India: A secular Union or Hindu Rashtra | By Sania Zeb


India: A secular Union or Hindu Rashtra

INDIA is gearing up to celebrate its Republic Day. A day designated to celebrate the Indian constitution which is symbolic of Indian unity.

In an ideal world, Union requires equality among all citizens or at least the pretence of equality. India, as its founders pretended was supposed to be a secular, democratic and pluralistic union of states has stopped pretending to be one.

There are open calls to declare India a Hindu Rashtra and establish a religious-based society where Hindus are to be first class citizens and the rest of the communities will belong to second class citizens.

India has been marketed as a mythical land where hundreds of racial, ethnic, and linguistic groups live together happily.

It has been termed a perfect example of inclusion and diversity The same PR specialists sell the compelling narrative that falsifies a tale of the unified nature of Indian polity. And that narrative is conveniently bought by the international community which is looking for a chance to absolve themselves of historical sins.

There is a tendency in western academia and media to overcompensate for their white guilt. And that over-compensation is why they have treated India as a bastion of unity, secularism, and democracy. Nothing can be further from the truth.

India is celebrating its Republic Day. A Day marked to celebrate the formation of the Indian Constitution; a document that codifies a PR strategy rather than enshrines equal rights to all its citizens and regions. Come this Republic Day, a modicum of truth must be spoken, and historical lies must be exposed for what they are.

A union of states requires a commonality of religion, language, ethnicity, culture, or ideology or at very least the willingness to unite. Well, the Union of India as it exists exhibits none except commonality of interests among a few elite barons.

The way India came into being in itself tells a story of perhaps the largest land-grabbing operation undertaken by a state. The Indian Independence Act allowed princely states; there were 565 of them to choose whether to join India, Pakistan or stay independent within the British Empire. These states represented 40% area of the sub-continent.

By 1971, the princely states were completely incorporated in India, their rulers dethroned and ousted, and their privileges revoked. Thus 40% of India as we know was grabbed and forcefully incorporated. The underlying purpose was to use the natural resources and wealth to enrich select few.

Hyderabad state was the richest princely state and possessed immense natural resources and wealth. Its Muslim ruler decided not to join the Union of India.

As far as the Indian Independence Act goes, he had this right but the leaders of the new Indian regime had one goal in mind; to conquer and steal the wealth and resources of Hyderabad. It was nothing new, but a localized version of colonialism.

The invasion of Hyderabad state was a brazen daylight robbery that resulted in thousands of causalities and illegal annexation of sovereign territory. The same is the case with Junagarh; where India employed violence and use of force to compel subjugation.

It was a similar story in the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir. A Muslim-dominated state unlawfully invaded and subjected to horrors of state-sponsored terrorism for the last seven decades.

Indian atrocities and human rights violations in IIOJK are well documented and internationally accepted.

The people of IIOJK have, again and again, rejected the Indian attempt to rule Kashmir at the cost of thousands of lives and years of violence and use of force.

After decades of territorial invasions to conquer and steal wealth and resources, the Indian state has moved on to the next colonial phase.

This phase is about consolidating the territorial gains and is supplemented by the concept of true and fake Indians, which basically is a dog whistle for Hindus (true) and minorities (fake).

Disturbing trends and news are emerging from India. Mob lynching forced religious conversions, anti-minorities hate and fascist rhetoric is engulfing India. Hindutva extremists are in the ascendency after Modi’s rise to power. After years of mob lynching by the largest religious organization in India (Dharam Sansad) is openly calling for Muslim genocide.

The recent legislation passed in the Indian Parliament including CAA, farm laws, abrogation of article 370 is another example of tyranny unleashed by the Indian state.

These changes have altered the Indian socio-economic fabric to its core. There is growing insecurity and fear in marginalized communities.

Whether they live in rural areas or urban areas they fear for their basic rights and life altogether. One of the most serious concerns is the surge in Hindutva movement which poses a great threat to religious minorities.

This Hindutva Movement is not only supported by BJP but also by several other communal Hindu organizations. Moreover, the Indian authorities have started practicing vividly biased policies and openly discriminate against Muslims, Christians and other minorities.

The Hindu nationalist government of BJP shows prejudice embedded in its core where they have turned judiciary and police as government’s henchmen to target minorities.

Such policies have empowered Hindutva groups that threaten, harass and attack religious minorities with utter disgrace and freedom.

Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch Director, says “The Indian government’s embrace of the Hindu majority at the expense of minorities has gotten into government institutions, undermining equal protection of the law without discrimination.”

The government has not only failed to protect the minorities from attacks, but it is also providing political support and cover for prejudice and extremism.

The Prime Minister of India faces great criticism not only at his conduct of government rule but also on his beliefs and toxic misogynistic persona. A member of the Indian Parliament, Mahua Moitra, writes that Mr Modi evidently prioritizes the pursuit of political power by Hindus over Indian lives.

Today, the Hindutva movement has replaced the Indian Nationalism of the 1940s. Such a socio-political discourse in Indian society poses a grim future for both Indian democracy and its claims to be a Secular Union.

—The writer is a contributing columnist.


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