“The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.”
Last month (December 2019), the Indian Parliament passed a controversial Citizen Amendment Act (CAA), dubbed as the “anti-Muslim law” as it grants citizenship to “persecuted” minorities – except Muslims – who have flown from neighbouring countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to India.
This move hasn’t taken place in isolation and is hardly a surprise. In fact, it comes at the heels of publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) list in the Northeastern state of Assam which declared 1.9 million people as “illegal” migrants. It is speculated that the NRC will be enforced nationwide against anyone who doesn’t have the documents to prove that their ancestors lived in India, and States across the country have been asked to prepare detention centres to house these “illegals”. The law is controversial because it provides protection to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, but renders only Muslims stateless, who can face deportation or indefinite period of internment. In addition, India is also planning to conduct a National Population Registration survey from 1st April to 30th September that will make it easier to create the NRC, apart from the national census scheduled to be held next year.
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Ever-since coming into power, the hyper-nationalist regime of Narendra Modi has been working towards a systematic extermination of Muslims from ‘Hindu’ India. Whether it is the state-sponsored cow vigilantism or mob lynching, the fascist Indian government is rendering Muslim citizens stateless under the garb of the NRC, terming them as “termites” and “foreign infiltrators” as stated by Home Minister Amit Shah. In fact, the recent steps such as revocation of Article 370 of the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, and plans to build a Hindu temple at the site of the Babri Masjid, which was demolished in 1992 by a mob of Hindu nationalists, are all in line with RSS-led BJP’s commitment to build a “Hindu” nation.
Currently, new detention camps along the lines of Nazi camps are being set up across India. In July last year, Nityanand Rai, Minister of State for Home Affairs, stated that all the states had been asked to establish detention centres in accordance with the Model Detention Centre Manual prepared by the government.
The tactics adopted by the Nazi regime and today’s RSS-led BJP leadership in New Delhi are eerily familiar. Dehumanizing a large section of a minority community of Muslims, disseminating black propaganda through mass and social media, inciting communal violence, and increasing tensions at the border to promote Hindutva for enlisting public support and win elections have been some of the tactics of the Indian government since assuming power in 2014. So much so that recently, a German student was deported from the country after he participated in the anti-CAA protests as he was carrying a placard referring to the events which took place in his homeland stating “1933-1945. We have been there.”
Declaring Muslims as “illegals” in their own country will only lead to creation of a refugee crisis, in this already troubled region. This humanitarian crisis will result in anarchy and chaos, which can even be used by non-state actors to spread their own agenda, and plunge the entire region into new conflicts, and can even provoke threats of a nuclear war.
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As a result of these government measures, there have been widespread protests in the country which have been clamped down by the regime using brute force and communication blockade. Internet has been shut down in various parts of India more than it has been done anywhere in the world. Even after over five months, internet remains largely suspended across the Kashmir valley. On 31st December, broadband services were partially restored for government-run hospitals and SMS facilities on all mobile phones were reestablished. These authoritative measures by the current regime only expose the façade of its claim of being the biggest secular democracy. The racism, bigotry and ignorance demonstrated by the government are indeed astounding.
What is dangerous is the relative silence of the world community regarding Indian racism and fascism. Organization of the Islamic Cooperation is the only international forum that has “expressed its concern over the recent developments pertaining to both the issue of citizenship rights and the Babri Masjid case.” Though the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom raised its concerns over the proposed legislation even before it was endorsed by the Rajya Sabha, but nothing more or substantial has been done. Similarly, the European Union has so far maintained silence on this impending humanitarian crisis.
The silence of the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations raises questions: Are Muslims the children of a lesser God? Are Muslims’ rights not human rights? Why Muslims are being persecuted globally? Why Muslims’ blood is considered cheaper than water? Is being Muslim one’s biggest crime?
The responsibility lies upon the international community, especially the UN, which was created while the world still reeled from the after-effects of the holocaust and the systematic dehumanization of a religious group. History is once again repeating itself, now in India. It needs to be seen whether the world community is able to stop an impending humanitarian disaster in the form of a refugee crisis, which will negatively impact millions of lives, and wreak havoc on the peace and security of the region, or it will continue to act as mute spectator until it is too late.
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The writer is the President of Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) and member of the Senate Forum for Policy Research (SFPR) from 2018-2021. She has also served as a member Senate of Pakistan for the term 2012-2018.
Ever-since coming into power, the hyper-nationalist regime of Narendra Modi has been working towards a systematic extermination of Muslims from ‘Hindu’ India.