Chaos season

Reema Shaukat
Tuesday, Aug 29, 2023

While the Indians are jubilant on their moon landing, they may be ignorant of the chaotic season coming up for them.

Next year, in April or May 2024, Indians will be going for Lok Sabha elections. Indian Prime Minister Modi’s BJP is one of the main contenders, hopeful of securing the highest mantle for the third time. It has many contenders, notably the Indian National Congress which in alliance with others can put up a tough challenge for the Modi Sarkar.

Despite being upbeat about electoral success in the forthcoming elections, the BJP has some seemingly insurmountable anxiety. Its recent humiliating electoral defeat in Karnataka has brought about a realization that the upcoming state elections – especially in Rajasthan, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh and Telangana – are likely to prove tough.

The reason campaigning for the upcoming elections may be so chaotic lies in the roots of the torn social fabric India is currently holding on to. India, since its independence, has always raised the slogan of secularism with a fictitious aura that claimed the country was home to diversity and multiplicity.

It has been fiercely advocated that the country is home to people from all religions, caste and culture who live peacefully under the same rule. However, the situation on the ground is quite different. Especially during the last 10 years of BJP rule, the country has been moving towards the emergence of an ethnicity-centred landmass where minorities have no right to live peacefully.

The atrocities perpetrated under BJP patronage against all types of minorities have led to criticism from around the world. Be it Muslims – especially Kashmiris – Dalits, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists or scheduled caste Hindus, none have been spared. With the rise of social media, nothing can remain hidden now, at least for a long time. Take the recent example of Manipur. It is not merely the liberty of committing such abuse that the perpetrators have been enjoying but the patronage that they have had from the Modi government. It has been shameful for Indians to witness the brutality inflicted upon two lower-caste women who were paraded naked, publicly groped and then gang-raped.

This terrible situation renewed and strengthened a longstanding demand by the Kukis (a minority in the Indian state of Manipur): a separate state. More upsetting is the response from the central BJP government which was notably muted. PM Modi maintained a more than two-month long public silence on the conflict. He only condemned the episode of the two women, yet did not address the broader conflict. The Kukis’ demands have been akin to other minorities in India that have been fighting for their rights and getting killed for a just cause.

Despite the apparent good graph of governance under the BJP, there are many snags it is most likely to face in the state elections. Indian society today is severely fragmented on the issue of secularism. It is not only that minority communities are deprived of their rights but that their very existence is at stake. One can see this manifested in various episodes in the country every now and then.

Muslims being lynched for ‘desecrating’ a cow has become a normal feature in the country. Just a week or back, a viral video showed a Muslim student being assaulted while in class at the behest of a teacher. The incident has received widespread condemnation from around the world. Now the minority populace is terrified to even send their children to schools where state-sponsored torture against their off-springs is in place. This is simply depriving them of their right to education.

The BJP believes in Pakistan bashing; under the BJP, victimization of Muslims in India has become a norm. Terror, torture and fear are commonplace in today’s India. The societal norms of the country today are marred with dismay and distress. An air of mistrust has engulfed Indian society where enmity and hatred are the new normal and polarization is at its peak.

In such a situation, there is great likelihood that the upcoming Indian general elections are going to be chaotic where people will come out on the streets to fight each other instead of just resorting to the ballot box. The Indian population is thus not heading towards elections but also towards a dilemma of survival.

The writer is a communication strategist at the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad. She can be reached at: