[News] Why the Trump/Modi Relationship is So Dangerous

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 9 10:43:44 EDT 2020


https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/03/09/why-the-trump-modi-relationship-is-so-dangerous/ 



  Why the Trump/Modi Relationship is So Dangerous

by Basav Sen <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/bsen0098/> - March 9, 2020
------------------------------------------------------------------------

In May 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi was 
reelected in India, a development many of us 
<https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/23/opinion/modi-india-election.html> 
concerned about social, economic, and environmental justice 
<https://fpif.org/the-terrifying-implications-of-indias-elections-for-people-and-the-planet/> 
denounced as very dangerous 
<https://newrepublic.com/article/154011/arundhati-roy-indias-elections-a-mockery-democracy-supposed-be>.

We were wrong. It turned out to be exponentially /more/ dangerous than 
we had imagined.

In its second term in office, the BJP government has moved with 
unexpected speed and decisiveness to take India down the road to 
full-fledged fascism. In this, they’ve enjoyed the apparent support of 
the United States.

But before we examine what they did, let’s step back and examine the 
understandably loaded term “fascism.”

*The BJP’s Unapologetically Fascist Roots*

The fascist roots 
<https://fpif.org/dig-beneath-the-worlds-far-right-governments-youll-find-fossil-fuels/> 
of the BJP run deep.

The BJP is (by its own admission 
<https://www.npr.org/2019/05/03/706808616/the-powerful-group-shaping-the-rise-of-hindu-nationalism-in-india>) 
a political front for an organization called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak 
Sangh (RSS), which dates back to the 1920s. B.S. Moonje, a mentor of RSS 
founder K.B. Hegdewar, visited Italy and personally met 
<http://www.sacw.net/DC/CommunalismCollection/ArticlesArchive/casolari.pdf> 
with Mussolini.

He was very impressed by what he termed the “military regeneration of 
Italy” under Mussolini, and wanted to recreate it in India—  but, in 
very telling language, he referred to his idea as the “military 
regeneration” of the majority Hindu community. The weaponization of 
Hindu identity by today’s BJP (and the unquestioned equation of India 
with Hinduism) goes back almost a hundred years.

Another early RSS leader, M.S. Golwalkar, praised Nazi Germany 
<http://www.sacw.net/DC/CommunalismCollection/ArticlesArchive/casolari.pdf> 
in his writings, asserting that the Nazi purge of Jews was intended to 
“keep up the purity of the nation and its culture,” and that this was a 
“good lesson for us in [India] to learn and profit by.” Golwalkar never 
retracted these views, and the RSS only belatedly rejected 
<https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/RSS-officially-disowns-Golwalkars-book/articleshow/1443606.cms> 
them after nearly seven decades.

V.D. Savarkar, another early Hindu nationalist leader (and the architect 
of the conspiracy 
<https://thewire.in/history/savarkar-gandhi-assassination> to 
assassinate Gandhi), explicitly connected Nazi ideology with Hindu 
nationalist views about Muslims. He claimed in a 1939 speech 
<http://www.sacw.net/DC/CommunalismCollection/ArticlesArchive/casolari.pdf> 
that “Indian Muslims are on the whole more inclined to identify 
themselves and their interests with Muslims outside India than Hindus 
who live next door, like Jews in Germany.” Note the identification of 
Indian Muslims and German Jews as the “other,” outside the body of the 
“nation.”

This history is worth delving into, not for its academic value, but to 
fully understand the far-right political project in India as 
unapologetic fascism.

*Lockdowns and Concentration Camps*

The BJP government’s actions since being reelected last May represent a 
fundamental continuity with this ideological foundation. The best-known 
example internationally is Kashmir 
<https://fpif.org/this-time-the-world-is-watching-in-kashmir/>, where 
the Indian government has intentionally escalated a decades-long 
conflict driven by Kashmiri demands for self-determination.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir (in which Muslim-majority Kashmir is the 
most populous region) has long enjoyed a special legal status in India, 
with Article 370 <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-49234708> of 
the Indian Constitution providing the state a certain degree of 
autonomy. It’s important to understand that this was the condition for 
the state’s accession to India in the first place, not an act of 
appeasement, as Hindu rightists portray it.

