Hindutva bared its fangs in its first mass display of power during the Babri Masjid’s demolition in 1992 but ever since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, the Hindutva brigade has been given a shot in the arm. Many high-ranking officials in the Indian state machinery, starting from the prime minister, are Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh abbreviated as (RSS), while some notoriously communal characters are in positions of power, such as Yogi Adityanath, the serving chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. The latter is known for his frequent anti-Muslim rants. Having such individuals in the corridors of power, has had a trickle-down effect on the masses. The result has been lynching of Muslims over suspicions of eating or transporting beef, cracking down on ‘love jihad’ and a general tilt of Indian society towards the right wing. Of course, the rightward march is not a phenomenon limited to India; across the world, hard-right movements are gaining power and finding their way into legislatures.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Muslims have been facing mounting threats to their status in the Majority-Hindu country. A couple of days ago, they were walloped by new worrisome development. The upper house of India’s Parliament passed the “Citizenship Amendment Bill” (CAB). The legislation turns religion into a means of deciding whom to treat as an illegal immigrant and whom to fast-track for citizenship. The bill was sent to President Ram Nath Kovind for his approval and now it has become law.

At first glance, the bill may seem like a laudable effort to protect persecuted minorities. It says Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians who came to India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan won’t be treated as illegal. They’ll have a clear path to citizenship. But one major community has been left out and they are “Muslims” which is not a coincident rather it is a conspiracy which has become an alarming threat to Muslims. The CAB is closely linked with another contentious document “India’s National Register of Citizens” (NRC). That citizenship list is part of the government’s effort to identify and weed out people it claims are illegal immigrants in the northeastern state of Assam. India says many Muslims whose families originally came from neighboring Bangladesh and they are not rightful citizens, even though they’ve lived in Assam for decades.

“Dangerous turn in the wrong direction”

Muslims have been facing ferocity and discrimination from the past several years under Modi’s BJP government. Even now their leadership and opposition leaders are criticizing this offensive activity. Indian intellectual and International diplomat Shashi Tharoor, whose Congress party opposes the CAB, dubbed it “Fundamentally Unconstitutional.” Under the slogan of “Everything Is Fine,” the Modi government have brought chaos, Religious and sexual violence in the country in the form of protest, deaths, internet blackout like we are watching the same violence from many decades in Kashmir. The main consequence of this act is religious prosecution and resemblance with Nazis revolt, when Hitler deprives Jews of citizenship rights by bringing two distinct laws which were passed in Nazi Germany in September 1935 are known collectively as the Nuremberg Laws: the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor. These laws embodied many of the racial theories underpinning Nazi ideology. These laws provided the legal framework for the systematic persecution of Jews in Germany. These loopholes in NRC are making enough resemblance with Nazi racist laws which is causing Deaths, rage, discrimination, and violence in the state. 

 What is next for the 100 million stateless Indians?

 Yesterday, it was Kashmir today it is Assam where the same situation is being injected by the racist Modi government. Over the last five years, India has been an outbreak of religious hate crimes, with an average of one happening every week. This act is itself a violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which states that: “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” If the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is the graveyard of Indian citizenship, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 is the graveyard of Indian democracy. The face of the crisis is this abyss. As once rightly noted by the historian Eric Hobsbawm, “Democracy is no measure for nature of states”. Today Indian democracy seems to have proven that just right by showing how the basic fabric of democracy can be destroyed through the system itself. The citizenship crisis in Assam, inhumanity, and tyranny in Kashmir is now set to engulf the entire country, which will forever change life, politics and social theory in South Asia.

Hindutva is fang on Indian secular ideology, violence, and fanaticism is not a new phenomenon their founder Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead in 1948 by Hindu fanatic on having a soft corner for Muslims. In Pakistan, we have also share of fanaticism. But in India’s case, the rapid saffronisation threatens the secular and democratic ethos India has cultivated over the decades. It is clear from the writings and utterances of Sangh Parivar ideologues that theirs is a fascist ideology that accepts no pluralism or diversity. If this is the path India wants to avoid, it needs to isolate hatemongers and assure its religious and caste minorities that they, too, are equal Indian citizens.

 Though this Citizenship Act and religious discrimination in the state is bringing a radical break with this history and will greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the so-called secular democratic state.

Shahrukh Mehboob

Attorney at Law