Bhubaneswar, Aug 26, 2022: A state-level peace and harmony convention was held in Odisha on the fourteenth anniversary of the Kandhamal communal massacre in the eastern Indian state. More than 300 civil society groups, political leaders, journalists, lawyers, writers, students, and academicians, including priests, and nuns across the state joined the day-long peace and goodwill convention August 25 at Geet Govind Bhawan, Bhubaneswar, the state capital. The chief speakers at the convention were Prakash Yashwant Ambedkar, a former Member of the Parliament, and Arfa Khanum Sherwani, a renowned journalist and the senior editor of the Wire online portal. Sister Justine Geetanjali, a member of the Odisha unit of the Citizens for Communal Harmony Peace and Justice, in her introductory remark briefed about the current state of affairs in the country and about the Kandhamal riots. Ambedkar, the grandson of the founder of the Constitution, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, who addressed the first session, raised questions on sensitive incidents such as the case of Bilkis Bano. He said injustice done to the exploited class is not known. It has been going on for many decades. “Ambedkar made many provisions for the benefit of the people in the Constitution. He ensured equality, women’s protection, and justice for all.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood last month atop India’s nearly completed new Parliament, built to mark the country’s 75 years of independence, and pulled a lever. A sprawling red curtain fell back to reveal the structure’s crowning statue. Many across India gasped. The 21-foot-tall bronze icon — four lions seated with their backs to one another, facing outward — is India’s revered national symbol. The beasts are normally depicted as regal and restrained, but these looked different: Their fangs bared, they seemed angry, aggressive. To Mr. Modi’s critics, the refashioned image atop the Parliament — a project that was rammed through without debate or public consultation — reflects the snarling “New India” he is creating. In his eight years in power, Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party government has profaned Indian democracy, espousing an intolerant Hindu supremacist majoritarianism over the ideals of secularism, pluralism, religious tolerance and equal citizenship upon which the country was founded after gaining independence on Aug. 15, 1947. Drawing comparisons to Nazi Germany, the regime uses co-opted government machinery, disinformation and intimidation by partisan mobs to silence critics while dehumanizing the large Muslim minority, fanning social division and violence. Civil liberties are systematically violated. India, the world’s largest democracy, is where the
We find ourselves slowly slipping back into the feudal mess we came out of Among national festivals in many countries, Independence Day usually takes first place. It’s the day that celebrates the birth of a nation, the shaking off of colonial oppression, the welding of many ethnic groups into one modern state. When India celebrates 75 years as a nation on Aug. 15, it’s also an occasion to ask ourselves: Has independence made a difference? How has freedom changed us? Have we realized the hopes we had? Not easy questions to answer. Looking at the broad picture, one can see two contradictory movements in almost every area of life. On the one hand, we celebrate the rise of the ordinary person, the aam aadmi, the aam aurat. Today the president of the republic is a tribal woman, a public statement that even the most oppressed groups can make it to the top. "Standards of education are in decline almost everywhere, universities are in disarray, and in many places, there’s violent hostility to girls going to school" And yet, on the other hand, every day brings home the almost total failure of the sarkar — the ruling class. In those memorable words of Gurcharan Das: “India grows by night,
The situation facing Christians and other religious minorities in India is ‘unprecedentedly grave’, says an Open Doors spokesperson. Across India, people are celebrating the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence. Christians and other religious minorities will be joining in the celebrations – but also recognising that they face discrimination that is ‘unprecedentedly grave’, in the words of Heena Singh*, Open Doors spokesperson on India. “The gravity of the situation, for Christians and Muslims especially, is at its peak,” says Heena. “Every day we receive new prayer requests from friends, for another Christian family attacked, or a pastor arrested on false accusation.” Hostility against Christians is getting worse There is a very large number of Christians in India – almost 69 million, according to Open Doors research – but this is only about five per cent of the country’s population. Christians and other religious minorities have long experienced some hostility, but attitudes are hardening and persecution is worsening as the influence of Hindutva increases. "Now it is often entire communities attacking and expelling converts." HEENA, OPEN DOORS “It is no longer small extremist groups attacking converts, now it is often entire communities attacking and expelling them, beating them or handing them over to the police on false accusations,” says
Western allies are likely to ignore the country’s transition into an ethnocracy given its role in balancing China. India’s democracy faces a crisis unprecedented in its 75-year-old history. An ethnocratic imagination undermines the inclusive Indian nationalism that imbued its founding movement and that aims to consolidate its Hindu majority as the dominant ethnos. Not only do religious minorities find themselves identified as internal enemies, but members of the historically oppressed Bahujan communities who do not conform to the image of a good Hindu are sought to be marginalised. In recent years, the list of internal enemies has come to include liberals and leftists, activists who have raised issues of the environment and human rights, and anyone else perceived to be “anti-national”. Dissent is muzzled, increasingly through official edicts. Old controversies over temples and mosques are reignited, as in Mathura and Varanasi over the last few months, where claims that mosques were built upon the demolition of temples have resurfaced. Local compromises negotiated by Hindus and Muslims over centuries are challenged, and new religious flashpoints threaten to rent asunder the social fabric knitted together by India’s diverse communities. India shares its democratic degradation with many other countries across the world. This process has been variously described as