Last August, the Modi used a parliamentary procedure of dubious legality 
<https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/08/jammu-kashmir-narendra-modi-bjp-rss> 
to scrap Article 370, sent even more troops to the already heavily 
militarized region, and imposed a communications blockade with no 
internet, mobile, or landline service — evidently to cover up horrific 
human rights abuses, with reports 
<https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/08/19/india-ensure-rights-protections-kashmir> 
of deaths, torture, and detention (including detention of children) at 
the hands of Indian forces.

The Modi government was even willing to risk a confrontation 
<https://www.livemint.com/news/world/pakistan-says-will-challenge-revoking-of-article-370-1564996777281.html> 
with neighboring Pakistan (which could even lead to a regional nuclear 
war) with its actions in Kashmir. Both countries have nuclear weapons 
<https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Nuclearweaponswhohaswhat>, and 
have a long history of conflict 
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/south_asia/02/india_pakistan/timeline/html/>, 
much of it revolving around their rival territorial claims over Kashmir.

The BJP government has also embarked on an overtly fascist project of 
using ethnonationalist criteria to define who is (and by extension, who 
isn’t) deserving of Indian citizenship. In the northeastern state of 
Assam, which borders Muslim-majority Bangladesh, the government required 
every single resident to prove their citizenship, claiming that there 
were large numbers of undocumented Bangladeshi migrants in Assam.

Of the 2 million 
<https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/9/17/20861427/india-assam-citizenship-muslim-detention-camps> 
people stripped of citizenship because of their failure to provide 
documentation (in a country in which many of the rural poor lack birth 
certificates), most are Muslim. And a disproportionate number are 
transgender 
<https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/2-000-transgenders-excluded-from-assam-nrc-list-plea-filed-in-sc-1600318-2019-09-18> 
— another vulnerable minority who can be conveniently scapegoated and 
demonized.

In a move that will be eerily familiar to U.S. readers, the government 
is building concentration camps 
<https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/9/17/20861427/india-assam-citizenship-muslim-detention-camps>to 
house people (including children) rendered stateless by design.

*Full-Fledged Authoritarianism*

Last December, the government went further down the slippery slope to 
full-fledged authoritarianism by passing a bill 
<https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-50670393> called the 
Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that provided citizenship to 
undocumented non-Muslim immigrants from neighboring Muslim-majority 
countries.

There are two key reasons why this represents an escalation, beyond what 
the government has done in Kashmir and Assam.

First, in Kashmir and Assam, there’s a little bit of plausible 
deniability, even if the anti-Muslim intent of the government is clear. 
Kashmir is, after all, experiencing a revolt against Indian rule, so the 
government can claim that its response is for national security reasons. 
Likewise, in Assam, there’s no dispute about the fact that there are 
undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh (leaving aside the questions of 
how many, how one finds out who is or isn’t undocumented, and most 
importantly, how a state that values human rights and dignity deals with 
the presence of undocumented immigrants).

With the CAA, though, the mask has come off, with explicit exclusion of 
Muslims from citizenship written into law. Many 
<https://www.lawfareblog.com/indias-new-citizenship-law-and-its-anti-secular-implications> 
argue that it’s a clear violation 
<https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-indias-new-citizenship-act-is-unconstitutional/a-51642100> 
of India’s secular constitution 
<https://theglobepost.com/2019/12/26/india-citizenship-act/>, which 
declares all people to be equal regardless of a number of criteria, 
including religious belief. Secular politics had been foundational to 
India’s national identity 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/20/hindu-supremacists-nationalism-tearing-india-apart-modi-bjp-rss-jnu-attacks> 
before Hindu nationalist ideology started undermining it.

Politically, though, there’s another factor at play. Both Kashmir and 
Assam are border states on India’s periphery, far from its major 
population centers. A large majority of Indians don’t live there, have 
never been there, and likely don’t know anyone from there. But when the 
government targets Muslims more broadly, the distant suddenly becomes 
real for Muslims throughout India, as well as for countless others.

