ISLAMABAD - I don’t think that Modi’s rise to power in India necessarily portends the abolition of democracy there. But we are witnessing extremely disturbing legislation and actions that have an impact on different aspects of civil life in India. Ayelet Harel-Shalev. Tomer Appelbaum
*It seems to me that we are looking at a slippery slope, which starts with Modi’s move in Kashmir link. What is the significance of that move for the state’s Muslim residents?*
After the state of Jammu and Kashmir [in the northwest] joined India, Article 370 was appended to the constitution, stipulating that it would be granted broader autonomy than the other states of the federation. That article was intended to ensure the preservation of the demographic balance in Jammu and Kashmir.
*Meaning, to preserve the Muslim majority.*
At present anyone who is not a permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir is not permitted to acquire land there or to serve in a public position. In this way, the population distribution has been maintained until today: approximately 68 percent Muslims, 28 percent Hindus, 2 percent Sikhs and 1 percent each Christians and Buddhists. Modi’s government has decided to split the state into two separate and different political units. If that happens, the demographic balance will shift and autonomy will be annulled – and all this is happening in an entity that is special, that has a distinctly Muslim majority, that is at the center of a significant international dispute with its rival, Pakistan, and where an emergency government has been in power for years. Modi is “sticking a finger in the eye” of Pakistan and China, and the decision holds out high potential for deterioration into a confrontation with both of them.
*How do you see Modi’s move?*
It’s a display of power and self-confidence, both of him and his party, aimed at three target audiences: domestically, at Indian voters; regionally, at Pakistan and China, which have never recognized Jammu and Kashmir as a legitimate part of India; and further afield, it’s also aimed at the international community, which views the region as disputed territory. On all three of these fronts Modi is effectively saying: Look, I am India, a strong and significant country in the global arena, which seeks to exert its sovereignty and realize its rights.
From the perspective of the Indian government, this is not an aggressive act; it’s an action taken to “realize their rights.” While it was understood that steps of this kind would be made only with agreement or after a dialogue – there was no dialogue, either with the residents of the district or with the Pakistanis.
*At first these moves were thought to be declarative in nature, but reports indicate that Modi is moving from declarations to deeds.*
The testimonies from Kashmir are painful – gross violations of local residents’ rights. Beyond the curfew imposed on the Kashmir Valley, we’ve been hearing about arrests of opponents to the action, forceful suppression of demonstrations by Kashmiris who are Indian citizens, and acts of intimidation. It’s all being done under cover of darkness: The internet and cell-phone networks have been severed. That isolation has been partially alleviated, but the local population has been in severe distress for over a month.
*The state of Assam [in northeastern India] is also taking measures against its Muslim population, from detention camps to stripping them of citizenship.*
Steps are being taken in Assam to limit the number of Muslims in the region through draconian legislation. If in the past two decades fences were built along the border with Bangladesh so as to limit the number of Muslim migrants arriving from there, in recent years, and more especially since 2015, the state has acted to deport Muslims back to Bangladesh. In the past two years, action has also been taken against Muslim citizens who were naturalized in India several decades ago. Citizens who are unable to show certain documents confirming their ownership of land and the like, are under threat of losing their Indian citizenship.
A few weeks ago, the authorities in Assam published an additional list of 1.9 million people who lost their citizenship. They have the right to appeal within 120 days, but even so, it is a harsh, callous move aimed at the state’s Muslim minority. Modi promised that Indian citizens would not be affected – only illegal migrants – but we’ll have to wait and see how the process ends. These developments are problematic, to put it mildly.
Look, it’s impossible to say that everything was rosy until Modi rose to power, and now everything is black. There were massive, flagrant violations of human rights even when the Congress Party ruled – detention camps are not a new invention of BJP [Modi’s party] – but if this way of doing things continues and additional, dramatic new moves are taken, it will pose a danger to India’s minorities, as a result, to Indian democracy.
*Hindu agenda* Prime Minister Narendra Modi , left, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, earlier this month. Alexander Nemenov/AFP
*Let’s talk a bit about Hindutva, the Hindu-national agenda.*
A broad spectrum of social, political and extra-establishment movements are promoting the Hindutva idea. They range from movements that want to advance Hindu culture, to more extremist groups that maintain that promoting Hinduism must come at the expense of other groups – at the expense of other minorities in general, not only Muslims.
*Some call it Indian fascism.*
For the extreme nationalist movements in India, such as VHP and RSS, advancing Hinduism is not enough. They say it’s necessary to suppress the minorities and also to force them to declare their support for the idea that Hinduism is the supreme religion in India. As far as they are concerned, anyone who refuses needs to leave.-HAARETZ
SOURCE: link- there-s-high-potential-for-conflict-1.7865089
BY: Ayelett Shani