2019. Mark the year.
Seven decades is just a blip in the history of nations. For India, though, it may be a lifetime, and this year its darkest blot.
The soul of India seems to have been mutilated, killed and cremated by its own sons and guardians. From the ashes, a new nation rises: Hindu-sthan or Aryavratt — the land of the resurgent, roaring Hindu.
The year has been dark to the core.
Within a span of few months in the second half of 2019, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), fresh into its second term as the federal government, decided to actively pursue the agenda of its parent body, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu right-wing organization. The RSS was formed almost a century ago in 1925 with a clear agenda of making a “Hindu rashtra” (or nation) out of then-enslaved India.
Following India’s independence in 1947 when a secular nation emerged, the RSS vehemently fought the constitution, the national flag and even the leaders who defined India’s new identity. Their pursuit of a Hindu nation has been relentless.
After the BJP returned to power with a thumping majority, and more importantly, with the BJP and their allies controlling both houses of the legislature, with the judiciary and administration in firm control and in the hands of their loyal followers, with the control of the entire fourth estate including not just print and TV but with a powerful troll army controlling social media and spreading fake news, it was time to act.
The siege of Kashmir
In August 2019, within a matter of a few days, the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir was put under siege, Not just the entire political leadership, but tens of thousands of its people were imprisoned to crush dissent. Internet services were cut. A million-plus army and para-military forces were deployed. The entire operation, including a vote in Parliament, was carried out as a surgical strike, keeping the state’s entire population in the dark.
Then in November 2019, with the help of a judiciary which had been hand-picked over the years, the demolition of a mosque in Ayodhya-Babri Masjid in Dec. 1992 by Hindu radicals was given legitimacy by allowing temple construction to go ahead.
But the BJP was not done yet. It was time to show their true colours to the world. They passed a law providing a path to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian minorities fleeing persecution from three neighbouring countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Muslims are ineligible.
This Act, in one single stroke, destroyed the very fibre of secularism on which the nation was built and goes against the concept of liberty and equality in the entire world. The Indian constitution clearly states that the nation will be “a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic”
Religion as a test of citizenship
The Indian state is now taking the first step of declaring to its citizens and to the rest of the world that they do not believe in the very constitution that defines its existence, and will use faith and religion as a test to define citizenship. The Hindu juggernaut continues. The next step is a National Registry of Citizens, for which the people of India will have to prove that they belong to the land or else be deported or like Jews put in detention centers in 1940s Europe.
It is as if India has lost its soul.
Alas, it is not the BJP or the RSS or its current crop of leaders who have let the spirit of a secular India down. They have not changed course. It is the people of India who have been brainwashed over the last decade and who have been made to believe in a view that Hinduism is in danger, leading to the Talibanization of a secular nation. Indians always took pride in being secular and accepting amid openly religious nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan. Now it has well and truly fallen into the same rut.
Resistance is building
Fortunately, civil society in India is rising up. Students and the younger generation have come out protesting. The government is using force, internet blackouts and arbitrary arrests to crush the revolt; and yet the resistance is building, not just in India but worldwide.
There have been many demonstrations in various places in North America, including on Dec. 20 in Toronto in front of the Indian consulate. More than 500 people raised their voices in sub-zero temperatures against the Indian regime. Among them was a Bollywood celebrity, Ali Fazal, who lent his voice to the cause.
What can nations like Canada do? What can we ordinary world citizens do? What should society do?
It is times like this that define our existence and the importance of our true values. Do we consider all humans as equal or do we believe like the Home Minister of India that some are “termites” who need to be eradicated?
History judges us by what we stood for. Now is the time. I have made my choice and will agitate and fight till the very end.