“...he had all these followers—all these big businessmen”
December 13, 2019 7:00 AM   Subscribe

“ For many, Modi’s reëlection suggested that he had uncovered a terrible secret at the heart of Indian society: by deploying vicious sectarian rhetoric, the country’s leader could persuade Hindus to give him nearly unchecked power. In the following months, Modi’s government introduced a series of extraordinary initiatives meant to solidify Hindu dominance. The most notable of them, along with revoking the special status of Kashmir, was a measure designed to strip citizenship from as many as two million residents of the state of Assam, many of whom had crossed the border from the Muslim nation of Bangladesh decades before. In September, the government began constructing detention centers for residents who had become illegal overnight.” Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi’s India (New Yorker) Hindu Nationalism with Achin Vanaik (The Dig Radio)
posted by The Whelk (15 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I'm really confused when people talk about the effectiveness of racist and sectarian rhetoric as some kind of previously unknown fact.
posted by PMdixon at 7:38 AM on December 13, 2019 [6 favorites]

I'm going to go ahead and repeat here what I said in the last Modi thread:

This isn't directed at anyone in particular, but just wanted to post a gentle reminder that if you are white/American/not generally familiar with the politics of the region, this is a great example of an FPP where it may be best to skip commenting and stick to reading instead. Threads about Modi/Indian politics have not always gone well in the past - largely due to input from white people/Americans/folks with hottakes despite limited prior knowledge of the subject matter - and there is no reason that should have to be the case here.

If you insist on commenting anyway, please keep in mind that pushing back against comments from Mefites who do have more familiar knowledge of this region/political matter may, in fact, be a contributing factor in why some POC/racialized peoples don't feel comfortable posting or feel frustrated when posting. Ask yourself why you may feel the need to express an opinion here and if you could be learning more by listening to others.

posted by nightrecordings at 7:45 AM on December 13, 2019 [25 favorites]

thanks for the post - I am seeing in lots of places that Modi and his supporters are taking their fight outside of India, such as in the recent UK elections. Not saying we shouldn't be interested in what is happening in India simply because it effects the billions of Indians and those in neighbouring countries, but this underlines just how interlaced world politics is.
I will admit I really have not much of a clue about Indian politics - other than the articles in the post, could someone point me in the direction of a good, potentially impartial, primer on current Indian politics?
posted by Megami at 9:16 AM on December 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

There’s a reason ethnonationalism has the stink of rich people over it. The EU has shown endgame to the higher classes. A world where labor can move just as easily as capital. Now they’re doing everything in their power to stop it because an open world would be highly unprofitable.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:21 AM on December 13, 2019 [11 favorites]

Seeing the utter hopelessness of people I love in the face of the deteriorating situation in India makes me feel even worse about geopolitics.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:36 AM on December 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

One of the things that bugs me about Modi's rise is that living in the US as an Indian woman, I'm constantly confronted by Indian people who are horrified by Trump's rise and yet see nothing hypocritical in their support of Modi. My parents, living in India, in a mixed-religion mostly irreligious marriage, are nonetheless surrounded by close friends who are strong Modi supporters. And over time, I see all the the cornerstones of Indian democracy, the things I was so proud to grow up surrounded by - our respect for all religions, our tolerance, our secular institutions - eroded. It's truly tragic and I don't know what to do about it at all.
posted by peacheater at 11:09 AM on December 13, 2019 [30 favorites]

Thanks Whelk!
posted by dmh at 7:28 PM on December 13, 2019

what peacheater said. the night that bill went to Rajya Sabha I was with a young lady from the same birth city and tracking the news
posted by Mrs Potato at 9:26 AM on December 14, 2019

I suspect, peacheater, that our tolerance and whatnot will only return when caste and creed based prejudice, bigotry, and stereotypes are addressed. India is a very bigoted nation tbh and I was horrified to discover that my grandmother would not eat any foods sent over from our beloved neighbour's house simply because she was muslim and hence the food was considered 'impure' for a hindu. I mean seriously?
posted by Mrs Potato at 9:29 AM on December 14, 2019

India: Intimations of an Ending by Arundhati Roy - "The rise of Modi and the Hindu far right."
The violence of inclusion and the violence of exclusion are precursors of a convulsion that could alter the foundations of India—and rearrange its meaning and its place in the world. Our Constitution calls India a “socialist secular democratic republic.” We use the word “secular” in a slightly different sense from the rest of the world—for us, it’s code for a society in which all religions have equal standing in the eyes of the law. In practice, India has been neither secular nor socialist. It has always functioned as an upper-caste Hindu state. But the conceit of secularism, hypocritical though it may be, is the only shard of coherence that makes India possible. That hypocrisy was the best thing we had. Without it, India will end...

