Assam massacre and more to come
The recent massacre of Muslims in Assam, which left more than 41 dead, hundreds injured, property burnt and cattle killed, makes elections 2014 the most bloody in Indian history. Thousands have been displaced and are too traumatized to return. The harbinger of the doom, gloom and carnage appears to be none other than Narendra Singh Modi, the Prime Ministerial candidate from India’s extremist Hindu political party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is the political arm of the Sangh Parivar, champion of the concept of Hindutva.
On the eve of the uncalled for bloodshed, Modi continued with his vitriolic hate speeches against alleged illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, saying they should have their “bags packed” ready to be sent home should he win. “The infiltrators have to go, go and go,” Modi said only a day earlier in West Bengal, which also borders Bangladesh. “Don’t you think they have made your life miserable?” A few miles from Narayanguri, in an area prone to religious violence, Modi made a similar speech a few days before the massacres, warning that Bangladeshis were taking over the state. Whereas the jury is still out to decide whether Modi gave the executive order to kill, burn and maim the Muslims in Assam, but Police and local residents said three separate attacks were carried out by militants from the ethnic Bodo community as punishment for Muslims who failed to support their local candidate in the election, which is still going on across India.
Reaction to Modi’s speeches on social media shows people are listening. Posts under the #deportbangladeshis tag were at the top of Twitter’s trend list in India on Monday.
“This should shivers down the spines of illegal Muslim immigrant pests, mostly thieves and dacoits (bandits)!” read one comment attached to an article about the killings.
For most of his tireless, 10-month election campaign, Modi, 63, has focused on his credentials as an efficient manager capable of ending the worst economic slowdown in decades. But he has failed to shake off doubts that he and his party are prejudiced against Muslims and will favor the Hindu majority at their expense.
While there is no evidence that Modi’s words had any bearing on the latest bloodshed in a long-running conflict, his rivals say the speeches, which continued after the attacks, risk alienating many in India’s Muslim minority of 150 million people. In 2002, under Modi’s custodianship, when he was chief minister of the Indian province of Gujarat, the worst ever anti Muslim riots took a huge toll of more than 2000 Muslims. It is alleged that Modi stood watching while the police and law enforcement agencies were under orders not to intervene, violent Hindu mobs raped Muslim women, killed their children and men and razed their houses to the ground. The Indian judicial system failed to convict Modi on the charges of planned genocide, ethnic cleansing of Gujarat from Muslims and organized pogroms but it is evident that the carnage took place under his watch and Modi should have been held responsible.
The prospect of an Indian prime minister forcing Muslims of Bangladeshi origin to return home has also raised alarm bells in Dhaka, where the government said it would resist any such move. Most of the alleged Bangladeshis in Assam have been there for decades; their children and grandchildren have been born in Assam and they owe allegiance to Assam. Turning them out now would be criminal. On the other hand, a number of Hindus, who escaped alleged persecution from Muslims in erstwhile East Pakistan, prior to the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971, have been accepted as bona fide residents of Assam.
Modi justifies his party’s crackdown on the Muslims with the plea that BJP has every right to address what it says is an issue of national security, because immigration is part of a bid by Bangladesh to expand its borders informally. “This is a fight between ethnic people and suspected foreigners who have captured our land and our jobs,” claims the BJP. “(The violence) is the natural outcome,” he said. “If there is no permanent solution it will happen again and again.”
Narendra Modi is likely to get elected in the ongoing Indian elections not because Modi is a great statesman but because the Indian Congress Party failed miserably in its eight year stint in power. If this catastrophe does occur, South Asia is in for the most tumultuous period of its existence. Modi has already hurled uncalled for challenges to Pakistan, promised to revive India’s strategy, which may include revisiting the “no first use of nuclear weapons” policy painstakingly crafted by a former BJP statesman, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Modi’s pledge, to “study in detail India’s nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it, to make it relevant to challenges of current times”, gave no specifics but raised concerns among analysts including former U.S. diplomats that the policy of no first use would be abandoned. The massacres in Assam have already irked Bangladesh, which the former political dispensation in the corridors of power at New Delhi, the Indian Congress Party had cultivated and nurtured but now Modi is out to make them enemies. Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan, all have stormy relationships with India and one false move from the saber rattling Modi, the epitome of Hindutva, is likely to create major ripples in an area already troubled and disturbed.
To make matters worse, Indian Congress Party, which had cultivated a special relationship with US resulting in a strategic partnership, will also get endangered by Modi’s firebrand politics. In the past he was refused entry into the USA because of his hatemongering. On April 22, 2014, while appearing in an interview on the CNN, Narendra Modi walked out of the interview angrily tearing out the mike and stomping out of the studio. If that is not an indication of the Tsunami likely to hit South Asia after Modi takes up the mantle of power then what else will? South Asians: Brace for impact!
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