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Opposition Must Renew Fight Against Modi-Shah Regime's Politics of Hate: Indian Diaspora Outfits

While celebrating the BJP's loss of absolute majority in the recent elections, civil society and opposition parties must be vigilant against any excesses of the BJP-led NDA government. 
Photo: Flickr/John S. Quarterman. CC BY-2.0.

New Delhi: Indian diaspora organisations have called on now-strengthened Opposition of the country to condemn and oppose all anti-minority rhetoric, and communal and casteist violence that has marked the last 10-year rule of the Narendra Modi government.

Despite the denial of even a simple majority to the BJP by the electorate, the diaspora organisations say with Modi and Amit Shah at the helm, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government still poses a threat to the future of India’s constitution.

“The signs of the shape of things to come are already ominous,” said the organisations in a statement.  “On the day Modi was staking claim to form the NDA government, Hindutva lynch mobs were striking down cattle traders in Chhattisgarh, in a rerun of similar extrajudicial violence against religious and ethnic minorities and Dalits that has become normalised in the previous 10 years of BJP rule. The same day, Delhi Police announced it was initiating criminal proceedings against journalists of the Caravan newsmagazine, in line with the BJP’s systematic crackdown on civil freedoms, ” said a total of 19 organisations.

Continuing further, it said, “… the sanction for prosecution of writer Arundhati Roy and Kashmiri academic Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for speeches made in 2010 further underlines the regime’s escalation of repression in response to electoral setback. In Uttar Pradesh, the authorities are undertaking demolition drives in minority neighbourhoods, in so-called ‘Bulldozer Justice’, a practice of collective retribution to punish and silence those who rise up against authoritarianism. Other forms of vigilantism continue.”

They urged opposition parties and civil society organisations to be vigilant against the excesses of the ruling establishment.

Reproduced below is the full statement and list of signatory organisations.

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Statement by Diaspora organisations on the Indian election results and beyond

Over the past 12 weeks more than 600 million Indians exercised their right to vote. During much of the electoral process, the ruling BJP and particularly its leader, Narendra Modi, ran a campaign of undisguised Islamophobia and lies, accusing the opposition Congress party of planning to give the gold and property of Hindus to ‘those who are ‘infiltrators’ or ‘those who have many children’ which are anti-Muslim dog-whistles familiarised by the BJP over its decade in power. Election processes were also marred by serious irregularities while the Election Commission of India, the vaunted election watchdog, and the Indian courts – mostly looked the other way (often tilting the balance in favour of the ruling party). Among many other irregularities  Muslim voters were removed from electoral rolls and chased away from polling booths by the police, in Surat, Gujarat all candidates standing against the BJP were disqualified or pressurised into standing down, and most shocking of all, as we now know, the number of votes polled did not tally with those counted.

Despite this however, vote counting revealed a rejection of hate and the BJP lost its overall majority, leaving it dependent on its NDA allies to form a government. Notably, the BJP lost across UP, including in Faizabad, the constituency which includes Ayodhya where Modi had inaugurated the Ram Temple on the ruins of the demolished Babri Masjid, where a senior Dalit leader of the Samajwadi Party was elected. The BJP also lost at least 20 seats where Modi had delivered openly Islamophobic election speeches. The BJP and its publicists are now, in a blatant distortion of facts claiming that the opposition successes were due to a Muslim vote bank, in other words it was a communalised vote. This is far from the truth. Indian Muslims felt compelled to vote against the BJP because of the BJP’s vicious and violent Islamophobia and not for any religious reasons. Major factors contributing to the election result were the people’s movements – the farmers movement, the Dalit-Adivasi-Bahujan campaign in defence of the Constitution, the youth  demanding secure employment, civil society initiatives campaigning for freedom and democracy  and many others.

In Kashmir, the electorate not only resoundingly rejected the BJP and all those who had allied with it, but also sent a clear message that the BJP’s claims to have ‘normalised’ life in Kashmir are meaningless in a context of ongoing military occupation and repression.