This includes other religious minorities such as Christians, as well as 
Dalits (Hindus who are lowest in the caste hierarchy), who, along with 
Muslims, have been targeted for violent attacks 
<https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/02/18/violent-cow-protection-india/vigilante-groups-attack-minorities> 
by Hindu nationalist hate groups. It includes all Indians who care about 
human rights of people with a different identity, or about secular 
constitutional principles and the idea of a pluralist state.

*Trump Comes to Modi’s Rescue*

In a hopeful sign, the CAA has been the proverbial last straw and 
sparked massive protests 
<https://www.vox.com/world/2019/12/21/21033083/india-muslim-protests-citizenship-amendment-bill-cab-caa> 
throughout the country. Protesters have faced vicious attacks from 
right-wing Hindu mobs 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/20/hindu-supremacists-nationalism-tearing-india-apart-modi-bjp-rss-jnu-attacks>, 
with the police acting as hapless spectators (or worse still, joining in 
the attacks). But the intimidation and violence haven’t stopped the 
protests.

In this climate of growing dissent in India, and growing 
<https://www.npr.org/2020/01/25/798858125/our-democracy-is-in-danger-muslims-in-india-say-police-target-them-with-violence> 
international recognition 
<https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/01/14/india-mounting-human-rights-abuses> 
of the grave human rights situation 
<https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/india-has-rights-to-peaceful-protests/> 
in the country, the Modi government may have been feeling under siege. 
But a powerful figure on the world stage recently came to the 
government’s rescue.

U.S. President Donald Trump, in his recent visit to India, clearly 
indicated that he was on the side of the fascist government, making the 
preposterous claim that the BJP government “worked very hard to have 
great and open religious freedom 
<https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/02/25/trump-india-doesnt-take-position-caa-citizenship-law/4865556002/>.” 
Trump shared the stage with Modi at a campaign-style rally 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/24/namaste-donald-trump-india-welcomes-us-president-narendra-modi-rally>of 
125,000 supporters, demonstrating a level of support that goes way 
beyond the usual formalities of a state visit. And just to drive home 
the point, the U.S. signed a $3.5 billion deal 
<https://www.democracynow.org/2020/2/26/headlines/president_trump_wraps_india_trip_with_praise_for_35_billion_weapons_deal> 
with India for advanced military equipment.

Words matter. Barely after Trump left India, Hindu nationalist mobs 
started openly attacking 
<https://twitter.com/LailaLalami/status/1232327549495037953> Muslim 
homes, businesses, and places of worship in Delhi, the national capital, 
chanting that India belongs to Hindus.

Hate crimes and pogroms against Muslims 
<https://scroll.in/article/860413/25-years-on-children-of-the-bombay-riots-have-forgiven-the-culprits-but-they-havent-forgotten> 
(as well as Dalits 
<https://www.news18.com/news/immersive/documenting-violence-against-dalits-one-assault-at-a-time.html>, 
Sikhs 
<https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/india/anti-sikh-riots-what-happened-in-1984-and-after-1.60501721>, 
and others) often occur in India, and Modi has been implicated in 
covering up 
<https://www.thenation.com/article/could-indias-next-prime-minister-be-hindu-extremist/> 
one such pogrom when he was the leader of Gujarat state years ago. What 
makes this recent upsurge different is that it happened in the national 
capital while the global media spotlight was still on Delhi because of 
Trump’s visit. Clearly, the support of the president of the world’s most 
powerful country has emboldened Hindu fascist leadership.

As fascism takes hold of India, it will be with active U.S. support. The 
“friendship” of the Trump regime with the Modi regime is disastrous for 
countless Indians.

*An Omen for the U.S.*

People in the United States should be very concerned about the 
Trump-Modi friendship as well, and not just because it represents an 
egregiously unethical foreign policy choice by the U.S. Of course it is. 
But it also has ominous implications for domestic politics in the U.S.

