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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Modi 2.0 and India’s regressive reverse metamorphosis

The fire that was burning Pakistan in the past has turned its head towards India. Religious extremism is the main agenda on RSS/Modi/BJP led India and minorities, especially Muslims are suffering the most.

Hassan Aslam Shad |

As Pakistan still recovers from the impacts left by religious extremism, India is falling headfirst into the very same pit.

The sheer speed with which there has been a reversal of roles in the Subcontinent has left the world aghast. This was after India had etched an image of itself in global conscience as the world’s largest democracy and a bulwark against an ambitious China and a troublesome Pakistan. In a little less than three weeks, India has managed to scrap that image. The world is now beginning to see India as a totalitarian state and one of the most dangerous breeding grounds for religious extremism in the 21st Century.

Pakistan Still healing from its Wounds

This was an inglorious honor previously held by Pakistan. For decades Pakistan burnt its fingers in the fire of religious extremism. A myopic ‘strategic depth’ narrative blinded the policymakers who put the country on a dangerous path of self-destruction. With the church and the state married in a perpetual union, things got from bad to worse. The ante was upped to the point where fault lines became threateningly visible. India didn’t need to do much back then. Its archenemy, Pakistan, was making it look good.

This was partly Pakistan’s making and partly the result of the repeat Indian chorus against Pakistan. To this day, Pakistan is recovering from its wounds.

Economic issues, FATF, rampant corruption, India’s narrative against Pakistan, all contributed to Pakistan’s woes. Pakistan needed a catharsis of sorts to survive. Having learnt its lesson, Icarus managed to turn back just in time after flying too close to the Sun.

Religious Extremism Rising Across the Border

All this time, largely unnoticed, an ultranationalist religious hubris was brewing across the border. The RSS and its cadre, a group once relegated to the periphery, was clawing its way into the national limelight. The religious, racial and ethnic nuances underpinning India’s complex social fabric were left undisturbed by its founding fathers. This was their quest to protect India’s pluralism at all costs.

The edifice of this pluralism is being pulled apart brick by brick by RSS and BJP. The unraveling of India is happening at an unprecedented pace right before the world’s eyes.

For the first time in its history, India is progressing down the self-destructive path where the church will be used to divide the state. India needs to be scared. Very scared

What was the idea of India, I will not pretend to know. But what was never imagined by India’s founding fathers in their wildest dreams is India that RSS and BJP want it to become.

Paradoxically, the same fire in which Pakistan burnt its fingers, India is going into it headfirst. Look at what India has managed to do in Kashmir. Like the India of the past, the Pakistan of the present doesn’t need to do much to look good. India is doing this job for Pakistan. How quickly the roles have changed.

India is fast transforming into an RSS inspired totalitarian state ruled by fiat. It is undergoing a reverse metamorphosis. This regression is not only dangerous for India but a grave threat to peace and security in the region.

This article is not intended to sing paeans about Pakistan’s ‘remarkable’ turnaround. By no means is Pakistan completely out of the woods. But if the incredibly hard journey Pakistan had to undertake to undo its past tainted legacy is any lesson, India’s recovery, if any, after foray down the road of religious extremism, will be a daunting challenge. Unbeknownst to the masses, this may end up being a dead end and a point of no return for India (national arrogance and hubris notwithstanding).

Modi’s Blatant Fascism

Some have attempted to unravel the RSS beast by labeling it the “tyranny of the majority”. This is an oversimplification. It is the culmination of unashamed fascism that has been engineered through chicanery and skullduggery over decades. Narendra Modi sitting atop this fascist brigade is merely the face of the movement. What drives this fascism mill is a horde of actors from karsevaks to corporate powers who are doctoring fictional narratives to mull the majority Hindus into the Hindutva mainstream. The India of the present has overtaken Pakistan of the past.

