Since taking office for the second term, Prime Minister Modi has consolidated his power over his public policies and governance. The Hindu rhetoric, cloaked with hyper-nationalism, that finds it reverence in the concept of Akhand Bharat has been the driving force for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. Saffronisation of India, which is fueled by the Hindutva ideology has been a major factor for polarizing the society. India has now significantly turned Islamophobic that is repeatedly injected with the Hindutva ideology. It augments the idea of glorification of a Hindu state for Hindus only, which provides a justification for the oppression of other minorities in India especially Muslims. The BJP continues to further its agenda by its radicalized policies socially and politically, through the saffron terror outfits. Thus, India is on a steady path of being converted into a Hindu Rashtra that is poles apart from its secular constitution.
Recently, the controversy regarding the Hijab ban in educational institutions highlights the majoritarian politics that is at play in India. It was another factor in determining the BJP’s exclusionary policies against Muslims. The ban questioned the pluralistic and secular nature of the Indian constitution which prohibits any compulsion on the basis of religion. In addition to it, the trend of presenting India as a fundamentally Hindu nation is now seemingly a part of the Indian media. As evident by the recently released The Kashmir Files, that focuses on the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Indian Occupied Kashmir. It is an addition to the already prejudiced environment against Muslims. The movie has been granted a tax-free status in various Indian states that has significantly increased its viewership; spurring hate speech and violence against Muslims.
Unfortunately, the institutionalization of Hindutva has troubling consequences. One of the key aspects in this regard is the revocation of special status of Kashmir that plunged Pakistan and India in a renewed animosity. Kashmir, since then, has been at the mercy of the repressive Modi regime. It is under a complete communication blackout, experiencing the worst form of unprecedented human rights violations, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances by the Indian Security Forces, crackdown on dissent and a systematic demographic change that is persistently under way. The socio-political reengineering of the Muslim majority area favors the right-wing Hindu nationalists that want to see it as a Hindu majority state. Similarly, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019 that aimed for granting citizenship to illegal immigrants and refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan seriously impacted the diplomatic ties of India. It was a move that undermined the status of Muslims, rendering them as second-class citizens. Moreover, the issue of citizenship of Bengali immigrants under the National Register of Citizens (NRC) also debunked the so-called pluralistic nature of Indian democracy. Similarly, in November 2019, Indian Supreme Court gave a historical judgment on the Babri Masjid-Ram temple dispute, prioritizing the religious beliefs over stated facts and figures. The site was authorized to the Indian government for the construction of Ram temple while the authorities were asked to allot another place for the construction of Mosque. The verdict was a blow to the credibility of the judiciary that had succumbed to the pressure of Hindutva ideology.
It is unfortunate that at a time when states should reintegrate; particularly through CPEC for economic development and regional connectivity, India’s geopolitical belligerence threatens regional peace and security. The shift towards an increased saffronisation poses serious challenges to the ventures of peace. India’s nefarious designs and its network of hybrid warfare, to create instability across its neighbors, is no secret. It is because the Indian ambitions of creating a Hindu Rashtra and project itself as a regional hegemon is masculine in nature, demanding power projection. The propagation of Hindutva ideology that agitates intolerance towards the minorities, lynching of Muslims, forced conversions, fake propagandas, justifies the Two-Nation Theory advocated by our founding fathers. The provocative statements by the BJP leadership accompanied by the hawkish Doval doctrine for achieving India’s hegemonic ambitions imperils the regional states’ security. Modi’s right-wing nationalism threatens to bring the neighboring states, particularly Pakistan on the brink of war, disregarding the fact that South Asia is home to two nuclear weapon states. The Pulwama attack, Balakot crisis, and the recently mis-fired Brahmos missile into Pakistan, are manifestations of the right-wing nationalistic tendencies.
The Hindutva ideology, a reality of today’s India, has brought it to a new low with its neighbors. A society that has the largest Muslim population is on a steady path of dismantling them through governmental marginalized policies. Since BJP came to power in 2014, there has been a sharp rise in Indian aggressiveness. The saffronisation of India has jeopardized the secular nature of the Indian constitution, sliding it from a liberal democracy to an electoral autocracy. Under Modi, India is destined to further its jingoistic interests at the cost of the values promised in its constitution. It is a dilemma that for its colossal market, and geopolitical considerations, the world is still dismissive of the prevalent right-wing nationalism.
*The writer is a researcher at Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), Islamabad.