citizens of India. “There are no such thing as equal rights. [Minorities] are not in an equal category.” And they would “do well to stay away from India”.
And that, for all intents and purposes, is the demise of a secular shining India. However, no one could expect that he would bring India to the edge of intolerant fascism, and then jump off the cliff.
Saad Rasool is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has an LL.M. in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Twitter: @Ch_SaadRasool. This article originally appeared at The Nation and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.