Opinion: Will India remain a democracy or become a Hindutva banana republic?

The decade-long rule of the BJP-led Union government has harmed our country in several fundamental ways, writes Dr Hari Paranthaman, retired judge and coordinator of civil society organisation Tamil Nadu Common Platform.
The new Parliament building
The new Parliament buildingPTI
Written by:

In just a few months, parliamentary elections for the 18th Lok Sabha will be held. We are about to bear witness to a huge historical event, one that will decide the fate of this country, perhaps for the next three decades.

Will India remain the largest democracy in the world, albeit with plenty of flaws? Will we retain our democratic, secular, and progressive Constitution that our founding fathers and founding mothers gave us after a long-drawn and bitter struggle? Or will India become a fascist Hindutva banana republic that mirrors Nazi Germany and Zionist Israel? This question looms large in the minds of many peace-loving Indians. The world powers, including the USA, UK, and most of Europe, China, Russia, and others, too, are watching us. They have always been a bit sceptical of democracy succeeding in any of the erstwhile colonies of 18th century imperialist powers.

So all the secular, democratic, progressive minded people in the country have an immediate task at hand before us. That is to stop the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies from coming back to power. This task, though not easy, is not an impossible one. We saw it in Karnataka recently. We have been seeing it in Tamil Nadu and Kerala for long. It is a fact that the Sangh Parivar, with the RSS at its helm, tried for several decades before it could capture political power through the ballot in 2014. So defeating the BJP at the general elections is doable.

Let us take a look at the destruction that has followed since the BJP came to power in 2014.

Fundamental harms to the country

This decade-long rule of the BJP-led Union government has harmed India in several fundamental ways. It is trying to move India in the direction of homogeneity and sameness with the slogan of ‘One nation, one market, one language, one religion’, which totally goes against the plural ethos and diverse reality of our country.

BJP’s Hindu nationalism upholds only upper caste Hindus as real citizens while treating Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and indigenous people as second class citizens. Their brand of nationalism is not just against the minorities, but against oppressed and backward communities, as well as sexual minorities, feminists, communists, and anyone who opposes their world view.

Attacks on religious minorities

Narendra Modi came to power mainly through the Gujarat pogrom against Muslims in the aftermath of Godhra. His public hate speeches appealed to Hindu voters and instigated violence against Muslims. Since 2014, we have seen a spate of hate crimes against Muslims. Specifically, the BJP has unleashed a series of repressions against the Muslim people, both through government agencies as well as non-governmental, non-party vigilante groups.

The long list of targeted anti-Muslim actions include: deletion of Muslim names from electoral rolls, declaring Muslim concentrated constituencies as reserved constituencies (for Dalits), abolishing educational scholarships to Muslim students, banning hijab in educational institutions in Karnataka thereby denying Muslim girls and women the right to education, impunity for criminal mobs involved in killing Muslims in the name of cow protection, Gujarat carnage, Muzaffarnagar violence, Delhi violence, impunity and recognition to Hindu conspirators who bombed mosques, building Ram temple today in the place where Babri Masjid was demolished, conspiracies to demolish mosques in Kashi and Mathura, ban on construction of new mosques, anti-conversion laws passed in several states, bulldozer crackdowns on Muslim houses, abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir, bringing in Acts like the CAA and NRC that question the citizenship rights of Muslims, pushing for Uniform Civil Code, false cases in the name of ‘love jihad’, false cases under UAPA against thousands of Muslim youth who have been jailed and denied bail for several years, counter-terrorism agency NIA hunting Muslims, banning Islamic organisations such as the PFI, BJP appointed governor in Tamil Nadu, RN Ravi, obstructing release of Muslim prisoners.

“How are we going to live in this country now?” is the question arising in the minds of Muslims who feel anxiety, disbelief, frustration, and disappointment at these happenings. Hindu fanatics are openly calling for the killing of Muslims. Under the Modi-Shah led BJP regime, Muslims are on the verge of facing ethnic cleansing and genocide.

In Manipur, the BJP government instigated sectarian conflict between the Kuki indigenous tribe and Hindu majority Meiteis on the basis of religion and ethnicity. That deadly violence continues unabated till date. This is the latest example of the consequences faced by the country due to the BJP’s hate politics and religious bigotry.

Violation of federal rights of states

Modi came to power in 2014 with the promise of ‘Cooperative federalism’. RSS, which guides the BJP, does not accept linguistic state arrangement. The state of Jammu & Kashmir was split into two and converted into union territories. Similarly, the powers of Delhi, which is a Union Territory with a legislature, were curbed. In Lakshadweep, a UT without a legislature, a ban on transporting beef was introduced and serving meat to schoolchildren has been stopped. A new amendment bans people with more than two children from contesting panchayat elections.

In opposition ruled states, the governors have insolently refused to approve laws passed by the state assembly, e.g., exemption from NEET, Siddha University, etc. The Union government is trying to run a parallel government in the states through the governors. The imposition of the National Education Policy 2020 is an attempt to communalise education. The GST system has deprived the states of their right to tax citizens.

