Modi and his coalition swept the General Elections 2019 decimating the opposition completely. Congratulatory messages, from across the world, started pouring into India soon after the results indicated a ‘landslide victory’ for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its coalition. Rahul Gandhi was quick to concede defeat while Priyanka Gandhi accepted the ‘people’s verdict’. Modi appeared positive in his Twitter replies to Prime Minister Imran Khan and other leaders. Winning a total of 353 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats gives Modi and his coalition, National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a greater room to form a government for another five year term. BJP, on its own, has won 303 seats, which enables it to form the government wherein a simple majority of 272 members is required, without even seeking the support of its coalition parties. This win could embolden Modi to rewrite the Indian Constitution as BJP gains strength in the Rajya Sabah within next 2-3 years. In his victory speech Modi vowed to ‘take everyone along’, however, the manifestation of that could be orthogonal to his claims.
Modi’s campaign narrative was clear; tightened national security and implementation of the hardline Hindutva ideology. Modi used the anti-Pakistan card well to muster votes and influence the majority of the people that India’s greatness was shackled to his thesis of a ‘secured India’. In his terms in office, both as Chief Minister of Gujarat and as Indian Prime Minister, anti-Muslim riots increased as non-Hindus were targeted and the Hindutva agenda was forced through. Minorities felt insecure during Modi’s entire term, as they were marginalized and coerced in the Hindu-dominated country. Lynching Muslims for eating or selling beef became a new normal in India and the ensuing cases reported were neither given attention nor were the perpetrators brought to justice. Modi government has been blamed on several occasions for influencing the investigations of accused involved in Hindutva-influenced terror attacks. One of them is Pragya Thakur, a Bhopal-based terror plotter who was involved in the Mosque bomb attack in Maharashtra in 2008, killing 10 Muslims. Thakur’s case is still in court but was granted a bail to contest the elections. She has been elected as Member of Parliament (MP) with a thumping majority.
This win could embolden Modi to rewrite the Indian Constitution as BJP gains strength in the Rajya Sabah within next 2-3 years. In his victory speech Modi vowed to ‘take everyone along’, however, the manifestation of that could be orthogonal to his claims.
Satish Gautam, an MP-elect from Aligarh addressed a press conference, soon after winning, saying that his first priority would be to send Jinnah’s picture held in one of the rooms of Aligarh Muslim University back to Pakistan. It is expected that Hindutva terrorism will show a sharp upward trend as more than 40 per cent of the new Indian lawmakers face criminal charges including murder, rape and terrorism. According to Paul Marshall, of Hudson Institute, there is a strong link between Hindutva ideology and violence. Marshall opines that religious extremism in Hinduism, if left unchecked, would bring Indian economy and democracy down to naught. By having a lone Muslim MP among its winning candidates out of the 303 seats, BJP demonstrates that it is a Hindu nationalist party that aims to build an India where only Hindus may live and thrive.
Time, in its editorial published on May 24, 2019, argued that the ‘defining idea of Modi’s landslide 2019 victory is Hindutva – the ideology that defines Indian culture in terms of Hindu values’. The cover of the Time Magazine, published on May 20, 2019, carried the caption ‘India’s Divider-in-Chief’ with Modi’s picture signifying the polarization that he had induced in India.
With a population of 200 million, the Muslims will have no one to represent them in the government for the next five years. This invokes legitimate fear among the people, of the coming into power of Hindu fanatics who would stop at nothing short of transforming India into a Hindu only country. Hate is anticipated to be unleashed in Modi’s next term in office based on previous markers, some of which are: Modi’s direct involvement in the Gujarat massacre 2002, extrajudicial killings of many Muslims, electioneering folk songs hailing Modi as revivalist of Hindu identity, labeling Muslims as ‘infiltrators’, ‘termites’ and ‘outsiders’ while popularizing the notion that Modi ought to recreate India as ‘pure Hindu soil’.
Modi has been able to create an environment in India that sets the country along divisive tectonic plates. The Guardian, in its editorial on May 26, 2019 suggests that Modi’s policies resulted into a ‘culture where religious chauvinism and impunity can flourish’. In the last five years, Muslim history has been methodically altered in the official text books and Muslim emperors and kings have been likened with invaders, plunderers and murderers who targeted India to exploit its fertility and resources. Places, towns and roads named after Muslims were changed into Hindu phrases to make sure that Muslim history is scrubbed in its entirety. Aurangzeb and Khilji, under whose rule India was militarily the strongest and thrived economically, were portrayed as blood-thirsty killers. In his hate speeches, Modi, in view that it was soft on Muslims, would often label the Congress Party, the ‘Delhi Sultanate’; in reference to the nearly 1000 years of rule by Muslims in India.
