Modi playing with fire as he stokes anti-muslim and anti-Pakistan hysteria

Cow protection rather than national development seems to be the de facto policy of the profoundly anti-people BJP government.

India's ruling BJP workers in Mumbai burn a symbolic effigy of Pakistan as part of protest against an attack on a paramilitary convoy in Kashmir, February 2019.

India is staging its latest parliamentary election in seven phases. It started on 11 April and is scheduled to finish on 23 May. In this election, 900 million people are eligible to vote.

The country is gripped by election fever, with the bourgeois parties pitching for the favour of the electorate by making all sorts of fantastic promises that they will not be able to keep – and they know it.

Electoral promises ditched; communal divisions stoked

The thoroughly sectarian and hindu fundamentalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata party) stormed to power in the general election of 2014 gaining an absolute majority on its own (something that had not happened to any party for two decades). It did so by promising to create millions of jobs each year, to modernise India’s economy, to concentrate on development, to fight corruption and to assert India’s role in the international arena.

During that election, the BJP played down its fundamentalist credentials, with leader Narendra Modi coining the slogan ‘Toilets before temples’ as he promised to clean up the dirt and filth that is such a shameful hallmark of bourgeois/landlord India. The electorate fell for these promises.

Five years on, it is clear to everyone except the blind that Mr Modi’s BJP government has failed miserably on all counts. Instead of reducing unemployment, Modi’s government has presided over its rise. Unemployment is now higher than at any time over the last four decades. Economic development is less than during the previous ten years of Congress-led government.

Instead, what this government has done is to stoke communal divisions between Indians along religious lines. It has enfranchised hindu chauvinism as never before, unleashed by its affiliates (the fascistic fundamentalists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] and Vishva Hindu Parishad [VHP]), who have been attacking, beating, and in some cases even killing muslims and lower-caste people suspected of slaughtering cows. It appears that cow protection, not national development, is the de facto programme of the BJP.

India is one of the world’s major beef exporting countries, exporting about $4bn worth annually. As a result of violence and intimidation by BJP zealots, these exports are down 10 percent, harming India’s economy in more than one way.

India’s cities and towns, rivers and coastline are as dirty as when the BJP came to office in 2014. The BJP can claim the distinction of presiding over India becoming the country with the ten most polluted cities in the world. Anyone who visits India cannot fail to notice that people avoid big Indian cities such as Delhi because the air is so toxic and harmful to human health.

Instead of cleaning up India, the BJP is busy propagating hate speech, re-writing history books, changing place names, and making pseudo-scientific claims at scientific conferences – turning India into a laughing stock in the international scientific community.

Modi’s party chief, Amit Shah, has threatened to throw muslim immigrants from Bangla Desh into the Bay of Bengal and to deport the 40,000 Rohingya muslims who have fled violence in Myanmar (Burma). All in all, the BJP has achieved notoriety by unconscionably polarising India along religious lines.

Even in the centres of imperialism, any party propagating what the BJP is saying and doing in India would be rightly condemned as xenophobic and racist.

The BJP had promised before the 2014 election to improve the lot of farmers. In practice, however, there is more economic distress among the farmers than ever, with suicides among them registering a steep rise.

It also introduced the goods and services tax (GST), the rollout of which was botched, in the process hurting millions of small businesses.

On 8 November 2016, the BJP government, all of a sudden, demonetised 87 percent of the currency in circulation, destroying in its wake millions of livelihoods in a country whose economy is so reliant on cash transactions.

The party’s ‘Make India’ programme has been a failure, with India’s share of global trade a miserable 1.7 percent.

And yet India is a country half of whose population is under 25, where 300 million people have bank accounts and more than one billion have mobile phones. The Modi government has failed abysmally to capitalise on this demographic dividend and the talents of its youth.

In the area of foreign policy, the Modi government is increasingly aligning itself with US imperialism in the latter’s crusade against Russia and China, especially the latter. Carried to its extreme, this alliance spells disaster for India.

Instead of learning its lesson from India’s 1962 war with China, the Modi government is allowing itself to be drawn into conflict on the side of US imperialism, with fearful consequences for everyone involved, especially India. The Modi government’s idea of ‘extending influence on the world stage’ boils down to enlisting India into the war plans of the US, acting as the latter’s flunkey and providing cannon fodder in the service of imperialism.

In view of the above, the BJP is seeking re-election by doing what it does best – stoking fear among the hindus of the danger posed by the Indian muslim minorities. But this is absurd, for how can 170 million muslims (making up just 15 percent of India’s population) pose a danger to India’s 965 million hindus, among whom they live?

Conflict between Pakistan and India is against the interest of the masses but promoted by imperialism and entirely necessary to Pakistan’s armed forces and Modi’s communal nutcases

The BJP has been pushing this line since 2002, when over 1,000 people, mostly muslims, were killed under Modi’s watch in Gujarat when he was the state’s chief minister. He and his party, and the plethora of lunatic fundamentalist outfits that form its base and core, have mastered the art of linking the threat of terrorism to muslims and to Pakistan. Instead of economic issues, Modi is seeking re-election on a security platform.

It is not surprising, therefore, that he seized upon the 14 February suicide attack in Pulwana (in Indian administered Kashmir), which killed 44 Indian paramilitaries. The attack was claimed by Jaish-e-Mohamed (JEM), a Pakistani terrorist outfit with close ties to the Pakistani army. This was manna from heaven for Modi. He used the occasion to address rallies with jingoistic speeches in an attempt to arouse anti-Pakistan and anti-muslim sentiment.