Read more: India’s new lawfare on Kashmir and Pakistan’s strategic options

The revocation of J&K’s status is increasingly being seen as the first feather in the RSS hat. More such ‘glorious’ victories are on the way. RSS demagoguery has made ‘otherisation’ of the minorities the new lens through which they are viewed in India. Earlier, the victim of the ‘otherisation’ narrative was Pakistan. Now, the target of this ‘otherisation’ is India’s own Muslim population and minorities. India is cutting its feet to fit the shoe.

To grasp the extent of the rot and degeneration of India’s body politic, one needs to look at both the means and methods deployed and the responses (or lack thereof) within the Indian mainstream. First, the means and methods:

India’s Means and Methods

RSS and BJP rhetoric draws on the historic humiliation suffered by Hindus at the hands of the minorities. This ‘otherisation’ of minorities will be accomplished through subjugating, domesticating, or worse, exterminating them. Modi, the savior, has been positioned as the mythic ruler who will undo these injustices and lead the fight for the rights of Hindus. Force is the weapon of choice here.

Everything appears kosher in this new fight. This includes unwriting what has been written and unlearning what has been learnt. The constitution and the social compact underpinning India’s foundational principles have been termed a mistake of yesteryear’s political dynasties such as the Nehru family. The repeal or redundancy of constitutional and legal doctrines is, therefore, a fait accompli. Constitutionalism doesn’t matter much when the social contract is to be rewritten with the majority as the other contracting party and the minorities being relegated to the periphery.

The responses, too, in the Indian mainstream are telling of where things are headed: ‘forced conversion’ of Hindus and the sheer pace at which Muslims are multiplying justifies RSS’s actions

So far, blood has been drawn in the name of secularism. The paradoxical theme keeping Hindutva afloat is that the social fabric of India can only be preserved by the most secular of all: the Hindus. The name of the game thus remains secularism, despite the fact that the tool deployed is religious bigotry. Those proclaiming the country’s move towards a “Hindu Pakistan” such as Shahi Tharoor are therefore chastised.

Detractors argue that RSS is not fascist and parallels with Hitler are misleading. This argument is misplaced. There are eerie similarities between RSS and Nazism. Both share a severe hatred of a religious group; both believe in genocidal maniacs as leaders who can purge society of minorities; both bolster their rank and file through poisonous propaganda and fake news that fictionalizes past glory that is to be reenacted through force.

India’s Stance: A severe case of ‘whataboutism’

The responses, too, in the Indian mainstream are telling of where things are headed: ‘forced conversion’ of Hindus and the sheer pace at which Muslims are multiplying justifies RSS’s actions; there is nothing wrong with a Hindu Rastra that can stand for and preserve the Hindu identity (further justified by the fact that Hindus do not have a state of their own and are driven by the motif to break the Muslim ‘monopoly’ overuse of religious expression). And the list goes on and on.

Responses to criticism of RSS are a typical case of ‘whataboutism’: what about the Hindu Pandits who were forced to leave Kashmir? What about the historic subjugation of Hindus by the Muslims in history? What about Pakistan’s terrorism in Kashmir? Alleged past wrongs, therefore, justify present-day demagoguery. It’s a never-ending chorus. These are signs of a country in denial and in the throes of a fascist steak.

The creation of a Hindu Rashtra is progressing at a brisk pace in substance, if not in form. India’s pluralism never envisioned a marriage between the church and the state. Worse, for the first time in its history, India is progressing down the self-destructive path where the church will be used to divide the state. India needs to be scared. Very scared.

Hassan Aslam Shad is the head of corporate and international practice of a leading law firm of Oman. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, USA with a focus in international law. Hassan has written extensively on topics of law including public & private international law and international relations. Hassan has the distinctive honor of being the first person from Pakistan to intern at the Office of the President of the International Criminal Court, The Hague.  He has also represented Pakistan at the prestigious Jean Pictet international law moot court competition. He can be reached at: veritas@post.harvard.edu.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.