Hindu India ‘degenerating’ into a conflict zone of sectarian violence: NYT article

Under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dogmatic rule, the targeting of minorities — particularly Muslims — by right-wing Hindu extremists is now a way of life in many states, as India degenerates into a conflict zone of sectarian violence, according to an article published in a leading American newspaper.

“Vigilante mobs, which often assemble provocatively in front of mosques, regularly assault Muslims as understaffed and under-equipped police forces fail to intervene,” Debasish Roy Chowdhury, a Hong Kong-based Indian journalist and author, wrote in The New York Times.

“Lynchings and open calls for genocide are common. India now ranks among the 10 countries at the highest risk of mass killings,” the article said, citing the ‘Early Warning Project’, which assesses such risks around the world.

Referring to the explosive situation in Manipur, Chowdhury said although the state has a long history of ethnic animosities, the fuse for the current unrest was lit by the politics of Hindu supremacy, xenophobia and religious polarization championed by his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Since Mr. Modi took office in 2014, his ruling party has torn those asunder with dangerous exclusionary politics intended to charge up the party’s base and advance its goal of remaking India’s secular republic into a majoritarian Hindu state,’ the article, ‘India on the Brink’, said.

“The repugnant nature of this brand of politics has been clear for some time, but the situation in Manipur shows what’s ahead for India: The world’s most populous country is slowly degenerating into a conflict zone of sectarian violence,” Chowdhury added.

The state monopoly on violence is being surrendered to extremists and vigilantes, it was pointed out.

“Those targeted by the kind of mob violence that we are seeing in India may conclude that equal rights are no longer guaranteed, that political differences can no longer be peacefully reconciled or fairly mediated and that violence is the only way for them to resist,” Chowdhury wrote.

In Manipur, it said, State government-backed Meitei militias have gone on a rampage of raping, pillaging, looting police armories and burning villages, noting that more than 250 churches have been burned down. Meitei men were captured in the horrific 26-second video, sexually assaulting two Kuki women.

“The violent impact of his party’s polarizing politics is acutely felt in India’s heartland, too,’ the article said, pointing to the area near a tech and finance hub on the outskirts of New Delhi was rocked by violence last week as Hindu supremacists staging a religious procession clashed with Muslims.

“Mosques were attacked, an imam was killed, businesses were burned and looted, and hundreds of Muslims have fled,” Chowdhury wrote.

“In tandem with the BJP’s demonizing of India’s nearly 200 million Muslims, television, cinema and social media are deployed to radicalize the Hindu majority, pumping out a steady stream of Islamophobia and vile dog whistles.

“Extremist groups, at least one of which appears to have received the public support of the prime minister, run amok. Muslims have been arrested for praying, had their livelihoods and businesses destroyed and their homes razed. Bulldozers, used to demolish homes, have become an anti-Muslim symbol, proudly paraded by B.J.P. supporters at political rallies.”

The article called the Modi-led BJP’s tactics “a signature tactic of modern-day despots — tightening their grip on power by redefining who belongs to the polity and ostracizing others. “In the ultimate subversion of democracy, the government chooses the people, rather than the people choosing the government.”

“Because of its giant and growing population, India will become more important to the rest of the world geopolitically and economically, with the promise of its massive market,” Chowdhury wrote.

“And so Western leaders like President (Joe) Biden — who staged a lavish welcome for Mr. Modi on a state visit to Washington in June — engage with the prime minister, downplaying his government’s assaults on liberalism.

“But a political strategy of conspicuous humiliation and subjugation of ethnic and religious minorities that comprise around one-fifth of the population is dangerously deluded. India can be either a conflict zone or an economic powerhouse — not both. It is increasingly clear which of those two destinies awaits the country.”

By Usmana Kousasr
Source NYT