THERE is carnage everywhere these days from one part of the world to another. Hardly any place is immune from mindless violence against innocent civilians.
In August 3–4 within 24 hours, two mass shootings took place: the first one in El Paso, Texas, and the second in Dayton, Ohio. Thirty-one lives were lost at the hands of two individuals motivated by hate and having access to military-grade rifles. On August 8, the police arrested a heavily armed white man in body armour, a loaded rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition when he walked into a Walmart store in Springfield, Missouri.
Because of President Trump and his white supremacist and bigoted supporters, America is under attack by domestic terrorists. Americans are no longer safe in their places of worship, schools, workplaces, cinemas and shopping centres.
According to a government document, prepared by New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security Preparedness, dated April 15, white supremacists were responsible for all ‘race-based’ domestic terrorism incidents in the United States in 2018.
Although such white terrorism did not start with Trump and may not end with him, but he is certainly viewed as their champion whose administration has emboldened them. It is, thus, no accident that his hateful rhetoric (eg, the USA is threatened by ‘Hispanic invasion’) against the non-whites provides the necessary backdrop for recent events of white/Christian terrorism.
Like many budding fascist leaders of our time, Trump has been against immigration from non-white continents. Two Muslim congresswomen are afraid of their lives because of his hate-filled tweets and speeches in campaign rallies. He has used very disparaging remarks about the immigrant community, which according to a new study, released by the New American Economy Research Fund, has actually founded 223 of the Fortune 500 companies (ie, 101 companies founded directly by foreign-born individuals and another 122 were created by the children of immigrants). Those companies collectively generated $6.1 trillion in revenue in 2018, which is bigger than the GDP of countries such as Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom, and employed 13.5 million people. A separate study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that immigrant-owned technology firms in the US were found to be more innovative than the US-born firms.
But such hard facts will not deter racists who see themselves as foot soldiers to ‘make America great again’ from unleashing their terrorism against the immigrant community.
As the Muslims prepare for Eid-ul-Adha, tens of millions of Muslims in many parts of our world — devastated by violence of all sorts from mob lynching to state-orchestrated pogroms and wars — will not be able to celebrate it this year.
Becuase of popular Hindutvavadi supremacist agenda, millions of Bengali-speaking Muslims of the Indian-administered state of Assam have recently been made stateless in their ancestral land. Much like the indigenous Rohingyas of Arakan (Rakhine) state of today’s Myanmar, they are falsely accused of intruding into Hindu India after 1971 when the independent Bangladesh emerged.
Under the pretext of protecting cows, the lynching of Muslims in India has now become the discernible face of the so-called largest democracy on earth. Not too long ago, Tabrez Ansari, 24 years old, Muslim youth was tied to a pole in Saraikela, Jharkhand and lynched by a mob which demanded that Ansari chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Jai Hanuman’, which are blasphemous for any Muslim to utter. Ansari died from his injuries four days after the lynching when the police did not give him the necessary life-saving medical care. Unfortunately, this act of vigilantism by a mob in complete disregard for rule of law is not an isolated incident in Narendra Modi’s India.
On April 7, 2019, a Hindu mob suspected 68-year-old Shaukat Ali of selling beef in Assam’s Biswanath Chariali where such sales are not yet prohibited. Yet, they thrashed him and also proceeded to force-feed him pork.
On July 26, 2019, CP Singh, Jharkand’s urban development minister from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, was seen on national television brazenly asking Irfan Ansari, a Muslim MLA from the Congress Party, to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’, insisting he was a ‘Ram wala’ and that ‘Babur or Timur Lang’, the medieval-era Muslim conquerors, were not his ancestors. If this be the attitude of a Ram-bhakt Hindu minister to a Muslim MP, what can ordinary Muslims expect in India?
As hinted above, the BJP, under Narendra Modi, is driven by a Hindutvavadi supremacist ideology in which non-Hindus have no place in India. Thus, they peddle myths and call it history. The BJP’s election win in 2014 saw renewed efforts to rewrite Indian history so as to legitimise Hindu nationalist ideology. According to historian Romilla Thapar, ‘These efforts had begun when the BJP first governed India between 1999 and 2004. Under Mr Modi’s government and various state governments run by his party, the attempts to change history have taken many more forms, such as deleting chapters or passages from public school textbooks that contradicted their ideology, while adding their own make-believe versions of the past.’
The BJP’s solid re-election victory this spring (2019) gave it the power to bring about controversial and fundamental changes in Indian politics and justify them as a matter of national security and as a rectification of the ‘past mistakes’ of the Indian National Congress.
Thus, the latest government decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Indian constitution (which guaranteed autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir), and of Article 35A (which protected indigenous society from possible demographic transformation in the name of development, equality, and national unity) should not surprise anyone, except perhaps the timing. Keen observers believe that Trump’s willingness to be a mediator between Pakistan and India may have contributed to this sudden proclamation. (True to the innate reluctance to part with Kashmir, Indian leadership has always rejected any third-party mediated negotiation to resolving the long-standing Kashmir problem peacefully.)
As rightly noted by Professor Dibyesh Anand of the University of Westminster, London, in the Foreign Policy magazine (August 8), Modi’s decision should be seen as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the BJP’s main agenda — the conversion of India from a secular pluralist democracy to a Hindu Rashtra (state). He writes, ‘From political sloganeering “Hindustan mein rehna hai to hindu ban kar rehna hoga” (If you want to live in India, you have to be a Hindu) to the crackdown on religious conversions into Islam and Christianity to inclusion of various anti-Muslim agendas in party manifesto to celebrating anti-secular supremacists as national heroes, the BJP is remaining true to the explicit agenda of Sangh Parivar, a family of organizations linked to the far-right paramilitary Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.’