The Trump-Modi friendship is not just a cynical decision by the U.S. to 
support an oppressive but powerful country with the world’s fifth 
highest GDP 
<https://knoema.com/nwnfkne/world-gdp-ranking-2019-gdp-by-country-data-and-charts> 
and a lucrative domestic market for U.S. businesses to export to, or 
invest in. Sure, that’s a factor. But there’s more to the story.

At its core, the friendship is about a shared far-right ideology. The 
U.S. and India are part of a growing number of authoritarian far-right 
governments in the world, whose members include Brazil, the Philippines, 
Hungary, and more, as my colleague John Feffer has articulated so 
clearly in a recent report 
<https://ips-dc.org/report-battle-for-another-world-progressive-response-to-new-right/>.

The parallels between the BJP’s Hindu supremacist politics in India and 
Trump’s white supremacist politics in the U.S. are many — and 
frightening. These include writing Islamophobia 
<https://www.aaiusa.org/the_muslim_and_refugee_ban> into law and policy 
<https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/hamedaleaziz/trump-preparing-expand-travel-ban-muslim-immigration>, 
dehumanizing 
<https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2019/08/08/trump-immigrants-rhetoric-criticized-el-paso-dayton-shootings/1936742001/> 
and detaining 
<https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/9/17/20861427/india-assam-citizenship-muslim-detention-camps> 
undocumented immigrants (including children 
<https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/06/child-detention-centers-immigration-attorney-interview/592540/>), 
and criminalizing 
<https://thinkprogress.org/trump-pipeline-protestors-20-years-texas-7d6e4e06a33b/>Indigenous-led 
movements 
<https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-04-30/standing-rock-three-years-and-still-fighting/> 
against ecologically destructive resource extraction 
<https://peoplesdispatch.org/2019/03/28/tribals-in-indias-niyamgiri-are-resisting-vedantas-bauxite-mining/> 
(and even conflating 
<https://www.newsclick.in/lingaraj-azads-arrest-attempt-provide-fresh-lease-life-vedanta>these 
movements with “terrorism”).

The dangerous political agendas of Trump and his Indian fascist friends 
do not stop at the boundaries of official government policy. In the 
fashion of demagogues throughout history, both the U.S. and Indian 
regimes are adept at encouraging 
<https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/02/18/violent-cow-protection-india/vigilante-groups-attack-minorities> 
open violence by hate groups 
<https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-goes-back-to-defending-his-both-sides-charlottesville-comment> 
in their political base against those perceived as “other.”

The particular significance of these parallels for people in the U.S. 
lies in the fact that the Modi government in India became a lot bolder 
about pursuing its exclusionary ethnonationalist agenda in its entirety 
in its second term, viewing reelection as a mandate to fulfill the 
fevered fascist dreams of ideological forebears such as Golwalkar and 
Savarkar.

In the U.S., we should be similarly concerned about the Trump regime 
being reelected in November. Yes, we have a government that detains 
children in concentration camps 
<https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/06/21/some-suburb-of-hell-americas-new-concentration-camp-system/>, 
writes anti-LGBTQ hate 
<https://transequality.org/the-discrimination-administration> into law, 
and openly rewards 
<https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/climate/cafe-emissions-rollback-oil-industry.html> 
politically favored oligarchs 
<https://ips-dc.org/one-coal-baron-set-entire-administrations-energy-agenda/> 
in their pursuit of profit at the expense of most of humanity 
<https://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf>. But as the 
experience in India shows, things could get dramatically worse here if 
the Trump regime returns to power.

For the sake of humanity’s future, the “wider alliance between 
authoritarian and far-right political formations across the world” (as a 
politically astute protester in India 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/24/namaste-donald-trump-india-welcomes-us-president-narendra-modi-rally> 
said to the media) must be stopped in its tracks – in the U.S. 
elections, and in global solidarity to isolate and defeat the Modi 
regime in India, the Bolsonaro regime in Brazil, and everywhere else 
that the new fascism has reared its ugly head.

/*Basav Sen* directs the Climate Justice Project at the Institute for 
Policy Studies./

-- 
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