With a population of 200 million, the Muslims will have no one to represent them in the government for the next five years. This invokes legitimate fear among the people, of the coming into power of Hindu fanatics who would stop at nothing short of transforming India into a Hindu only country.
Two Acts, targeting Muslims, were passed silently. One was the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which allows Indian citizenship to minorities coming to India if the right to life in their country of origin becomes non-existent, except to Muslims. In Assam, the National Register of Citizens was introduced to keep a tight check on ‘infiltrators’, who are none other than Bengali Muslims. Human Rights Watch (HRW) observes that ‘the potential exclusion of over four million people, many of them being Muslims, from the register raised concerns over arbitrary detention and possible statelessness’. These two legislations helped BJP consolidate its position on communal grounds, consequently winning a majority of the seats in both Assam and West Bengal.
According to HRW’s World Report 2019, ‘mob violence by extremist Hindu groups affiliated with the ruling BJP against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumors that they traded or killed cows for beef’. HRW, in an article published on February 18, 2019 points out that since coming to power at the national level in May 2014, the BJP has used ‘communal rhetoric that has spurred a violent vigilante campaign against beef consumption and those deemed linked to it’. HRW contends that between May 2015 and December 2018, 36 Muslims were murdered in 12 Indian states and 280 were injured across 20 other states. The Watch notes that the State abets these crimes and police protects the perpetrators by stalling investigations, thus becoming complicit in the killings. A small number of complaints are registered as ‘many families fear retribution and do not pursue their complaints’.
The level of hate and bigotry does not end at gau rakshak; BJP Ministers Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga defended Hindu perpetrators of the abduction, rape and subsequent murder of an 8 year old Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir, reflecting on the abyss of morality and insensitivity that Modi has infused in contemporary India. Modi himself never condemned such attacks in a clear manner. In the last five years of his term as Prime Minister, his only statement came in January 2019, when he stated that these attacks did not ‘reflect well on a civilized society’.
Convolution of fact with fiction and suppression of dissent have also been popular tools that Modi not just adopted but preached with vigor to make his ideas as ones quintessential for India’s greatness. Dismissing criticism and abhorring alternate viewpoints were systematically planted through the Indian media houses with such force that sanity is branded as anti-national and at times journalists speaking against Modi’s policies and strategic choices are classified as traitors. Arnab Goswami is a perfect example of how an impeccably distorted expression can now be disseminated in today’s India with ease. The media is swept with the dangerous ideology of ‘avenging the Hindu humiliation at the hands of invaders’ by punishing Pakistan, seclusion of Indian Muslims, and state sponsored spread of Hindutva. To project that diabolical thesis, the media has worked to methodically erode Islam from India’s past and present while portraying Muslims as aliens and a threat to India’s future.
Convolution of fact with fiction and suppression of dissent have also been popular tools that Modi not just adopted but preached with vigor to make his ideas as ones quintessential for India’s greatness.
A BBC report, published on May 16, 2019 suggests that the Indian Muslims would remain gripped with fear under Modi as ‘the world’s largest democracy is becoming dangerously intolerant’. Rajini Vaidyanathan, who compiled the report, argues that the real concern is that ‘those who wield power in today’s India are embracing a culture of impunity’. A man under whose stewardship crime flourished against Muslims and other minorities, violence increased against women and extremist Hindu ideology clinically replaced the Gandhian principles of peace and non-violence, cannot be considered to contrive a situation where he might choose to protect the basic rights of the Indian Muslims, let alone integrating or mainstreaming them in society. Indian Muslims would have a hard time acknowledging the notion that their lives are valueless in an India that now operates along the doctrine of bigotry and fear.
A man under whose stewardship crime flourished against Muslims and other minorities, violence increased against women and extremist Hindu ideology clinically replaced the Gandhian principles of peace and non-violence, cannot be considered to contrive a situation where he might choose to protect the basic rights of the Indian Muslims, let alone integrating or mainstreaming them in society.
Communal rhetoric would further strengthen in India and some of the events that are likely to occur are the remaking of the controversial Ram Temple in place of Babri Masjid, the revoking of special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the renaming of major Indian cities, e.g., Ahmadabad, Hyderabad, Allahabad to Hindu names, the exclusion of Muslims from major positions, the restricting of their promotions in the armed and civil services, limiting the number of mosques and a complete ban on cow trade and slaughter, in addition to water and trade wars against Pakistan with a focus to alienate it. The trinity of fear, hate and bigotry might have given Modi a chance to win and rule, but how India suffers because of it would need to be gauged in years to come.
is an independent researcher who writes for Centre for International Strategic Studies, Centre for Strategic & Contemporary Research, Maritime Study Forum and various national dailies. His areas of interest are Maritime Security, Climate Change and South Asia.