‘The Hindu nationalism that fuels the BJP portrays Hindus — who make up 80 per cent of the population — as involved in a long-term battle against numerous enemies: Muslims, Christians, communists, and secularists. Modi is imagined as a conquering leader who will overcome these foes, avenge humiliations suffered by the supposed Hindu nation over centuries, and rebuild a strong Hindu India where the threat of communism is extinguished; religious minorities are domesticated, expelled, or exterminated; and pluralist secularism is rejected as “minority-appeasing pseudo-secularism” while the acceptance of Hindu supremacy in India is seen as real secularism’, Anand writes.
The long-disputed territories of Jammu and Kashmir (with 77 per cent Muslim population) have long played a critical part in this mythology. Just as the BJP’s cause had received a boost from the destruction of the historic Babri Mosque in 1992 in Ayodhya, the Hindu supremacists saw Kashmir as the next holy cause that would empower their nation.
According to Anand,’“Experiments during the previous administration — including demonetization, lynching in the name of cow protection, and new exclusionary citizenships — showed the Indian public’s sadomasochistic fascination for drastic action and even violence so long as the primary victims were minorities; the time was ripe for the implementation of a Hinduization plan for Jammu and Kashmir.’
To prepare that ground for Hinduization, Modi’s government first issued a presidential order replacing the words ‘constituent assembly” with ‘legislative assembly.’ However, for the past year, Jammu and Kashmir has been ruled by a governor appointed by New Delhi after the ruling BJP pulled out of an alliance with a local Kashmiri party and dissolved the legislative assembly in June 2018. Since there is no state government, or state legislative assembly, the central government and the parliament then took power to remove the article. Following the issuance of the presidential order, the BJP-majority parliament introduced a resolution recommending that the president abrogate Article 370. It also had a bill passed to downgrade Jammu and Kashmir into a union territory instead of a state and turn a third region of the state, Ladakh, into a separate union territory.
As I noted elsewhere back in 2011, Indian leaders have been deceitful from day one of the crisis, denying the people of the Indian-occupied Kashmir their right to decide their fate. Once their insincerity towards the UN-mandated plebiscite was exposed, non-violent protests broke out, which sometimes morphed into armed resistance by Kashmiri youths. To quell such protests, the India-occupied Kashmir was turned into the most militarised zone of our times: there is one armed Indian soldier for every 10 Kashmiris.
The statistics below from just the past three decades of Indian occupation are enough to get a glimpse of the suffering of its violated people: Kashmiris killed by the Indian army – 94,479; disappearances of Kashmiris at the hands of Indians – 10,125; gang rapes by Indians in Kashmir – 10,283; Kashmiri women widowed – 20,005; Kashmiri buildings destroyed – 106,071; abd Kashmiri children orphaned – 20,080.
Suffice it to say that with the revocation of Article 370, the situation is bound to become worse. Kashmir has been turned into the largest prison on earth affecting the lives of some 15 million inhabitants who are locked down in their own homes for the past few days (with curfew lifted briefly for Friday prayers), with the Indian army being ordered to shoot them at sight if they step out. Some 38,000 heavily armed military officers with tanks have been brought into Kashmir in the past few days. India has closed down all media in Kashmir; all mobile and land phone services are shut down; internet service in Kashmir has been blocked; all tourists have been evacuated; hotels, guest houses, private and government buildings have been converted into makeshift jails in Kashmir with as many as 400 politicians, aides and separatist leaders being put under arrest.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are put in separate cottages in Hari Niwas. The latter told the BBC that she felt there was a ‘sinister design’ to the decision. ‘They just want to occupy our land and want to make this Muslim-majority state like any other state and reduce us to a minority and disempower us totally.’
Kashmiri leaders are appealing to the world to stop the imminent genocide of the Kashmiris. Genocide Watch in Washington, DC has already issued a genocide alert for India because it has cancelled citizenship of four million Indian citizens, mostly Muslims. This reflects the early stages of a genocide in process. (Note: The experts on genocide studies concur that Burma’s 1982 Citizenship Law, which made the Rohingya stateless, is the forerunner to its genocide.)
Sadly, the widespread Hindu support for this latest act of constitutional vandalism shows that there is little hope of checking the BJP on other divisive domestic issues such as the building of a grand temple to the Hindu god Ram on the site of the former Babri Mosque and taking away the existing rights of religious minorities to be governed by distinct personal laws on family matters including marriage and inheritance. As noted by regional experts like Professor Anand, the Kashmir Valley will now face demographic transformation and settler colonialism. If Kashmiri Muslims resist Hinduization of their land, they will be the targets of yet more brutal state violence and be represented as Islamist terrorists. Violence and not peace will become the new norms, thus, adversely affecting regional stability and security.
If conscientious human beings of our planet are serious about genuine peace, they cannot allow India to stonewall Kashmir. They must demand that India allow the United Nations, international media, the International Red Cross, and Human Rights Watch free access to Kashmir. India must allow an international investigation of human rights violations in Kashmir as asked for by Human Rights Watch. The world must grant the Kashmiris what the UN promised and Indians and Pakistanis agreed to back in 1948: a right to self-determination. Kashmiris must be allowed a vote to decide if they want to remain in India, join Pakistan or become an independent nation.
The sooner the better.
Dr Habib Siddiqui is a peace and rights activist.
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