The year 2017 will be remembered for some of the worst attacks on Muslim and Christian minorities, on Dalits, on critics of the Modi regime, and on the secular, democratic character of India’s Constitution and polity.
Christmas this year has been heralded by a spree of attacks by Sangh mobs on Christians. Carol singers were attacked 10 days before Christmas, and their car burnt inside the premises of a police station in Madhya Pradesh. In what has become a predictable pattern, the police did not arrest the assailants, and instead booked the carol singers for “forcible conversions”. Carol singers were also attacked with a knife in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, days after the Hindu Jagran Manch, a Sangh outfit, sent letters to Christian schools in Aligarh warning them against celebrating Christmas, claiming this would “lure Hindu students towards Christianity”. In Mathura in UP, Christians praying inside a home were arrested on charges of “forcible conversion.” An study tracking attacks on Christians globally found that in India in the first six months of 2017, as many attacks on Christians took place as had taken place in the whole of 2016.
Just as activists raising issues of atrocities against Dalits were accused by the BJP of “casteism” in the Gujarat elections, it is the religious minorities – not their attackers – who are accused of being “communal” by the BJP leadership. Sending a subtle message of approval for such attacks on Christians, the President of India Ram Nath Kovind refused to continue the tradition of hearing carol singers on Christmas Eve. His excuse was that to do so would be improper since India is a “secular state”. Ironically, even as the President of India invoked “secularism” as a pretext to shun Christmas celebrations, his party colleague, Union Minister Anant Hegde made in a speech in poll-bound Karnataka, warning that those who identified as “secular” rather than by their religion or caste, would face “trouble” since the BJP was “here to change the Constitution”.
December 2017 will also be seared in public memory for the horrible video-graphed murder of Afrazul in Rajasthan. It is clear by now that the killer Shambhulal, fed on a non-stop diet of Sanghi hate-videos, killed Afrazul because he wanted to figure in a similar video and become a “hero” for the fascist hate groups. Not only did those groups make the video go viral; they were allowed by police to defy prohibitory orders and hold a violent demonstration in support of the killer, even hoisting the saffron ‘Hindu nation’ flag atop the Udaipur court house. While these fascist goons were released on bail after a belated, token arrest, Muslims who protested the killing were arrested and denied bail, as Left groups were even denied permission to hold a Peace March!
Afrazul’s killing was one among a string of attacks on Muslims in BJP-ruled Rajasthan – many of whom were killed by lynch mobs in the name of ‘cow protection.’ As we approach the New Year, BJP’s Rajasthan MLA Gyan Dev Ahuja has openly defended such killings and warned of more, saying, “If you smuggle or kill cows you will of course be killed.” Meanwhile, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has stopped the salaries of 298 madrasa staff, claiming the madarsas failed to submit requisite documentation. Also in December 2017, a Telangana BJP MLA called upon Hindus to take up swords to “wipe out” anyone who came between them and the goal of a Hindu Nation.
In Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, a BJP leader led an attack on a wedding, declaring that it was a case of “love jehad” since the Muslim groom and the Hindu bride had not secured “permission” from the BJP for the wedding! 2017 will also be infamously remembered for the failure of India’s courts to uphold the autonomy of women and their choice instead to legitimize the poisonous patriarchal and Islamophobic myth of “love jehad”.
2017 will also be remembered for the assassination of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, and the manner in which Sanghi cadres celebrated her killing, for the killing of Junaid – and for the countrywide citizens’ protests these soul-searing events generated.
The year 2017 ended with a silver lining, however – with the voters of Gujarat putting up a remarkable fight against communal polarization and highlighting the issues of unemployment and agrarian crisis. If the year 2017 was a year of firings on peasants, it was also a year of peasants and workers asserting unity against divisive violence, fighting back, and putting their issues back on political centre stage. If Dalits were attacked in Saharanpur by BJP-backed mobs for refusing to become footsoldiers of communal violence against Muslims, 2017 also saw the emergence of the Bhim Army as an inspiring movement of Dalit youth. The arrests of peasant leader Akhil Gogoi and Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar Azad Raavan under draconian laws, and the arrest of employees’ union leaders in Patna when they had been invited for talks with the Government on health workers’ issues, and repeated attempts to use assassinations and defamation laws to chill investigative journalism that question the Government: all point to an attack on democracy that even exceeds the shameful legacy of the Emergency.
2017 has also called the bluff of the Modi Government’s tall claims of ending corruption. The acquittal of all the accused in the 2G scam is squarely due to the calculated apathy of the CBI “caged parrot” even under the Modi regime, which helped to protect the likes of Anil Ambani. The manner in which Jagannath Mishra (now in the BJP embrace) has been acquitted in the Fodder Scam while Opposition leader Laloo Yadav was convicted, also reeks of the manner in which investigative agencies and corruption cases are selectively deployed as political weapons by the BJP Government. Meanwhile, grave corruption and conflict of interest charges involving Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah and Ajit Doval’s son Shaurya Doval, as well as the suspicious death of Justice Loya in a manner that was highly convenient for Amit Shah in the custodial killing cases he faced, are not deemed to merit any investigation.
With every passing day, the Modi regime’s claims of fighting corruption are being exposed even further. Modi had claimed last year that demonetization would clean the economy of black money since black money tended to be stored in big (Rs 500 and Rs 1000) notes. A year later, in December 2017, it is apparent that this claim is bogus. Big denomination notes now constitute no less than 93 per cent of the total currency in circulation: higher than the pre-Note-Ban levels of 86.4 per cent. In fact, it is the first time that high-denomination notes have crossed the 90 per cent mark in 15 years!
Anti-fascist fighters in India are entering 2018 filled with a new sense of determination and confidence. It is apparent that in spite of captive media houses serving as his personal propaganda machinery, and the unrelenting campaign of communal hate and violence, Modi’s stature stands eroded and he is facing resistance from almost every section of India’s people. Let’s make the coming year one of intensified unity and resistance against the fascists!