Fascism is a political philosophy known for its radical form of authoritarian nationalism. It is also known as a regime or movement that boosts the nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation and forcible suppression of opposition. As a theory, it demands an authoritarian state where political power is wielded by a leader using state-controlled media and political coercion, including terrorism. Fascism is generally described as a political movement that embraces far-right nationalism and the full-blown repression of any opposition, overseen by an authoritarian government. Fascists strongly oppose Marxism, liberalism and democracy and believe that the state takes precedence over individual interests.
A state might not be a full-fledged fascist state with all its features like those of the classical Nazi state, but it can still demonstrate the conduct of a semi-fascist state and society against the principles of modern constitutional democracy. Despite some differences from previous fascist governments, the current Indian ruling RSS-led BJP has the potential to define and characterize fascism. Scholars differ on the definition of fascism and do not agree on a single definition of the term. However, it is possible to identify a number of general characteristics that characterize fascist movements. Therefore the present situation of the Indian government looks much like the fascist states of the 20th century.
The fascist tendencies of the RSS, the BJP and other organizations and parties pursuing the Hindutva agenda, are nothing new. The mother organization of BJP has repeatedly exemplified thinking, and the aspirations of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler have led to a similar strategy in India.
The present BJP government led by Narendra Modi has made the backwardness of Muslims a state policy in which the Supreme Court, the Election Commission, the Reserve Bank of India, the Army and almost every institution is full of BJP supporters. Thus these institutions turned out to be the greatest facilitators of the ongoing fascist agenda of Hindutva in India.
The anti-Muslim policy is reflected in the measures that have far-reaching effects on Muslims living in India. In the general elections during the first quarter of 2019, the BJP gained more power in Parliament through its campaign of hatred and racism, and it had the potential to take government steps to make India a Hindu country. In August 2019, Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was repealed shortly after the formation of Narendra Modi’s second government. The removal of the controversial Indian-Occupied Kashmir from its specific position under international law has paved the way for the RSS and the BJP to take legal and administrative steps to bring about demographic change against the Muslim majority. On 31 August 2019, the last version of the National Register of Citizens was released to Muslims living in the northeastern state of Assam. Shortly afterwards, the Indian Supreme Court announced its long-awaited decision on the Babri Masjid / Ram Mandir case in Ayodhya on 9 November 2019.
The problems for Muslims living in India are naturally a concern in Pakistan as well. Despite great results for Pakistan and the region, the required educational and media attention has not yet been devoted to the Indian Muslim community and the developing society around them
Towards the end of 2019, the amendment to the 1955 Citizenship Act proved to be a new attempt to discriminate against India’s Muslim minority. Under the Citizens Amendment Act 2019 (CAA 2019), citizenship is constitutionally granted to minority communities allegedly persecuted in neighboring Muslim countries, such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. According tso CAA 2019, communities eligible for Indian citizenship include Hindus, Persians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians, but not Muslims. The move was to review the NRC, mainly for the northeastern state of Assam, which shares Muslim residents with Muslim-majority Bangladesh. The NRC restricts the right to Indian citizenship to those who can provide proof of residency in India before 24 March 1971, the Pakistan War in 1971 in which Indian forces intervened and helped create Bangladesh. The majority of these immigrants were Muslims. Assam has become a new home for them and their descendants.
However, the revised NRC has excluded more than 1.9 million citizens, meaning they are now considered “illegal immigrants” in India. According to the policy, victims can appeal to a foreign court against de-registration, but it is not easy to establish their identity as Indians decades after their arrival in India. People who do not produce any original documents are transferred to detention centres set up for the same purpose. The courts that hear victims’ complaints are allegedly biased and inexperienced in dealing with immigrants. Amnesty International has called the work of these organizations flawed and inappropriate. At the social level, public opinion is formed by convincing Hindus that Muslims are deliberately trying to achieve a high birth rate in order to ultimately gain control and enforce Islamic rule, while the actual figures show that the fertility rate of Indian Muslim families is declining as compared to the past. The National Family Health Survey shows that the fertility gap between Hindu and Muslim families, which was 30.8 per cent in 2005-6. As Muslims have progressed, it has narrowed to 23.8 per cent.
The decision on the Babri Masjid and Ram Mandir dispute in Ayodhya, issued by the Indian Supreme Court on 9 November 2019, reflects the extent of hatred against Muslims and the seriousness of their deprivation. The BJP has successfully exploited anti-Muslim sentiments by demolishing the Babri Masjid and has emerged in the national arena of Indian politics. Since then, Hindu nationalists have been anxious to get legal action for the act and to avoid any criminal chargesheet against its perpetrators. The five-member court directed the government to allocate an alternative five acres to Muslims as compensation for the illegal destruction of the Babri Masjid. However, in a 30 September 2020 judgment, a special Lucknow court acquitted all 32 people accused of demolishing the mosque.
Former Indian High Court Justice Markandey Katju sees the notorious decision as a surrender of the Hindutva powers of the Indian High Court. In short, he argued that power was right, and he set a dangerous precedent for respect for aggression. It’s like a bully who snatches a child’s sandwich at school, the teacher makes a balanced decision by allowing the bully to have a sandwich, and gives the child a piece of bread instead, for this devastating example. With an apology, he launched a campaign against mosques in Varanasi, Mathura and Kansi as well. He has no choice but to accept the decision as he seeks to escape the wrath of Hindu nationalists.
The December 2019 law to amend the 1955 citizenship law is also a step towards discrimination against Muslims. Citizenship based on religious jdentity alone did not effectively promote itself as a Hisndu state, the 2019 amendment enabled Hindu and Sikh immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to claim Indian citizenship. In the context of the NRC’s expulsion of Muslims, the law is so controversial and disturbing that it excludes Muslims as well.
International civil society must play its due role in the global arena in order to create a strong voice against the oppression of Indian minorities and human rights violations in India. There is an urgent need to work on diplomatic and educational paths that embody the fascist Hindutva agenda. The problem of Indian Muslims is very troubling for Pakistan as well because the Muslims living on both sides of the border are not only found in the same religious tradition but also because a significant part of them are of the same race.
Therefore, the problems for Muslims living in India are naturally a concern in Pakistan as well. Despite great results for Pakistan and the region, the required educational and media attention has not yet been devoted to the Indian Muslim community and the developing society around them.