By Mushtaq Rahamat
In 2021, during his Independence Day speech on August 15th, the Prime Minister of India officially announced the arrival of Amrit Kaal. This period has been hailed as the best time to be in India and to be an Indian. The transition from Achche Din (Good Days) to Amrit Kaal took approximately eight years, marking a significant turning point and the maturation of India as a nation. It symbolizes the liberation of Indian minds from 1200 years of enslavement. From the historic ramparts of the Red Fort, a symbol of past grandeur, prestige, and power of Mughals whose namesake (read Muslims) is derisively referred to as “Babur ki aulad” (offspring of Babur), the Prime Minister shared the joyous news of the advent of Amrit Kaal.
In Amrit Kaal, appeasement of India’s minority (read Muslims) gave way to the pandering (read tyranny) of the majority. Now it is up to the majority to decide what Muslims would wear, eat, live, pray, and work. How they would marry, name their children, and separate from their wives if the matters come to that. Their citizenships, voting rights, property, and persons will be governed by the whims of innumerable, faceless mobs or by the indifferent judiciary and hostile politicians. Their places of worship could be appropriated, ransacked, and demolished on any pretext. The majority only reserves the right of being hurt and minorities including Muslims must make sure their whimsical sentiment isn’t perturbed. The majority could easily be offended by the kind of dress we wear or don’t wear, certain elements of the majority community have the exclusive right to, harass and even kill anyone carrying/transporting bovine, the legality of the transaction doesn’t matter. The justice is quick, meted out on the road in public, and shared on social media platforms. If somehow the victim survives this the police and judiciary will make sure he shouldn’t escape the long arm of the laws. Protests or demands for justice are met with house demolitions and property seizures. Consequently, a leading state government figure has earned the nickname “Bulldozer Baba” for turning a blind eye to unlawful killings and a section of media and society even celebrating them as entertainment. The use of excavators and bulldozers has become a symbol of oppression in India, particularly against Muslims.
Corona and Impoverishment
Amidst Amrit Kaal, India faced the twin challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing poverty. Providing food rations to around 800 million citizens who cannot afford it has been hailed as a matter of pride by the Prime Minister. India has slipped in the world Hunger Index below its small neighbour i.e. Nepal, we stand at 107 ranks out of 121. Income disparity or the wealth distribution in India between rich and poor has been widening for a long. However, according to one report between 2012 and 2012 40% of the wealth generated went to just 1% of the population with 3% of the wealth trickling down to the bottom of 50%. This report further highlights that 5% of Indians own more than 60% of India’s wealth. During the once-in-a-century pandemic Covid 19, India’s billionaires added a staggering amount to their fortune while India added 150-199 million to its list of poor. As per ET “Indian billionaires saw their combined fortunes more than double during the Covid-19 pandemic, and their count shot up by 39 percent to 142%, while the wealth of the ten richest is enough to fund school and higher education of children in the country for 25 years…”.Many thousands walked on foot hundreds of miles to their villages from Delhi and other places to avoid hunger, many perished on their way and never made it to their destinations, as a result of the sudden nationwide lockdown. The hospitals ran out of medicines, oxygen, doctors, and support staff, and cremation grounds and graveyards were running at full capacity with waiting lines running kilometres long. The holy river Ganga became shav vahini- carriers of the dead bodies and its banks were the last resting place for the deceased who couldn’t be afforded the last rites- cremation.
Politics of Hate and Majoritarian State
The rapists and the murders, in Amrit Kaal, are called sanskari and released on the recommendation of the central government. The dissenting voices were silenced and imprisoned without bail, and one of the journalists was in jail for a story he never reported. In another comical twist, one stand-up comedian was jailed for the jokes he never made.
Even before the advent of Amrit Kaal, elements of the majority community used to celebrate their festivals by slandering and abusing Muslims, brandishing weapons, and carrying out processions through the Muslim-populated areas and often playing offensive songs near their places of worship . However, in Amrit Kaal, such incidents of bestiality have multiplied, while the police administration seems increasingly hesitant to uphold the law, sometimes even participating in these hateful events. Police officers are quick to file First Information Reports (FIRs) against Muslims offering prayers in their own homes and on their own property. Hindu vigilante groups routinely raid churches, vandalize buildings, and file false cases of religious conversions. Reports indicate an increase in violence against Christians in India since 2014.
The courts of law have acquitted police officers and politicians accused of inciting riots, as if no one killed 50 Muslims in Hashimpura or the 96 people who perished in Naroda Patiya in 2002. Victims or those killed during riots will soon be blamed for their own deaths. The judiciary has also contributed to the transition from Achche Din to Amrit Kaal through controversial judgments related to the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, the criminalization of triple talaq, and the acquittal of all accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case. We are now in Amrit Kaal, a time of supposed happiness and bliss for all.
