India’s Achilles’ Heel

India is a country of more than a billion souls who unfortunately at present are subjected to the torments of the BJP led RSS agenda. The religious polarization that this atmosphere of animosity and hatred has created is now showing its effects both internally and internationally. India is being criticized for its suffocating social order where minorities are surviving with marginal liberty. The torn fabric of secularism is on the verge of being pulverized because of this choking atmosphere. The Indian government is immune to the criticism it faces internally but now the international voices are frequently heard blaming the Indian government for human rights violations and lack of religious freedom. Human Rights Watch in its latest report mentioned that the BJP-led government continued its systematic discrimination and stigmatization of religious and other minorities, especially Muslims. This majoritarian approach was vivid in state-owned institutions such as the judiciary and the Human Rights Commission. According to Statista, India now ranks 77 out of 140 countries on the human rights index which is a continuous decline since 2015.

The effects are obvious and the results are tangible. In the recently held elections of the Karnataka state assembly on 10 May 2023, the Indian National Congress (INC) won by a landslide victory by getting 135 seats out of a total of 224 making it their biggest win by seats and vote share in Karnataka since the year 1989. There are some interesting facts about the INC’s win in these elections. Quite a number of BJP leaders in the state left BJP and joined INC. There have been some glaring reasons for this shift. According to the Indian analysts Phani Rajanna and Sandeep Shastri, BJP raked up communal issues near the elections to polarize the vote and divide the people. This was evident in the shape of communal tensions started by right-wing Hindutva groups on hijab, halal, and azan, the boycott of Muslim-run shops, and the moral policing of Muslims and Christians. Corruption has been one of the core issues leading to the fall of the BJP. Many BJP leaders in the state were found involved in corruption and drew stark criticism from the public. The falling grace of the BJP was visible which resulted in the defections from BJP to the INC; a major indicator that the BJP’s policies as well as its narrative have failed. Whether the effect is replicated in other parts of the country or not is just a matter of time.

The BJP government has been trying to shy away from reality by showcasing the false success of its policies. It has been portraying to the world that all is well at home. Of late, one such effort was exhibited through the holding of the G20 Tourism Summit in Srinagar. India, while using the opportunity of currently presiding over the group held this conference in the IIOJ&K just to pose an impression that the situation in the area was peaceful and well under control. However, this Indian stance was negated by the ground reality and was also not accepted by some major countries that boycotted the event. The G20 giants like China, Saudi Arabia and Egypt did not attend the summit citing the disputed status of the territory and Indian human rights violations as the main reason. It was a major blow to the Indian efforts since their absence was conspicuously felt. The Indian government expected till the last moment that these countries would join however it proved futile. Prior to the summit the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Fernand de Varennes called off Indian bluff and cautioned G20 of providing a veneer of support to a façade of normalcy when human rights violations, political persecutions and illegal arrests were escalating in Kashmir. On the internal front, life was completely paralyzed in Srinagar as the heavy deployment of security forces including the elite Marine Commandoes, National Security Guards and Border Security Force was undertaken, while security bunkers were wrapped in banners of the conference in an effort to conceal them. Schools, offices and shops were closed. This earned the Indian government the wrath of the public and Mahbooba Mufti, the ex-Chief Minister of IIOJ&K criticized security measures terming them analogous to Guantanamo Bay.

It was the first mega event in IIOJ&K that India held post-revocation of Article 370 in the year 2019. The purpose of holding this G20 Tourism Summit in Srinagar was threefold; to deviate attention from the failure of its Hindutva agenda, to display to the world that situation was normal as in any other part of the country, and to market tourism opportunities in IIOJ&K. India failed in the perceived objectives as Karnataka elections proved that the polarization in the name of religious agenda is costing BJP and its RSS affiliates loss of power. The criticism across the world and a boycott by major partners of the summit was an endorsement of the disputed status of IIOJ&K as well as gross human rights violations and a complete shutdown of the city’s minuscule opportunities for tourism in the area. Overall, it was an international solidarity show with the Kashmiris. The absence of important countries for tourism working group meetings in Srinagar also substantiates Pakistan’s firm stance on Kashmir and is indicative of its successful foreign policy. The Indian government is in despair. It is suffering with desperation and hedging a bet to portray what is not the ground reality, yet in vain. The Indian leadership somehow does not realize that the world today is much more advanced than yester years when the atrocities committed by them could be masked. The power and visibility of media today are unchecked which can peep through under all circumstances whatever masking Indians try every now and then. RSS agenda is proving to be India’s Achilles’ heel as it fragments India’s secular fabric and national unity.

Reema Shaukat

Reema Shaukat

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