India is not really a country. It is a continent. More complex and diverse, with more languages—780 at last count, excluding dialects—more nationalities and sub-nationalities, more indigenous tribes and religions than all of Europe. Imagine this vast ocean, this fragile, fractious, social ecosystem, suddenly being commandeered by a Hindu supremacist organization that believes in a doctrine of One Nation, One Language, One Religion, One Constitution.

I am speaking here of the the RSS, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, founded in 1925—the mothership of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Its founding fathers were greatly influenced by German and Italian fascism. They likened the Muslims of India to the “Jews of Germany,” and believed that Muslims have no place in Hindu India. The RSS today, in typical RSS chameleon-speak, distances itself from this view. But its underlying ideology, in which Muslims are cast as treacherous permanent “outsiders,” is a constant refrain in the public speeches of BJP politicians, and finds utterance in chilling slogans raised by rampaging mobs. For example: “Mussalman ka ek hi sthan—Kabristan ya Pakistan” (Only one place for the Muslim—the graveyard, or Pakistan). In October this year, Mohan Bhagwat, the supreme leader of the RSS, said, “India is a Hindu Rashtra”—a Hindu nation. “This is non-negotiable.”

That idea turns everything that is beautiful about India into acid.

For the RSS to portray what it is engineering today as an epochal revolution, in which Hindus are finally wiping away centuries of oppression at the hands of India’s earlier Muslim rulers, is a part of its fake-history project. In truth, millions of India’s Muslims are the descendants of people who converted to Islam to escape Hinduism’s cruel practice of caste.

If Nazi Germany was a country seeking to impose its imagination onto a continent (and beyond), the impetus of an RSS-ruled India is, in a sense, the opposite. Here is a continent seeking to shrink itself into a country. Not even a country, but a province. A primitive, ethno-religious province. This is turning out to be an unimaginably violent process.

None of the white supremacist, neo-Nazi groups that are on the rise in the world today can boast the infrastructure and manpower that the RSS commands. It has 57,000 shakhas—branches—across the country, and an armed, dedicated militia of 600,000 “volunteers.” It runs schools in which millions of students are enrolled, and has its own medical missions, trade unions, farmers’ organizations, media outlets, and women’s groups. Recently, it announced that it was opening a training school for those who wish to join the Indian Army. Under its bhagwa dhwaj—its saffron pennant—a whole host of far-right organizations, known as the Sangh Parivar—the RSS’s “family”—have prospered and multiplied. These organizations, the political equivalents of shell companies, are responsible for shockingly violent attacks on minorities in which, over the years, uncounted thousands have been murdered.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a member of the RSS all his life. He is a creation of the RSS. Although not Brahmin, he, more than anyone else in its history, has been responsible for turning it into the most powerful organization in India, and for writing its most glorious chapter yet...

Before the process begins, the plan is to draw up a National Population Register. This will involve a door-to-door survey in which, in addition to basic census data, the government plans to collect iris scans and other biometric data. It will be the mother of all data banks.

The groundwork has already begun. On his very first day as home minister, Amit Shah issued a notification permitting state governments across India to set up Foreigners Tribunals and detention centers manned by non-judicial officers with draconian powers. The governments of Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana have already begun work. As we have seen, the NRC in Assam grew out of a very particular history. To apply it to the rest of India is pure malevolence. The demand for an updated NRC in Assam is more than 40 years old. There, people have been collecting and holding on to their documents for 50 years. How many people in India can produce “legacy documents”? Perhaps not even our prime minister—whose date of birth, college degree, and marital status have all been the subject of national controversies.

We are being told that the India-wide NRC is an exercise to detect several million Bangladeshi “infiltrators”—“termites,” as our home minister likes to call them. What does he imagine language like this will do to India’s relationship with Bangladesh? Once again, phantom figures that run into the tens of millions are being thrown around. There is no doubt that there are a great many undocumented workers from Bangladesh in India. There is also no doubt that they make up one of the poorest, most marginalized populations in the country. Anybody who claims to believe in the free market should know that they are only filling a vacant economic slot by doing work that others will not do, for wages that nobody else will accept. They do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. They are not the ones destroying the country, stealing public money or bankrupting the banks. They’re only a decoy, a Trojan horse for the RSS’s real objective, its historic mission.

The real purpose of an all-India NRC, coupled with the CAB, is to threaten, destabilize, and stigmatize the Indian Muslim community, particularly the poorest among them. It is meant to create a tiered citizenship, in which one set of citizens has no rights and lives at the mercy, or on the good will, of another—a modern caste system, which will exist alongside the ancient one, in which Muslims are the new Dalits. Not notionally, but actually. Legally. In places like West Bengal, where the BJP is on an aggressive takeover drive, suicides have already begun...