Amrit Kaal also saw the erasure of part of medieval Indian history. Schools will no longer teach about the Mughals and Delhi Sultanate and their legacy, interestingly though, British imperialism will remain part of the curriculum. The initial objective seems to be to demonize and deny the legacy of the Mughals and the Delhi Sultanate, portraying them as invaders. This expunge will likely be followed by proving erstwhile name-sake Muslim rulers as inhuman, and barbaric and have contributed zilch to India’s civilizational growth. One of the economic advisors of India’s Prime Minister floated the idea that Mughals wanted to go back to their homeland in Central Asia but roads were blocked. This is a pernicious move to paint later Mughals after Babur as not the sons of the soil. This doesn’t come as a surprise as the proponents of Hindutva- V.D.Savarkar didn’t see Muslims and Christians as natives of India. In their imagination and machination, only those whose materbhumi (motherland) pitrabhumi (fatherland), and punyabhumi (holy land) are within the geographical boundaries of India could claim to be the Hindus i.e., real Indians rest are foreigners. He was charitable enough to let non-Hindus live in India but as a second-class citizen. Therefore, it is no surprise that Mohan Bhagwat was advocating DNA theory i.e., all Indians carry the same/similar DNS hence everyone is Hindu.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the act of National Register of Citizens (NRC) passed by the Indian Parliament could be seen as a prelude to Amrit Kaal. These acts were aimed at granting citizenship to minorities (read Hindu, Sikhs, Jain, and Buddhist), coming from India’s neighbouring countries barring Muslims. The NRC intends to identify foreigners and illegal migrants, initially in the border state of Assam and later nationwide. The Home Minister, Amit Shah, provided a real and sinister chronology for these acts.
India, the mother of democracy, witnessed the large-scale defection of elected members of a legislative assembly, facilitated and financed by the world’s largest party with a difference. Shamelessly, such political manoeuvring is celebrated as masterstrokes, and the orchestrator of these schemes is hailed as a modern-day Chanakya. The ruling dispensation’s sole mantra seems to be remaining in power, and they are unashamedly willing to employ unfair and undemocratic means to achieve this. Similar incidents have occurred in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, and Goa in the past.
Contrary to established norms and laws, the Prime Minister of India shows no hesitation in using religion and religious symbols while campaigning for state legislative assembly elections. There is hardly any precedent for a Prime Minister attending so many election rallies or appearing at inauguration ceremonies for various achievements. Being a Prime Minister of India is a matter of extreme pride and is also the culmination of any politician’s ambition. The current Prime Minister seems to relish the role of an election campaigner and the act of flagging off trains, buildings, and schemes. However, the enormity of the responsibilities of the Prime Minister requires full-time dedication.
Propaganda and Hate
Propaganda and hate speeches have always been the most potent means of otherisation and constructing enemies within. Drawing from Goebbels’ propaganda techniques, right-wing groups, along with the mainstream media, disseminate fake news and propaganda against minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians. Films like “Kashmir Files” and “The Kerala Story” and daily prime-time debates on television channels perpetuate false narratives, spreading hatred between communities and exploiting our basest instincts. There is a constant 24×7 campaign against Muslims, with terms like “Love Jihad,” “Land Jihad,” “Spit Jihad,” and “Corona Jihad” being coined. Hindus are portrayed as weak and gullible, especially the women, easily manipulated by others. The Prime Minister, along with members of his party and cabinet, has shown support for and promoted such propaganda films. These movies were made tax-free to widen their accessibility to the ruling party’s vote banks, and they were referred to in election rallies and public meetings.
Beyond the glitz and glamour of established music genres, Hindutva pop has emerged as a rapidly growing genre in North India. Many of these trending songs on social media platforms are nothing but hate songs, promoting Islamophobia and inciting violence against Muslims. These crude and inflammatory songs are played at Hindutva rallies and events, inspiring listeners to become Hindutva warriors and harm Muslims.
International Ranking and stature
India’s international rankings and stature in various areas have raised concerns in recent years. The Indian government has faced increasing challenges in providing adequate nutrition to vulnerable populations, which have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Global Hunger Index, India’s ranking slipped to 107th out of 121 countries in 2022, with a score of 29.1, indicating a “serious” level of hunger.
Press freedom in India has witnessed a significant decline as well. The country’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index dropped to 161st out of 180 countries in 2022, signifying a gradual decline in press freedom conditions, which are now relatively restrictive.
In a recent report released by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, India was placed at the 8th position among 162 countries with the highest risk of mass killing. The report aims to provide a comprehensive view of the state of religious freedom worldwide.
The state of democracy in India also presents concerns. The V-Dem report ranked India at the 93rd position on the liberal democracy index, highlighting challenges in democratic practices. The Democracy Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked India 46th out of 167 countries in 2022, categorizing it as a “flawed democracy.” India has also been listed alongside Russia at number 10 in the Rise of crony capitalism index by The Economist. The report states that wealth accumulation in crony-capitalist sectors, representing nearly 8% of India’s GDP, has been on the rise. It mentions specific allegations against Gautam Adani’s conglomerate and the subsequent decline in his wealth in the wake of Hindenburg Research’s allegation of fraud and stock market manipulation becoming public.
These rankings and reports paint a concerning picture of India’s current status. The hope for a turn of events toward brighter prospects remains uncertain.
I am sure we are in Amrit Kaal. Let’s keep guessing when a series of events takes a turn to the “real” Achche din….