India’s Fight Against Fascism
This Advent season India instead of experiencing peace and calm finds itself engulfed in protests across the country. Terming the current state of affairs as an undeclared emergency, tens of thousands of Indians are on the streets fighting for the very survival of Indian democracy against fascism.
The spark for the protests was the passing of the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) by the Indian Parliament on December 11th. The CAA links religion to citizenship for the first time in India’s history. This Act goes against the Indian constitution which defines India as a secular republic and grants equal rights and protection to all within her borders irrespective of religion and belief. However this is no longer the case.
The CAA along with the proposed NRC (National Register of Citizens) which would require every Indian prove their citizenship has caused alarm among the minorities in India. This process could strip many Muslims of their citizenship and render them stateless with no voting rights, property rights, etc. Detention camps that sound ominously similar to Nazi concentration camps are being set up across the country. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) through the CAA and NRC aims to reshape India into an authoritarian Hindu regime.
The BJP and her closely allied sister organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which was created emulating the fascist political parties of Europe in the 1930s believe in a radical militant Hindu nationalistic ideology known as Hindutva. At the heart of the Hindutva ideology is the belief that India is a Hindu state and that being an Indian is synonymous with being a Hindu. Thus BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to establish a unified Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Kingdom) by brute force.
BJP came into power in 2014 on the back of a populist manifesto promising economic growth and in 2019, they won an absolute majority with the party winning 303 out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha (India’s Lower House of Parliament). Since coming into power, the government has indulged in revising Indian history, promoting “vedic science”, diminishing individual and civil liberties and eroding democratic institutions. This period has also seen an increase in persecution of Christians with Open Doors putting India in its list of top 10 countries with extreme persecution. Press freedom has also diminished with regular intimidation of journalists and the purging of any voice of dissent.
In the current protests, the government has brutally come down on the protestors exercising their democratic rights in an attempt to silence their voices. Deadly force has been employed upon citizens and the police have indulged in barbaric brutality opening fire upon unarmed protestors and thrashing them senseless. So far 25 people have died in the protests with an eight year old among them. Hundreds lie in hospital beds across the country, many suffering from serious head injuries and fighting for their lives. Thousands have been detained and arrested. The Internet has been shut down and Section 144 – a repressive colonial era law that bans the gathering of more than four people in public – has been imposed in many parts.
To put this all into context, the six months of Hong Kong protests so far have seen 2 deaths. However two weeks of protests in India have seen 25 deaths and the number keeps increasing each day.
The police in BJP ruled states have been given free rein to inflict terror. In Delhi, on 15th December, the Police forcibly entered the university campus of Jamia Milia Islamia and assaulted the students. Students who were studying in the library or resting on their beds in the hostels enjoying a quiet evening faced tear gas and blows by the police. In Mangalore, CCTV footage shows police chasing protestors seeking refuge inside hospital corridors. In the state of Uttar Pradesh which has seen the most violence, police have indiscriminately fired upon crowds. The government for the most part remains silent, denying any brutality.
Gross human right violations are taking place all across the land. Despite this, tens of thousands of students and ordinary citizens turn up on streets braving violence, detention and arrests. Shouts of “Hindustan Zindabad” (Long Live India) and Samvidhan Zindabad (Long Live the Constitution) ring through. The protests are filled with people waving the Indian tri-coloured flag, and people holding up pictures of founding fathers of the Indian Republic, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution. Men and women from all walks of life, of all age, of all religions come together against the government. Every protest has the national anthem sung and a reading of the preamble of the Constitution reminding what is at stake. The very future of the Indian Republic.
There is tremendous violence. There is tremendous hate. There is a very real fear in the air. Yet the people of India keep turning up every morning to ensure that the flame of democracy does not fade quietly into the night. There is a new found bravery amidst all odds. College students hand roses and water bottles to police in full riot gear standing at their posts. Women employing an Indian law that disallows the arrest of women between sunset and sunrise form a protective wall around the men in case the police charge and detain them. Such stories of courage and sacrifice are seen new each day.
Despite such brave defiance, the government has dismissed the protests as being politically motivated and induced by terror outfits. The government’s propaganda machine spreads a web of deceit and falsehood across social media. The protestors have been termed as anti-nationals, and urban Naxalites. Journalists, academicians, artists, activists, students and anyone who speaks out faces the wrath of the government.
The country that showed the world how to face down a mighty colonial power by means of non-violence is now descending into darkness and violence. The nation that won freedom by means of civil disobedience now considers democratic voices of disapproval as subversive elements. The land of Gandhi, Ambedkar and Nehru is becoming a fascist state. Hate has been normalised and injustice reigns supreme. This Indian winter is one full of dread and despair. It does seem very much like “there is no peace on earth for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth and good will to men.”
Yet Christmas offers hope that transcends this world. Hope that goes beyond all the human rights violation and police brutality. Hope beyond all falsehood. Hope beyond all hatred. For in Christmas, God comes to us, not as a mighty warrior to establish his kingdom by brute force, but as a gentle baby, full of truth and grace. That little baby in the manger – reminds us that evil is defeated by sacrifice. Love does triumph over sin and hate. And finally that the powers of this world cannot triumph for Jesus has overcome them on the cross. This Christmas, the angels’ song rings clearer and truer than ever before in India: there is peace is on earth and good-will to men.