Home Global Village ‘Chowkidar Modi’ is promoting vigilantism at individual level, says French expert

‘Chowkidar Modi’ is promoting vigilantism at individual level, says French expert


Sabtain Ahmed Dar |

A French expert at a conference warned that India under the BJP was moving towards codifying Hindutva in its Constitution. The French expert, Christophe Jaffrelot, said that “Chowkidar Modi” was basically an attempt by the BJP to promote vigilantism at individual level.

Alain Dieckhof, director of CERI (Center of International Relations) hosted a lively conference at SciencesPo for Christophe Jaffrelot. The subject was “India on the eve of the elections: Assessment of the Modi government”. This was the first conference hosted by SciencesPo in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and was eagerly awaited by journalists, academics and think tanks.

Christophe Jaffrelot is a pre-eminent voice in France on subjects related to South Asia. He is, in particular, considered an expert on India and Pakistan and is widely quoted by the media and is frequently consulted by Quai d’Orsay, especially on matters related to Pakistan. Without any doubt, Jaffrelot’s voice holds a lot of weight in France.

Jaffrelot said that this ethnic narrative transcends religion. “More history would be rewritten to reconcile the fact that Aryans themselves were invaders and that these Hindus per se are not sons/daughters of the soil,” he added.

Jaffrelot claimed that India had just gone through five years of “ethnic democracy” with majoritarian nationalism (Hindutva) imposing its identity on everyone in India. He frequently quoted George Orwell. The French expert compared how India resembled Israel now.

The only difference is that Israel has the supremacy of Jews enshrined in the Constitution (Israeli Declaration of Independence as Israel has no formal Constitution), and India does not have Hindutva in its Constitution, Jaffrelot said.

He though warned that India was moving towards codifying Hindutva in its Constitution as demanded by the RSS. RSS’ goal is to change the constitution to enshrine Hindutva, Jaffrelot warned. He observed that Hinduism was constantly being promoted on the political scene with all minorities being victims of the policy.

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Jaffrelot said that India was beginning to rewrite its history. “More than 1,500 changes have been made to school textbooks rewriting India’s history,” he cited as an example. Jaffrelot claimed that Nehru had simply been wiped off school textbooks in Rajasthan. He said that fake news was being institutionalized and history was also a victim of it. “Ideological reconstruction is being carried out at massive scale,” the French expert said.

Jaffrelot said that this ethnic narrative transcends religion. “More history would be rewritten to reconcile the fact that Aryans themselves were invaders and that these Hindus per se are not sons/daughters of the soil,” he added. Indian rationalists’ (Indian Rationalist Association) are trying to stand up against this system and they are being targeted by the RSS, he said.

Jaffrelot also said that three rationalists were recently assassinated by the RSS “criminals”. Similarly, liberal academics and NGOs are being targeted by the BJP government, he added.

The first campaign was launched in the autumn of 2014 and was called “Love Jihad”. The second campaign profiled “homecoming ceremonies” to “reconvert” religious minorities back to Hinduism, he said.

Jaffrelot lamented that Jawaharlal Nehru University’s budget had been drastically cut by the Modi government to get the liberal academics in line. Similarly, the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act has been applied on the NGOs across the board, he said.

A number of NGOs receiving foreign funding are seen by India’s central government as involved in anti-development activism and have this been shut down by the Indian government, he told the conference participants.

The FCRA is an act to consolidate the law to regulate the acceptance and utilization of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals and associations. Because of this, the number of NGOs in India has gone down from 33,000 to 13,000.

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Jaffrelot named Greenpeace, Teesta’s NGOs Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace’s license being canceled. Same goes for journalists who are targeted for not towing the Hindutva line, he added. Jaffrelot expressed his surprise at what he saw as the submission and docility of Muslims in these circumstances (with the notable exception of Jammu and Kashmir).

Christians, as well as Christian NGOs, have not been spared, he added. Jaffrelot mentioned the assassination of pastors and nuns. Jaffrelot then mentioned different anti-Muslim campaigns run with the tacit acceptance of Modi government.

The first campaign was launched in the autumn of 2014 and was called “Love Jihad”. The second campaign profiled “homecoming ceremonies” to “reconvert” religious minorities back to Hinduism, he said.

Jaffrelot then demolished Modi’s narrative on anti-corruption and how incestuous of a relationship he has with business circles. He openly called it “Crony Capitalism”.

“The rhetoric surrounding these ceremonies paints followers of Islam and Christianity as “stolen property” that Hinduism is now rightfully ‘reclaiming’” Jaffrelot said. Once again ethic tangent is covered with religion, he said. He also pointed out the “ghettoization” of Indian municipality laws.

In Ahmedabad and Baroda, a Muslim family cannot shift to a Hindu majority neighborhood. Thus Muslims are being forced to stay in their own neighborhoods, Jaffrelot said. This model is beginning to be applied all over India, he added.

Similarly, Muslims cannot pray in public anymore in Hindu-majority areas, the French expert claimed. He said that cow protection movement being run all over India by the RSS had resulted in public lynching of Muslims. Jaffrelot gave the example of Cow Protection Task Force created in Maharashtra.

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These Muslim lynchings are systematically filmed and shared on social media to achieve the desired “chilling effect”, he mentioned. Jaffrelot gave an example of the utilization of the National Security Act to arrest Muslims transporting cows. Similarly, vigilant groups are acting in connivance and in cohort with local police to intimidate minorities, he said.

Jaffrelot spent some time talking about the RSS and how it was made up of higher caste Hindus who were feeling disenfranchised with positive discrimination and quota systems for lower castes. He gave t example of higher caste Rajputs who were academically nowhere and were now wondering about their future and blaming minorities for taking their rightful position in society.

Police have been totally politicized and are being used to further Hindutva agenda, Jaffrelot said. This Hindutva nationalism is now operating on the grassroots level and Jaffrelot openly wondered if India has gone past the point of no return. He rhetorically asked if a political change would make a societal difference in case Modi loses the election.

The rich have gone richer in Modi’s era and all the business circles have aligned themselves with Modi’s agenda so that they can continue their business, Jaffrelot said.

Talking about what he called “Chowkidar effect” of Modi, Jaffrelot said that basically, Chowkidar effect was vigilantism at the individual level (and Modi was encouraging it). Modi is running his election campaign using on (defense) card vis-à-vis Pakistan and on an anti-corruption drive.

Jaffrelot claimed that Modi was not credible anymore on economic development and this was why he was using Pakistan and the Chowkidar card. In five years, Modi has destroyed 20 million jobs instead of creating jobs, thanks in part to demonetization. Jaffrelot then demolished Modi’s narrative on anti-corruption and how incestuous of a relationship he has with business circles. He openly called it “Crony Capitalism”.

The rich have gone richer in Modi’s era and all the business circles have aligned themselves with Modi’s agenda so that they can continue their business, Jaffrelot said. Modi’s contacts own all the electronic media in India and a massive majority of media outlets have aligned themselves with Modi as well to survive.

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Thus the Modi narrative is being repeated over and over again, Jaffrelot said. When questioned why Western governments were not speaking on the subject, Jaffrelot replied, because of their economic ties with India, wish to use India for containing China, and due to the Islamophobia of the West – “how can a Hindu be a terrorist when the West is framing Muslims as terrorists?”

Sabtain Ahmed Dar is pursuing his M Phil in International Relations from Department of Political Science, Punjab University. His area of study is Israeli geopolitics and he has written a thesis titled ‘The Clash of Islam and Zionism: The final clash before the End of History’. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.