THE attacks on the people rallying against India’s contentious citizenship law in Delhi, which began on Monday and are reported to have left 22 dead by Wednesday evening, are shocking. Politically-charged right-wing mobs armed with swords, guns and acid, reportedly supporters of India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act — which has spawned criticism as it is viewed to have run into an affront to India’s constitution that guarantees legal equality to people of all faiths and to exclude the Muslims from a path to citizenship for religious minorities from India’s neighbouring states — attacked the people holding out protests against the law. The death toll is feared to rise as about 200 more are reported to have so far been wounded. But what makes it worrying is that there is no scope to view this incident as a one-off violence outbreak but an inseparable part of a string of incidents that are manifestations of the Hindutva plan of the Hindu nationalist government of the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, and orchestrated by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its constituents advocating a form of Hindu nationalism rejecting the notion of a composite Indian identity brought about by diverse cultures and faiths.
The exclusionary and discriminatory ideology of Hindutva, an aggressive manifestation of upper-class Hinduism, which is an attack on India’s hitherto perceived pluralistic democracy, has had violence at its hearts, mostly targeted against the Muslims, who are as much a part of India’s cultural fabric, and lower-caste Hindus. The December 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid, a 16th century mosque in the town of Ayodhya, on the RSS claim that it stood on the location where Rama was born; the 2002 Gujarat pogrom which left more than 2,000 people dead and more than 100,000 people homeless, about 90 per cent of them being Muslims; the cow vigilantism to lynch Muslims and Dalits on suspicions of the smuggling of cows or being in possession of beef which since 2014 left at least 44 people dead; the exclusion of about two million people from the National Register of Citizens in north-eastern Assam, apparently carried out to weed out Muslims, to leave them to face statelessness; and the recent passage of the citizenship law are a few cases in example of the aggressive Hindu nationalism especially against the Muslims in a vast area constituting several present-day states that have a shared past. The rise and spread of Hindutva, in the case at hand, could have constraining influence in not only India, Pakistan and Bangladesh but the whole of the South Asian region, with a probable fallout lurking beyond the region.
A situation like this in India now warrants that democratic forces of all South Asian nations believing in democratic pluralism should condemn the proponents of Hindutva for not only the Delhi incident at hand but for the whole strings of Hindutva manifestation that could potentially jeopardise regional peace and prosperity. It is also time that democratic forces of South Asian nations beyond India and people of the region including India rallied against India’s Hindutva plan.
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