Modi’s Second Innings: The Shape of Things To Come

THE second innings of the Modi Government have begun. And the first couple of weeks itself are showing us the shape of things to come: social media surveillance, arrests of journalists, communalisation of crimes and demonisation of Muslims, terror against political opponents, a former Army man declared a “foreigner” and lodged in a detention camp based on a fabricated report by the Assam Border Police, death threats to anti-communal intellectuals and activists, and exposure of the last Modi regime’s lies about unemployment data and GDP.

A journalist, Prashant Kanojia, was picked up from his home in Noida by plainclothes UP policemen, and jailed for a tweet sharing a video which allegedly ‘defamed’ the UP Chief Minister. The head of television news channel Nation Live, Ishita Singh, and its editor, Anuj Shukla were also arrested for broadcasting the video. The Supreme Court granted Kanojia interim bail, commenting that “A citizen’s right to liberty has been infringed upon.” But the sheer arbitrariness and highhandedness of the arrest for a tweet shows the BJP’s intention to mount surveillance on social media and intimidate journalists and dissenting voices.

Meanwhile, public intellectual and Mumbai-based anti-fascist campaigner Prof. Ram Puniyani has received death threats. Puniyani, a former professor at IIT Bombay, is receiving these threats for his popular YouTube videos educating viewers about the nature of Hindutva fascism. Given the murders of rationalists and anti-communal intellectuals like Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare in Maharashtra, and Prof MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh in Karnataka, such threats to Puniyani are ominous and disturbing.

In West Bengal and Tripura, terror is being unleashed by BJP against non-BJP voters and supporters of rival parties. In West Bengal, the BJP is also trying to foment communal hatred and violence against Muslim minorities.

A measure of justice was achieved in the Kathua case of the gangrape and murder of a little girl of the nomadic Muslim Bakarwal community, with three perpetrators being sentenced to life imprisonment and three policemen also being convicted for destroying evidence. Protests had erupted across the country when BJP Ministers and MLAs had held a rally supporting those accused of this heinous rape-murder and hate crime on grounds of ‘Hindu Unity.’

Just as the Sangh forces had tried to rally Hindu support for perpetrators of the Kathua hate crime, these same forces are now trying to use the murder of a little girl in Tappal village in Aligarh (UP) as fodder for a communal campaign to demonise Muslims. Since the two accused in the Aligarh case are Muslim, communal forces from outside are laying siege to the village, shouting communal slogans and speeches outside the homes of Muslims. The father and other family members of the victim have repeatedly called for an end to such communalisation, pointing out that there is no communal motive in the murder – but the attempts to communalise the crime continue unabated. The UP police too has appeased such communal pressure by invoking the draconian National Security Act in this case – while the NSA has not been invoked in other cases of violence against children in the state. For instance, the police has not invoked NSA against the accused in a recent gangrape of a 12-year-old Dalit girl by six men in Kushinagar in UP. The selective use of NSA by the UP police, primarily against Muslims, is an attempt to send the communal message that crimes like murder, when committed by Muslims, must be treated as crimes against the nation.

In Assam, the arbitrary and potentially communal nature of the National Register of Citizens and Foreigner Tribunal processes were once again underlined when a former Army subedar and war veteran Mohammad Sanaullah was sent to a detention camp in Assam after a Foreigners Tribunal had declared him an illegal immigrant. The enquiry report by the Assam Border Police which was the basis for this detention proved to be full of fabrications and obvious falsehoods. The enquiry against Mr Sanaullah had been initiated in 2008, and his name was not in the NRC draft in 2018. While Mr Sanaullah has now been released on bail, the whole episode exposes the unjust and arbitrary nature of the NRC and Foreigners Tribunal processes which can so easily be used to harass religious and linguistic minorities. Given the BJP’s plans to impose NRC (combined with the Citizenship Amendment Act that will exempt Hindus from having to prove citizenship) all over the country, such an episode is a warning of the kind of harassment and humiliation to which Muslims will be subjected.

With the elections over, the Government finally allowed unemployment data to be released – which confirmed that India is witnessing the worst unemployment in 47 years. Also, a research paper by Modi 1.0 regime’s own former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian has exposed the fact that the Government’s claims of 7% GDP growth between 2011-2017 are inflated, with the actual growth being only 4.5%. The official claims of India being the world’s “fastest growing economy” are based on dishonest figures.

These early warning signs bely the ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas, Saba Vishwas’ (Support, Development and Trust For All) claims of PM Modi himself and expose the character and intent of the Modi 2.0 regime.