INDIA’S new face is pegged around a couple of theatrics: imitating the Unites States in symbolism, like having a hundred rupee bill as highest instrument of financial transaction; feeling itchy to embrace nuclear first use doctrine; dreaming of conducting preemptive and surgical strike; acting as regional bully etc. While India is doing so in a quest of recognition as super power, its hard core negativities are over shadowing its better part of the image. These negativities are now well entrenched within its state institutions, as well as policy making politico-bureaucratic echelons.
Cozying up with Dalai Lame to check mate China, unleashing cruelty on hapless Kashmiris, and denying justice on Muslim sensitive issues are some of the evolving features of contemporary India. Indian funding to select political parties during previous elections of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka was too obvious. In global dynamics, India wants to milk the US resources in the name of acting as heavy lifter in America’s “contain China” strategy, while at the same time winking and doing US$ 100 billion bilateral trade with China. Allocating more than US$ 200 billion for military forces’ upgradation, spread over the next decade, at the cost of half of its underfed population is an ironic paradox. Indian government has never been a secular democracy in character, but Indian civil society had been making up for this shortfall as it has always been vocal and potent, however now Indian civil society is also fast losing its secular and humane shades.
At regional level India has adopted terrorism as state policy; voluntary revelations by Ehsanullah Ehsan former Taliban spokesperson corroborate with earlier confessions by Kulbhushan Jhadev. Mother of All Bombs dropped by Americans resulted, inter alia, in killing about 13 RAW agents, stationed in Afghanistan to plan, conduct and coordinate terrorist activities in Pakistan; one can’t be sure as to how many more are still alive and kicking. Ehsanullah Ehsan in his revelations said that JuA is working on Indian Intelligence Agency RAW’s agenda to destabilize Pakistan using Afghan soil. And that JuA is receiving all kinds of support for ease of movement in Afghanistan. India has waged a war against unarmed and defenseless Kashmiri people through state terrorism. Indian occupation forces forcibly barged into camps of schools and colleges in Pulwama on April 15. Since then students all over Kashmir have been demonstrating. Over 150 students have been injured in the brutal use of force, pellets and teargas shells were extensively fired by Indian occupation forces. Indian media have quoted an Indian official in IOK that “no amount of brute and lethal force could deter these girls.”
The IOK has been tense since April 9, when eight people including seven students were killed by police and paramilitaries during by-election violence. Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the IOK where most people favour a merger with Pakistan. A video released on social media earlier this month showed a man tied to a jeep was being used as a human shield, by Indian security forces, against stone-pelting crowd. The clip went viral and has sparked outrage and heated debate about the role of the Indian military in IOK. Indian occupation forces have imposed a ban on Internet services in occupied Kashmir, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. The IOK government has stated that these services were “being misused by anti-national and anti-social elements” and should be blocked “in the interest of maintenance of public order”. It is the first time that government has taken such a step, although it regularly blocks the cell-phone signals.
A London based Kashmiri, Mirza Waheed in his April 25 article in New York Times (NYT) “A Cruel April in Kashmir” has given a fair idea of ongoing Indian atrocities. “Every year, or at the least every other year, there arrive seasons of killing and mourning in the valley of Kashmir. On April 9, elections were held for a parliamentary seat left vacant in the main city of Srinagar… Young Kashmiris surrounded polling stations to protest Indian rule. Some protesters threw stones at the polling booths and the troops stationed there. The troops responded as they do, with shooting, beating and blinding protesters and bystanders alike”.
About the incident involving a man tied in front of jeep, Mirza writes: “Many in India expressed shock and revulsion”. But a “judge on India’s Armed Forces Tribunal, which hears court-martial appeals, tweeted that it was “an innovate idea.” Mirza abhors that “graphic videos of torture of Kashmiris by the armed forces have surfaced, one after another — indeed a visual guide of Indian rule over Kashmir”. Commenting upon increasing apathy of Indian civil society, Waheed says: “Soon, celebrities, cricketers, actors, journalists and politicians joined in a digital witch-hunt. Taking to Twitter, a former captain of Indian cricket team “effectively called for mass murder”. A senior editor likened Kashmiris to “mosquitoes”. Yet Mirza does not lose hope: “With the world falling apart, India could perhaps show a light. Not crush Kashmir but solve one of the world’s longest-running conflicts along with Pakistan — even if the relationship between the forever estranged nuclear siblings is at its lowest”.
Hartosh Singh in his April 24 piece in NYT “India’s New Face” writes about Yogi Adityanath, BJP’s choice for chief minister ship of Uttar Pradesh: “The frame shows a man with a shaved head cloaked in saffron, the color of Hindu monasticism, sitting on a saffron-backed armchair. A voiceover described the scene: ‘Whoever comes before him sits at his feet, but he makes sure every supplicant goes away satisfied; he does not discriminate.” After the death of a Hindu youth in clashes between Hindus and Muslims on the Ashura day, Adityanath had publicly said: “In times to come, if one Hindu is killed, we won’t go to police. Instead we will make sure we will kill 10 Muslims.” Muslims constitute 20% of state’s population; yet, BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate. Since Modi’s election in 2014, cow-protection vigilantes associated with RSS have targeted Muslims for eating beef.
Adityanath’s first executive action as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has been to ban meat slaughterhouses largely owned by Muslims. And Ram Puniyani in his April 07 article “Babri Masjid Ramjanmbhoomi Dispute: Need for Justice” states that: “After long wait, the Supreme Court Chief Justice JS Khehar opined that long pending dispute of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid should be settled out of court. He even offered to mediate himself in the matter. Most of the spokespersons from RSS combine welcomed the move, while large number of Muslims and other elements have been surprised as the Court was “approached for justice and not or compromise formula”. In the out of Court settlement, the Hindu nationalists are more assertive and dominant while the representatives of Muslims are being pushed into a corner.
RSS chief in a jubilant mood has proclaimed that now the path for a grand Ram temple has been opened at the site and all the parties should cooperate in this “national” work”. Punyani goes on the say: “For larger sections this judgment came as a matter of dismay. Waheed Mirza aptly says: “Only a few years ago, India could still lay claim to being a liberal democracy. The spectacular consolidation of power by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, has been synchronous with the spread of hate speech and violence against India’s minorities — Muslims, Dalits and Christians”.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.