Dual Debacle: Evaluating India’s Pseudo Democracy and Declining Economy

24th May 2020 by S. Arif

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India’s revisionist regime under Narendra Modi is capitalizing upon every available opportunity to take a strike against the Muslim community, discrediting the fact that they constitute the largest minority in India. The religious fanatics are employing one tactic after another to appease the Hindu majority by taking aim at Muslims, who are perceived as being instrumental in diverting attention from the larger issues. The coronavirus outbreak has destabilized international affairs and wrought a substantive change. Yet even the lethal pandemic has not restrained the Modi regime from executing its notorious anti-Muslim activities.

The Saffronisation of India by means of an anti-Muslim campaign brought Narendra Modi into power in the 2014 Indian general elections. The ploy of targeting the Muslim minority was widely hailed in the country. Cashing in on the success of this gambit, the tenure of the BJP witnessed repeated targeting of the Muslim community by the Hindu-hardliners; both verbally and on ground. Consequently, Modi won a decisive victory in the 2019 Indian general elections, securing the tenure of another 5 years.

In May 2020, the European Parliamentary Research Service published a report entitled ‘Challenges Facing India’s Democracy and Economy’by Enrico D’ Ambrogio. It evaluates the evolving nature of democracy in India following the BJP victory of 2019. The plight of the Indian economy, which seems to be staggering, is also highlighted in the report.

The report asserts that India has an extensive history of cultivating a culture of multi-diversity and secularism, yet the ingress of Hindutva regime in Indian politics has altered the scenario by contesting the principles of secularism and inter-faith harmony. The report enlists a number of events which the Indian government had executed to appease the Hindu nationalists.

Firstly, the unilateral revocation of Article 370 in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir stripped the autonomy of India’s only Muslim-majority province. The deployment of armed forces and the termination of all communication networks in the valley isolated it from the rest of the world.

Secondly, discrimination along religious lines, shrouded in the Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB), has also been exercised. On 9th December 2019, the Indian Parliament passed the CAB, which allows the persecuted minorities of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to attain Indian citizenship while exempting Muslims from this provision. Furthermore, the bill, coupled with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), puts the citizenship of a large number of Indian Muslims under threat. That said, the Muslims of India have to fear losing their citizenship in addition to proving their loyalty and suffering from the growing animosity towards them.

Likewise, a new domicile criterion has been introduced in the union territories, according to which anyone who has resided in the IOK for 15 years or studied there for a specific period is eligible to call it his or her place of domicile. Likewise, a person will also be deemed domiciled if he or she is registered as a migrant by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in the union territory.

Thirdly, the Indian government has been meddling in religious issues such as criminalizing the instant Triple Talaq practice. Furthermore Muslim students protesting in the wake of CAB and NRC have been treated with violence, with 53 people losing their lives. Hate speeches against the Muslims continue to spew hatred against the Muslims as well.

The report has also highlighted the likelihood that these tactics might be diversionary in nature, aimed at drawing away attention from the promises made in the election campaign regarding more jobs and a better economy. In 2018, the statistics were showing India as a fast growing economy with a surging Gross National Product (GNP), though there was a discrepancy in the figures and the on ground indicators. However, the upward trend has suffered a blow with a growth rate of only 5% as reported by Central Statistics Office, the slowest rate since 2009. Adding to this, the COVID-19 pandemic has further lowered the estimates by the State Bank of India to 4.1% and 1.1% for the years 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The unemployment rate has hiked with a large number of people losing their jobs. At the same time, exports rated are expected to take a steep decline whereas the internal consumer demand will also remain low. In addition, the Indian Rupee also has lost its value against the US dollar.

The report evaluates the ongoing scenario in India in a very objective manner. It lists a number of events which have been exploited by the Indian government against the Muslims for the sake of vested interests, along with the economic crisis which India has to deal with. After reading the report, it can be inferred that the failure to deliver on the economy will lead the Indian government to undermine democratic norms and regimes.

However, the report has skipped the demolition of the Babri Mosque through the Ayodha judgement. This constituted yet another major event where Muslims were forced to accept a decision which had no historical roots, and were deprived of the land which they lost to Hindu-hardliners over unsubstantiated claims of the existence of a Ram temple beneath the mosque. Likewise, in the recent wave of Islamophobia sweeping across India, the Tableeg-i-Jammat was accused of deliberately trying to spread the coronavirus, an issue which has no grounding in fact. But following the incident, Muslims around India were touted as major carriers of infection and blamed for conspiring to spread it. This was followed by heated debates on the Indian media, dwelling on conspiracy theories; questions such as ‘During this lockdown, why does every crowd gather only near mosques?’ became the prime focus of political shows. Social media played an equal part in this campaign, with the trending of hashtags against Muslims such as #CoronaJihad, alongside the propagation of fake videos on different platforms showing Muslims flouting social distancing guidelines. Hindu preachers such as Maa Aadi Shakti and Baldev Singh had also defied the lockdown; 20 villages which Baldey Singh visited had to be quarantined. But this news did not receive due media attention.

Furthermore, the little-thought strategy of India imposing an absolute lockdown on 24th March appeared as a source of embarrassment for the Indian government. The workforce, immigrant workers, painters, cooks, construction workers etc. were left stranded on the streets, forced to make their way home on foot. The intensification of the recent Islamophobia also has its roots in this mis-management of the government which drew criticism from within India.

It would be pertinent to mention here that the Indian government has decided to wage a war with itself at a time when the unemployment rate has broken a record of 45 years, consumer spending is declining for the first time in four years and the economy is highly strained; it is doing so by employing discriminatory acts. However, the economic plight cannot be wished away with these diversionary tactics in the long run.

Lastly, the pandemic has had a destabilizing impact on economies around the world and India is no exception rather; it is more vulnerable taking into account its imminent decline before the onset of the pandemic. Hence, in the coming times it can potentially worsen, something which might act as a push for India to execute more “heroic” steps to save itself from drawing humiliation and criticism.

While any voice raised against this act is met with attempts to justify the issue as a domestic affair, concerns have been raised. The U.S. Congressional body on religious freedom, the USCRIF, has rebuked India for discrimination against Muslims; the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressed concerns about “anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobia within political and media circles and on mainstream and social media platforms” in India. Added to the recent report by the European Parliamentary Research Service, they suggest that the there is a limit to which Indian crimes can go without generating a response.

It is said that epidemics fuel mistrust between people, with communities seeking ways to blame their plight on outsiders or the minority. In the Bubonic Plague, Jews were accused of spreading the contagion by poisoning the wells. Similar patterns can be observed in India with regards to Muslims. In future such scenarios, this polarization of the society can further aggravate the problems faced by India.

The recent developments in India are illustrative of the fact that democratic norms in the country are subjected to variable interpretation and will be moulded whenever deemed necessary. The Hindutva regime has not been able to deliver its election manifesto vis-a-vis economic progress. Henceforth, different avenues will be explored to divert attention through ultra-nationalist approaches which precipitate convincing results. Today, every element of the Indian governance is struggling, yet the hatred for Muslims is as prevalent as it was before.

Strafasia
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