How do you translate this in modern terms? Coupled with the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the National Register of Citizenship is India’s version of Germany’s 1935 Nuremberg Laws, by which German citizenship was restricted to only those who had been granted citizenship papers—legacy papers—by the government of the Third Reich. The amendment against Muslims is the first such amendment. Others will no doubt follow, against Christians, Dalits, Communists—all enemies of the RSS.

The Foreigners Tribunals and detention centers that have already started springing up across India may not, at the moment, be intended to accommodate hundreds of millions of Muslims. But they are meant to remind us that only Hindus are considered India’s real aboriginals, and don’t need those papers.
India is entering a new dark age - "Its economy is in a free-fall (with growth at a six-year low and unemployment at a 45-year high); its polity is becoming authoritarian; and its dominant religion, Hinduism, is growing intolerant. But what's even more depressing is that the country seems to have lost its will to fight this descent into darkness."

India is 'Burning' & Modi is 'Responsible' - "'The butcher of Gujrat', PM of India, Narendra Modi is leading India towards a fiery pit that means only destruction. Modi's extremist ties and Hindutva mindset have damaged India more than any foreign force."

As Narendra Modi's image takes a global beating, even India gets singed - "The image of India as a seriously flawed democracy is also likely to get deeply etched in international psyche and that may take a very long time to undo."

The Making of a Hindu Republic of India - "Two landmark elections and a determined majoritarian push are reconstituting the idea of India as we knew it."

Religion Cannot Be The Basis Of Citizenship In A Secular Nation - "The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) violates multiple articles of the Constitution as well as India's international obligations."

A Syndrome of Aspirational Hatred Is Pervading India - "When we are ruled by thieves, killers and rapists, who enjoy immunity, it is no surprise that many begin to believe that hate can take you nowhere but up."

Coup in Maharashtra: Let Us Celebrate the Quiet Burial of 'New India' - "National greatness can not be built by practitioners of sordid power grab. Fadnavis may be a winner in the short run, Narendra Modi is the real loser."

In secular India, it's getting tougher to be Muslim - "Muslims increasingly see themselves as second-class citizens in the predominantly Hindu country."

Indian military deployed and internet shut down as protests rage against citizenship bill - "Troops have been deployed to India's ethnically diverse northeastern states of Assam and Tripura, amid violent protests against the passing of a controversial and far-reaching law that offers a path to Indian citizenship for non-Muslim minorities from three neighboring countries."

On Data Privacy, India Charts Its Own Path - "A new law would give the country's 1.3 billion people more power over data collected by companies but allow the government to exempt itself from the rules."

India proposes first major data protection law - "Controversial bill would give government authorities broad powers to access personal information."

Death of democracy - "Anti-intellectual trends and sectarian politics unfolding in nations ruled by elected Governments no less can push the world into a bottomless pit of cultural and civilisational decadence."
posted by kliuless at 1:23 PM on December 14, 2019 [12 favorites]

A series of opinion articles and explanations that appeared in The Hindu* to put the arguments for and against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in context

* The newspaper's name is not related to the RSS or the Hindu bloc politically being referred to but traces back to the earliest days of the local news in the Madras Residency during the British era

Worldpress.org lists The Hindu as a left-leaning independent newspaper.[11]

posted by Mrs Potato at 9:55 AM on December 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Mrs Potato, I don't think that first link is correct. It's going to the Twitter home page.
posted by great_radio at 10:31 AM on December 15, 2019

The Crisis In Kashmir Has Started A Conversation I Don’t Know How To Have By Scaachi Koul

What makes my conflict with my family over Kashmir different than, say, a white person begging their relatives not to vote for Trump, is that my family is suffering from intergenerational trauma. A lot of white people don’t have a history of ethnic cleansing, a family line that’s been disrupted by government and war and death. When my mother talks about her parents having to flee Kashmir in the middle of the night, I believe her, because I can see the light in her eyes dim. I wish I could fix it for her, as if I could make the world less cruel. That doesn’t mean we should consider it acceptable that another family — any family, different from us only by religion — will suffer the same fate, decades later.
posted by great_radio at 10:46 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Narendra Modi’s Second Partition of India
Dec 17, 2019 Shashi Tharoor

Democratic India has never had a religious test for citizenship – until now. And the new amendment to the citizenship law approved by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is just one more brick in an edifice of official Islamophobic bigotry

posted by Mrs Potato at 11:37 AM on December 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

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