It all began in December last year, when India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, thereby giving all but Muslims the right to receive Indian citizenship. This bill, combined with the National Register of Citizens, is a strike to stamp out the country’s Muslim population.
Being an Indian Muslim, I was both shocked and embarrassed at the Prime Minister’s decision. He is known for his anti-Muslim speeches as he repeatedly mentions that he wants to rid the country of Muslims and make India a Hindu nation, but a bill like this is pushing it too far, even for a nationalist like Modi.
It is a blow on the very idea of secularism, a fundamental doctrine of the Indian constitution.
People all over the country, Hindu and Muslim, are protesting against the bill.
The protests, peaceful at first, have taken a violent form over the past few months — the most recent ones were in Delhi, the nation’s capital. More than 30 people have been killed and over 200 were injured in the violence that broke out in a largely Muslim-populated area in northeast Delhi. Meanwhile the prime minister was busy building a wall to cover up slums in my hometown of Ahmedabad, where his good friend President Trump was going to visit. As if Trump was somehow unaware of the poverty in India.
What surprised me is that it took three days for Modi to issue a statement on Twitter that peace and harmony should be maintained. Neither Modi nor his Minister of Home Affairs, Amit Shah, who is in charge of law and order in the country, have reached out to those who have been injured or killed.
The hospitals in Delhi resemble a war zone as the city witnesses the worst communal carnage since the 1984 genocide of the Sikhs.
Since coming to power, the Modi government has done nothing but incite communal hatred to further his ideal of a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu State). Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers are seen openly threatening Muslims as they refer to Muslim immigrants as termites.
The party seems to excel at creating conditions in which violence can unfold. A local BJP politician gave an ultimatum to the police: clear the roads of the Muslim protestors or allow his followers to do so. The party’s ministers are frequently seen delivering inflammatory speeches and threatening to take the law into their own hands.
A country that is known for its diversity — where Hindus and Muslims, Christians and Sikhs eat together on one plate — is seeing mosques being vandalized and the Quran desecrated by a few radical Hindutva supporters.
The government repeatedly claims that the mobsters act on their own volition, but because of its inability to take actions and habitual discourse of hate speech, they have the assurance that the government will not take any strict actions against them, as exemplified time and again. Squashing any form of dissent as being anti-national not only incites more violence but gives the extremists the courage to take the law into their own hands
The state of the nation is hopeless; heartbreaking rather, as Modi tears apart the social fabric of the country.
Democracy grants people the power to speak up; to express dissent; to criticize the government. But with Modi in power, any form of dissent is met with brutal force.
Recently, the students protesting the Citizenship Amendment Bill at the Jamia Milia Islamia University in New Delhi were beaten with batons by the Delhi police. Tear gas shells were fired. This is just one of the many accounts of the government forcefully crushing dissent.
Nothing kills democracy like controlled media, scripted interviews and crafted Twitter responses.
Modi has repeatedly denied press conferences. It is the first time in the history of independent India that a prime minister only had one press conference and almost every question was redirected to his home minister Amit Shah.
The Indian media has also come under scrutiny for being biased as news anchors like Arnab Goswami commit to bigoted speech on national television, openly expressing their loyalty to BJP’s propaganda of Hindutva.
You cannot expect free and fair news when the media is in the clutches of one man.
Despite all this it seems like Modi supporters, or ‘Bhakts,’ have turned a blind eye to everything. They keep holding to the promise of ‘Achche Din’ (Good Days) that the Modi government repeatedly emphasized during its election campaign but has fabulously failed to deliver.
The country’s GDP has hit its lowest point since 2013 with a growth rate of only 4.5% in the July to September quarter in 2019. The Reserve Bank of India keeps cutting its interest rates and there has been a steep decline in the manufacturing sector leading to job cuts, not to mention the epic failure of the Demonetization policy.
India suffers under Modi’s rule. Democracy will soon become a distant memory — a wishful dream.
Yusra Asif is a staff reporter for The Review. Her views are her own and do not reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s editorial staff. She may be reached at email@example.com.