During the COVID pandemic, the Union government kept resources and research institutes like ICMR, NIV, NIE under its control. It neither functioned nor allowed the state governments to function effectively. It refused to give aid to states during natural calamities like floods and cyclones. It refused to compensate for loss of state revenue due to GST. It has taken away the financial resources of the state governments and instead made them implement direct schemes of the Union government such as the Modi bank loan, Modi housing scheme, Modi generic drugs etc., thereby making state governments ineffective. It has amended the NIA Act to interfere in ‘law and order’, which is a state subject. It is trying to do away with the specificities of each state by bringing in the one-nation-one-election scheme.

Historically, Tamil Nadu has been a state that does not vote for the BJP, even though they manage to get a sole MP at times, courtesy electoral alliances. The state has the peculiar distinction of having a rationalist political discourse and practice in the public sphere, while having a religious-spiritual populace that is, by and large, peace-loving and non-interfering, in their private lives. This means that Ram Mandir, Ghazni invasion or Partition are not electoral issues here. So the BJP is faced with a conundrum. Hence BJP leaders appear often to be tempted to moot the bifurcation or trifurcation of TN. This does not bode well for TN or other opposition ruled states. Now, the BJP government is trying to completely abolish even the partial provisions related to federalism from the Constitution.

The Union government has been using the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against opposition parties in several states. Such a plethora of cases have been booked against opposition party members in recent times using ED, CBI, IT, and other departments that these government agencies have become a farce. If these legislators defect to the BJP, they get plum posts and the cases go away mysteriously. Others are jailed or face these cases for years. The BJP is trying to eliminate not just states, but political parties in different states too.

Corporate bias

The BJP government is trying to sell the country to a few corporates like Adani and Ambani. In the last decade alone, it has written off bad debts worth Rs 16 lakh crore for big corporations. The Adani Group has gone from being a monopoly in coal and ports to become a major monopoly in alternative energy, aviation, and infrastructure. 

The Hindenburg report accused Adani of committing fraud in the stock market. However, Modi has refused to set up a special commission to investigate this fraud. Adani critics are being expelled from the Parliament. A new term, ‘Modani’, was coined that aptly describes this unholy Modi-Adani nexus and is becoming world famous.

Modi’s BJP government came to power by promising to eradicate poverty, unemployment, corruption, and black money, but it is exacerbating the problem of poverty and unemployment instead of finding the promised solutions. It is impossible to hide this fact by tinkering with statistics. The recent CAG report has revealed bribery scams worth Rs 7.5 lakh crore. This decade has been a golden age for global black money sharks as Modi himself has proved to be their guardian.

The BJP government has aced in giving us empty slogans while reality is the complete opposite. ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ was one such slogan which was supposed to focus on women’s protection and education. While posing as protectors of women, in reality the BJP government has proven to be anti-women and is protecting the perpetrators of crimes against women. In case after case of violence against women, be it Asifa, Bilkis Bano, the Unnao Dalit woman, protesting women wrestlers, the BJP government stood with the criminals who committed these crimes by rewarding them with posts, posing with them for photos, and treating them as heroes.

Another blatant attack that nullifies constitutional guarantees and safeguards to underprivileged and marginalised people is the denial and/or abolition of social justice policies. At the same time, privileges are given to upper caste Hindus under the guise of economics, most notably by the introduction of the EWS category in 2019. This measure ensures that their ideology of graded inequality is maintained and opportunities for equality are done away.

Attacks on democratic institutions

The BJP does not have an iota of respect for the Constitution or institutions of parliamentary democracy and is hellbent on making these worthless while simultaneously using them to operate from within. Several institutions like the judiciary, the Election Commission, RBI, Human Rights Commissions, NITI Aayog are being bent at will. Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Parliamentary Standing Committees are functioning only in name. Fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution are being denied. A situation has been created where the PMO decides everything. The Constitution remains on paper. On the whole, the country’s economy is held in the hands of the two corporates, Adani and Ambani, while political power is concentrated in the hands of the duo, Modi and Amit Shah.

All these are pointers that this country is moving towards an unmitigated disaster. If this regime continues, all our grand dreams for the future of this country will be shattered. Therefore, the upcoming parliamentary elections of 2024 will determine the course and direction that India’s history will take henceforth.

People must vote in this election without fail. Our vote is powerful enough to defeat the BJP and its allies.

A civil society organisation called Tamil Nadu Common Platform – 2024 has been created, which has started a campaign against the BJP and its allies in the upcoming elections by putting forth various important demands of the people.

The Platform has decided to observe January 30, 2024, Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary, as a day against BJP’s communal hatred. The Platform has requested the government of Tamil Nadu to declare it ‘Anti Religious Bigotry Day’. On this day, the Platform will organise programmes where people will gather and take the pledge in several big cities of Tamil Nadu like Chennai, Coimbatore, Kanyakumari, Trichy, etc.

Dr Hari Paranthaman is a retired judge and Coordinator of the Tamil Nadu Common Platform – 2024. 

Views expressed are the author’s own.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute