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Monday, April 22, 2024

Guest: The ethnic cleansing in India that no one is talking about

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is displacing and detaining India’s Muslim population, and the world stays silent 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

As the Western World grapples with the rebirth of white supremacy and Nazism, India, too, is faced with a right-wing fascist movement led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The ruling party of the Indian government is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a far-right political party whose primary agenda for the country is to transform its large, secular democracy into a Hindu nationalist state by cleansing its population of non-Hindu citizens

Prime Minister Modi was previously directly linked to a pogrom that killed hundreds of Indian Muslims in the state of Gujarat in 2002. As a result of his role in this ‘small-scale’ ethnic cleansing, Modi was subjected to a travel ban imposed by the U.S., United Kingdom and other European countries. He was even denied a diplomatic visa to the U.S. for violations against religious freedom, which was lifted by the Obama Administration.

This past week, we have witnessed violent Hindutva mobs descend upon majority Muslim neighbourhoods in Delhi, the nation’s capital, killing close to 40 Muslim individuals so far. This is a state-sponsored pogrom, as reports emerge that the mobs were specifically brought in from outside the city. The death toll continues to rise while the world watches silently. 

Since Modi’s rise in leadership, there has been a sharp uptick in mob lynchings of Muslims and Dalits (members of lower caste groups) as well as an increase in the number of sedition charges filed against journalists, writers, historians and student groups. Since the BJP’s victory in the 2019 elections and subsequent expansion of their parliamentary majority, Modi and his government have taken several steps toward disenfranchising minority groups and other vulnerable populations. This includes the abrupt revocation of the special status of Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in the country, followed by a complete internet and communication shutdown in the state — now into its sixth month — and more recently, the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) along with the creation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The CAA extends citizenship by naturalization to refugees of six religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, but excludes Muslims. It represents a blatant violation of the constitutional right and commitment to religious equality, and blocks the entry of refugees on the sole basis of religion.

This act goes hand in hand with the NRC, a registry of identification of “genuine” Indian citizens. The government filters out “illegal immigrants” in states bordering Bangladesh by seeking documentation that proves an individual’s ancestry to people who have been citizens of India prior to 1971 — the year of the Bangladesh Liberation War that produced many refugees fleeing to India. The NRC has already been implemented in one state, Assam, and was used to strip the citizenship of 1.9 million people who now face the threat of detention.

These two acts are just the tip of the iceberg in a deep-seated hatred of Muslims in India that traces its roots back to the early years of independence from Britain in the 1950s. The Hindutva ideology relies on the victimization of the upper caste Hindu majority by instilling unfounded fears of an ‘invasion’ of Hindu spaces by undeserving and encroaching Muslim and Dalit populations. Television news channels, which are the primary source of news for the general Indian public, are dominated by an Islamophobic narrative that is comparable to the Nazi Germany’s narrative of Jews. Social media websites and apps such as Facebook and Whatsapp are equally weaponized to spread misinformation and rumors, leading to extrajudicial killings and mob lynchings. It was also found that Indian Americans and Indian citizens living in the U.S. and the UK were among the biggest contributors to the BJP’s 2019 re-election campaign. A significant percentage of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border were Indian nationals seeking to escape the brutality of communal violence and cast-based violence, according to The Guardian.

In an immediate response to the passage of the CAA in December 2019, students of two Muslim majority universities, Aligarh University and Jamia Milia, rose up in peaceful protest. They were met with extreme brutality from police. Since the start of the protests, hundreds have been injured and at least 25 people have been killed. This brought students from universities all over the country to protest in solidarity against the CAA and NRC. In addition to student demonstrations, women and children have been peacefully protesting at Shaheen Bagh, an influential neighborhood in Delhi for over a month and a half. These mothers simply wish for a safe and tolerant space for their children to grow up in and are being demonized by the far-right counter-protestors and politicians as agents of ISIS or the Pakistani government, or both. 

The CAA and NRC impacts the lives of millions of Indians: queer and trans folk, Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis (tribes of the Indian Subcontient) and women. 

This is an ethnic cleansing in progress. It is happening and will continue to happen while the world watches and does nothing. Yet there is still hope in the Indian people, as millions are rising up to protest on college campuses and schools across the country. 

Protests of solidarity are being held in many universities across the world, and it is morally imperative that UC Davis students take up this cause to stand with Indian students. This is a mass movement of resistance against fascism that is unfolding in front of us, and merits urgent mobilization. The world is in the throes of global alt-right resurgence. Apolitical neutrality is not an option. We must raise our voices wherever we can and ensure awareness spreads on this issue. 

Written by: Manisha Koneru and Nimra Farooq

Manisha Koneru is a fourth-year evolution, ecology and biodiversity major. Nimra Farooq is a first-year comparative literature major.


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