Calling PM Modi India’s “destroyer-in-chief”, renowned Indian historian Ramchandra Guha said that Modi’s government had “conducted an assault on India’s already vulnerable social fabric…” Guha was speaking at a virtual conference, “Reclaiming India”, on Saturday, when he blamed the PM for India’s all-round failures.
“Discrimination against Dalits, Adivasis, women and especially Muslims has massively intensified under Mr. Modi’s rule. The persecution of Kashmiris and the abrogation of Article 370 [of India’s Constitution] was a clear message that Modi’s India cannot have a Muslim-majority state,” Guha added.
He also said that the Modi government's “malign economic policies [had] destroyed 30 years of economic growth”. Its other failures included “the further emasculation of public institutions; the corruption and corrosion of our democratic ethos; the attacks on minorities, and the destruction of the environment; and finally, our place as a country in the neighborhood and in the world”, according to Guha. He asserted that India needed “not only a political opposition, but a moral, intellectual, and ideological opposition”.
Several Indian activists, intellectuals and academicians participating in the conference echoed the view that India’s constitutional democracy faces a serious threat from the rise of Hindu nationalism. Several speakers from both the United States and India drew a parallel between the ongoing assaults on civil liberties in both countries, and said that it was important for activists in both societies to come together to fight the battle.
Martin Macwan, a Dalit rights activist and a winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, said, “We have two rules in India, the rule of the constitution and the rule of caste. The constitution did not end the rule of caste. And so, India cannot be reclaimed today, not until we liberate it from an inhumane caste system.”
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Veteran Indian historian Rajmohan Gandhi, speaking at the conference, said that although an attempt had not yet been made to change India’s Constitution, an “informal imposition of inequality, especially directed at the Muslims and the Christians” was already happening. “People are being arrested without due process and detained without trial and charges. A whole propaganda is being unleashed to enable the actual end of democratic rights in India,” opined Gandhi.
Renowned African American activist, Rev. William Barber, a US-based Protestant minister and co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, said that just after America’s Civil War in the 1860s, the poor white people “who had been taught to hate black people came to see that, ultimately, injustice and slavery and authoritarianism would kill us all and first, it would always kill the poorest because the slaveholders used the poorest whites to fight the war.”
“The centrality of what was lost and what needs to be reclaimed by Dalit groups is personhood. Once your humanity is denied, all else is denied too,” explained Roja Singh, professor of sociology and anthropology at St. John Fisher College, New York, and founder of Dalit Solidarity Forum.
Aishe Ghosh, President of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Students’ Union, said that India was currently experiencing “a new form of imperialism” and that India’s youth has to understand what the Constitution has given to them.
Speaking of the “existential threat” that stemmed from the “fascist ideology of Hindutva and its deep nexus with crony capitalism, Khalid Ansari of Indian American Muslim Council said. “This ideology has not only led further marginalisation of religious minorities, Dalits and tribals, but also heaped economic misery on the poor, including women, students and the working class.”
The two-day conference was organised by five Indian American civil rights organizations: Hindus for Human Rights, Global Indian Progressive Alliance, India Civil Watch International, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, and Indian American Muslim Council.
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