Right-wing India

Editorial Board
Sunday, Mar 03, 2024

The evidence of the oppressive and intolerant nature of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP’s rule in India, particularly as it concerns the Muslim minority, just keeps growing. According to a first-of-its-kind report by India Hate Lab (IHL), a Washington DC-based research group that aims to document, study and analyze hate speech, disinformation and conspiracy theories that target religious minorities in India, found that India averaged around two anti-Muslim hate speech events per day in 2023. Around 75 per cent of these hate speech events, including over 77 per cent of speeches that included a direct call to violence against Muslims, took place in states and territories ruled by the BJP such as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra and peaked around August and November, when elections were taking place in four major states including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Unsurprisingly, a third of all the recorded hate speech events were organized by two far-right organizations affiliated with the RSS, placing them firmly within the same ideological umbrella as the BJP.

The corollary to this hateful speech has been anti-Muslim violence and the destruction of their property and places of worship under highly dubious pretenses. For example, in Uttarakhand, which accounted for an estimated six per cent of the hate speech incidents, five Muslims were killed while reportedly protesting against the demolition of a mosque and religious school in the town of Haldwani. While much of the BJP’s oppressive rule has targeted Muslims, they are not the only religious minority that feels increasingly unwelcome in PM Modi’s India. Reports from December 2021 highlighted anti-Christian violence, chanting and vandalism in Haryana during Christmas celebrations. Sadly, the increasing persecution of religious minorities has done little, if anything, to slow India’s global ascent, which has reached new heights under the BJP administration. Last year saw New Delhi hosting the G20 summit, while PM Modi, a man credibly accused of enabling or failing to prevent an anti-Muslim pogrom that led to the deaths of at least hundreds of Muslims when he was chief minister of Gujarat, was invited to address the US congress and lead International Yoga Day celebrations at the UN headquarters in New York. The persecution and oppression of Muslims does not seem to weigh too heavily on the minds of those in charge of the global order and Muslim lives do not seem to count for much.

The alarming nature of India’s right-wing turn is only heightened by the fact that it was once the poster-child for many of South Asia’s liberals as an imperfect but relatively advanced, compared to the rest of the region, model for secularism, pluralism and democracy in India. That it has now become arguably the region’s most intolerant state serves as a painful reminder of how easily democracy can descend into majoritarianism unless the proper buffers are in place. This includes a powerful civil society and a judiciary and media that cannot be cowed by the political powers-that-be. Building such robust mechanisms is just as important to democratic vitality as holding elections.