On 26 February, the Indian air force, on Modi’s instructions, carried out a ‘preventive’ missile strike on what it claimed was a terrorist training camp in the Bagakot area inside Pakistan, on the basis of ‘credible intelligence’ that fanatics from JEM were preparing an attack on India.

Modi and his supporters went lurid with ecstasy. But their joy did not last very long, for a day later, on 27 February, Pakistan downed an Indian MIG-21 plane, which landed on Pakistani territory, and captured its pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman.

On 28 February, in an act of statesmanship, Pakistani premier Imran Khan announced that Pakistan would return Wing Commander Abhinandan to India immediately, saying: “In our desire for peace and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian air force officer in our custody.”

The Indian government’s response was to say: “If they [the Pakistanis] are serious about improving relations, we expect concrete, credible action against terrorists and terror infrastructure in Pakistan.”

The fact of the matter is that the Pakistani army does not want improved relations between India and Pakistan, for such an improvement spells death to the Pakistani army, which has ruled Pakistan directly or indirectly for most of the country’s 70-year existence. Lack of tension on the India-Pakistan border would deprive the Pakistani army of their huge military budget and opportunities for corruption and lucrative businesses.

So every time a civilian Pakistani government takes steps to improve relations with India, the Pakistani army stages a provocation through its proxy terrorist outfits to queer the pitch. This time was no different.

On becoming prime minister, Imran Khan wrote to Modi proposing comprehensive talks, saying that they owed it to “our people, especially future generations, to peacefully resolve all outstanding issues … bridge differences and achieve a mutually beneficial outcome”. Five months later, in February this year, the JEM terror group struck, killing 44 Indian paramilitaries.

Earlier, in 2014, Modi had invited Pakistan’s then prime minister Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration. Apparently they got on well with each other, and, on Christmas day 2015, Modi surprised both countries with an unplanned and unexpected visit to Mr Sharif’s home to celebrate the wedding of the latter’s granddaughter.

Just a week later, eight Indian security personnel and a civilian were killed at an air force base in Pathankot, in Indian Punjab. In 2017, the Pakistani army deposed Nawaz Sharif.

There are several other incidents in this pattern. An intelligent Indian administration should have little difficulty in understanding that the actions of the Pakistani top brass are not just aimed at India. More importantly, they are targeted at Pakistani civilian governments if they dare depart from the army’s anti-India stance.

This is a problem that the Pakistani people alone can solve. Instead of adopting a jingoistic stance, as has the Modi government and its lunatic zealots in the BJP and the hydra-headed Hindu Privar (Hindu Family), the need is to exercise patience and to explain to the Indian and Pakistani masses alike the method behind the madness of the Pakistani top military establishment and to isolate it in the eyes of the Pakistani masses.

Such a course is admittedly difficult, requiring patient strategic thinking, which the BJP government is obviously incapable of adopting.

When in 2008 the Pakistani-based terror group Lashkare Toiba (LT) staged a terror attack in Mumbai, hitting the main railway station and two luxury hotels and killing 166 people, then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress-led government was under extreme pressure to hit targets in Pakistan. Wisely, it refused to go along that path. For that, Manmohan Singh was accused by the BJP of lacking courage.

Well, this time the Modi government has launched a missile attack on Pakistani soil. According to military experts, and contrary to the government’s claims, these missiles, instead of hitting terrorist training camps, fell on some barren land. The ensuing dogfight between Pakistani and Indian fighter planes resulted in the downing and capture of an Indian air force officer.

The whole scenario might have pleased the unthinking devotees of the BJP, and might even have worked, though this is doubtful, to the electoral advantage of the BJP, but beyond that it has achieved nothing. Moreover, this kind of brinkmanship carries the risk of triggering a far more serious conflict between the two countries, with fearful consequences.

Instead of branding all dissent and disagreement as a bid to weaken India, the BJP should jettison its own brand of toxic politics of dividing the Indian people along religious lines. Instead of characterising Indian muslims as ‘anti-India’, Modi and his followers need to get it into their thick skulls that India belongs just as much to muslims and other minorities as it does to the hindus. Anyone targeting India’s muslims is in essence working against the interests of India.

BJP making enemies on all sides

It is a reflection of the weakness of the communist movement in India that the BJP gets such space to practise its fundamentalist brand of divisive and poisonous politics. All the same, the BJP has, through its actions, aroused a great deal of hostility on the part of minorities, farmers and small traders.

Even big business houses who backed Modi in 2014 are unhappy at the government’s failure to privatise public assets and lack of progress in reforming labour legislation to suit the needs of the exploiting classes.

In view of all this, it is unlikely that the BJP will be returned to parliament with an overall majority. If it manages to stay in office, it will be at the head of a coalition of disparate parties. It must be the hope of every progressive Indian that this nasty outfit will be booted out of office.

Meanwhile, the problems between India and Pakistan, and within each of these countries, can only be resolved through the overthrow of the exploiting classes, and the coming to power of the proletariat. Only then will the subcontinent begin an era of fraternal cooperation, peace and prosperity. May that day soon dawn.

Let the communists in both countries devote themselves wholeheartedly to this, the most urgent task, no matter what difficulties and obstacles lie in their way.