Overall, while we celebrate the possibility of the opening up of public space, freedom of speech, and an active Opposition, we are also aware and concerned that despite losing its majority, the BJP remains in power supported by its NDA allies. Shamefully its MPs do not include a single Muslim, Christian or Sikh MP. The ongoing marginalisation of Muslims in the political arena is particularly concerning: currently there are only 24 Muslim MPs in total – 5% of parliamentarians for a minority representing 14% of India’s population.

As Narendra Modi commences his third term in office as Prime Minister, many of his top cabinet colleagues, including Home Minister Amit Shah, remain in office retaining their previous portfolios. Given the electorate’s rejection of the BJP’s ongoing agenda of Hindu supremacist fascism, this raises concerns about how the new government can truly honour the will of the people. The 2024 vote was a rejection of this model. It is this vote that has been stolen.

The signs of the shape of things to come are already ominous. On the day Modi was staking claim to form the NDA government, Hindutva lynch mobs were striking down cattle traders in Chhattisgarh, in a rerun of similar extrajudicial violence against religious and ethnic minorities and Dalits that has become normalised in the previous 10 years of BJP rule. The same day, Delhi Police announced it was initiating criminal proceedings against journalists of the Caravan newsmagazine, in line with the BJP’s systematic crackdown on civil freedoms. Since then, the sanction for prosecution of writer Arundhati Roy and Kashmiri academic Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act  for speeches made in 2010 further underlines the regime’s escalation of repression in response to electoral setback. In Uttar Pradesh the authorities are undertaking demolition drives in minority neighbourhoods, in so-called“Bulldozer Justice”, a practice of collective retribution to punish and silence those who rise up against authoritarianism. Other forms of vigilantism continue.

If the events of the past days are any indication, a weakened but still in place Modi-Shah at the head of a BJP-led NDA government poses a serious threat to the future of India’s Constitution and to democracy and human and minority rights. With the most vulnerable groups having visibly voted against the ruling party and the opposition now able to contest the government in parliament, a likely scenario could be a further attack on freedoms and the systematic witch hunt of those seen as enemies of the current government.

The powerful people’s movements which have made possible the opposition’s encouraging gains, are likely to continue to hold opposition forces accountable, while remaining alert to the renewed offensive of the fascist forces which we will no doubt see unfolding in the coming months. We stand with them.

We urge the opposition to:

Unequivocally condemn and strongly oppose all anti-minority rhetoric and incitement to communal and casteist violence and to ensure that the laws against hate speech, which exist only on paper, are implemented. Those who have called for genocide of Muslims, for example, should be prosecuted.

Actively intervene to protect the tenets and spirit of the Constitution

Demand an end to state protection for rapists who belong to privileged castes or are affiliated with the ruling parties – from Hathras to Bilkis Bano’s long struggle for justice to Prajwal Revanna

Ensure the dismantling of vigilante groups, and other armed Hindu supremacists which have no place in a secular democracy.

Ensure the reversal of the subversion and undermining of India’s democratic institutions including the Election Commission of India and the judiciary, through the establishment of effective and fair processes to ensure impartiality and justice

Ensure that all demands of the farmers’ movements are urgently met

Demand the immediate release of all political prisoners, and repeal of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)

Demand the immediate revocation of the Citizenship Amendment Act

Demand an end to corporate land-grab of Adivasi land and the persecution of Adivasi communities.

Demand the immediate reinstatement of Article 370 in Kashmir and withdrawal of the Army and paramilitaries from Kashmir

Demand the immediate revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)

Demand an immediate end to the ongoing ethnic and communal violence in Manipur in much of which was engineered by the BJP, and that all those responsible are brought to justice.

Signatories 

South Asia Solidarity Group
South Asia Justice Campaign
UK Indian Muslim Council
Strive UK
Periyar Ambedkar Thoughts Circle of Australia ( PATCA)
Unau Welfare International
Unau Welfare UK
Scottish Indians for Justice
Women Against Caste UK
Hindus for Human Rights UK
International Solidarity for Academic Freedom (InSAF)
Alliance Against Islamophobia (Australia)
Coalition Against Fascism in India (CAFI)
India Labour Solidarity
Peace in India
Nijjor Manush
Indian Alliance Paris
Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA)
The Rights Collective

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