Indian Communists on Modi's re-election

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal  republishes two recent editorials from ML Update, the weekly newsletter of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, reflecting on the challenges facing the left after Narendra Modi's re-election

Modi 2.0: Early Signals and Renewed Challenges

ML Update Vol. 22, No. 23, 4-10 June 2019 — Contrary to widespread expectations, the Modi government has come back stronger. The BJP on its own has secured an enhanced majority and a bigger vote share. In the last five years we have seen how the Modi government used its 2014 victory as a license not only to promote corporate loot and aggression but also to wage a sustained war on the Constitution, destroy the autonomy of various institutions of governance and the system of checks and balances to unleash and enforce the agenda of the RSS. It is not difficult to imagine how the Modi government will tend to use its power in its second term. Indeed, there are already plenty of initial signals in the first ten days. True to his fraudulent rhetoric, Modi did make the right noise of inclusive governance, asking his party to be humble in victory and assuring the minorities that they had no reason to be fearful. This was perhaps aimed at impressing the international community where he is widely recognised by the title given by the Time magazine: India’s ‘divider-in-chief’. Within the country, his followers of course interpreted his words as signs of encouragement and impunity as they garnished their victory celebrations with dozens of episodes of terror. Opposition activists were killed, voters were beaten up, and in Tripura punitive fines were imposed on opposition voters in the name of collecting donations for the BJP’s victory celebration. In West Bengal, buoyed with its stunning electoral success, the BJP is virtually running an expedition to conquer the state, triggering wholesale defection from the TMC. The clearest signals of the new government came with the formation of the new cabinet. Amit Shah has joined the cabinet as the Minister of Home Affairs, considered the second most important post in the cabinet. It should be remembered that Shah was the Home Minister in Gujarat and was the mastermind behind the string of encounters which had led to his incarceration and was debarred from entering Gujarat on Supreme Court order before he dubiously got himself acquitted. In the 2019 elections both Modi and Shah campaigned aggressively for implementing the NRC and amending the Citizenship Act, terming immigrants as infiltrators and termites and promising their forcible deportation. Other key issues of the RSS agenda like the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, scrapping of Article 370 and 35A have been prominently featured in the BJP’s 2019 manifesto and Amit Shah will clearly have a key role in intensifying the Modi government’s ongoing war on the Constitution and the institutional foundation of our Republic. Two other entrants to the Modi cabinet also indicate the direction of the government. Former bureaucrat Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who served as Foreign Secretary under the Modi government from January 2015 to January 2018 has been inducted as the External Affairs Minister. This clearly shows how the Modi government is systematically politicising the bureaucracy and destroying its autonomy. We can already see two important steps in this direction – packing the bureaucracy with handpicked individuals via the newly introduced ‘lateral entry’ route, and then inducting bureaucrats into the cabinet. With retired Army Chiefs and career bureaucrats joining the cabinet, we can easily see how the government, aided by the RSS, is penetrating every institution and laying the foundation of a totalitarian state. The other ‘shock entry’ into the cabinet is that of Pratap Chandra Sarangi from Odisha. While he is being showcased as an epitome of austerity and ‘social service’, he should be best recognised as the chief of Odisha unit of Bajrang Dal who instigated the killing of Australian Missionary Graham Staines and his two minor children in 1999. In its first term, the Modi government had coined the phrase ‘cooperative federalism’ but functioned as an over-centralising machine that tilted the Indian polity away from any semblance of federalism to an increasingly unitary state. This time round, Modi began with another deceptive acronym called NARA which apparently reconciles National Ambition with Regional Aspirations. But just as the BJP Lok Sabha contingent has not a single Muslim face, Modi cabinet has very limited representation from the southern states which are increasingly feeling the pressure of the Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan model of the RSS. The anti-federal anti-diversity character of the Modi government also became clear in the draft New Education Policy proposal to make Hindi a compulsory third language in all non-Hindi states. The growing centralising tendency of the Modi government is also affecting the balance within the NDA forcing the BJP’s second biggest ally, JDU, to refuse the symbolic representation offered to it. During the elections, the Modi government tried its best to insulate itself from any public scrutiny about its performance. The government suppressed the alarming GDP and unemployment data, forcing top statisticians to resign. The data are now formally out. It is now officially on record that the GDP growth rate in the first quarter of 2019 was at the lowest in last five years: 5.8% in sharp contrast to the tall claims of double digit growth rate. And while growth rate has hit the lowest point, unemployment has hit a peak last touched forty five years ago. The Modi government claims to have fetched growing global recognition for India, but his return for the second term coincided with the US announcement denying India the Generalised System of Preferences status, rendering almost 50 Indian commodities exported to US costlier, thus delivering a big blow to India’s small and medium enterprises which account for the bulk of GSP exports. There are no indications from the government as to how it plans to tackle all these economic challenges. But the government was quick to announce its road map of privatisation of PSUs and curtailment of trade union rights. The Modi government is back to what it has been doing all along – destroying the economy, dividing the people and decimating the institutional fabric of democracy. The people of India must also resume their resistance without any delay.

Modi’s Second Innings: The Shape of Things To Come

ML Update Vol. 22, No. 24, 11-17 June 2019 — The second innings of the Modi Government have begun. And the first couple of weeks itself are showing us the shape of things to come: social media surveillance, arrests of journalists, communalisation of crimes and demonisation of Muslims, terror against political opponents, a former Army man declared a “foreigner” and lodged in a detention camp based on a fabricated report by the Assam Border Police, death threats to anti-communal intellectuals and activists, and exposure of the last Modi regime’s lies about unemployment data and GDP. A journalist, Prashant Kanojia, was picked up from his home in Noida by plainclothes UP policemen, and jailed for a tweet sharing a video which allegedly ‘defamed’ the UP Chief Minister. The head of television news channel Nation Live, Ishita Singh, and its editor, Anuj Shukla were also arrested for broadcasting the video. The Supreme Court granted Kanojia interim bail, commenting that “A citizen’s right to liberty has been infringed upon.” But the sheer arbitrariness and highhandedness of the arrest for a tweet shows the BJP’s intention to mount surveillance on social media and intimidate journalists and dissenting voices. Meanwhile, public intellectual and Mumbai-based anti-fascist campaigner Prof. Ram Puniyani has received death threats. Puniyani, a former professor at IIT Bombay, is receiving these threats for his popular YouTube videos educating viewers about the nature of Hindutva fascism. Given the murders of rationalists and anti-communal intellectuals like Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare in Maharashtra, and Prof MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh in Karnataka, such threats to Puniyani are ominous and disturbing. In West Bengal and Tripura, terror is being unleashed by BJP against non-BJP voters and supporters of rival parties. In West Bengal, the BJP is also trying to foment communal hatred and violence against Muslim minorities. A measure of justice was achieved in the Kathua case of the gangrape and murder of a little girl of the nomadic Muslim Bakarwal community, with three perpetrators being sentenced to life imprisonment and three policemen also being convicted for destroying evidence. Protests had erupted across the country when BJP Ministers and MLAs had held a rally supporting those accused of this heinous rape-murder and hate crime on grounds of ‘Hindu Unity.’ Just as the Sangh forces had tried to rally Hindu support for perpetrators of the Kathua hate crime, these same forces are now trying to use the murder of a little girl in Tappal village in Aligarh (UP) as fodder for a communal campaign to demonise Muslims. Since the two accused in the Aligarh case are Muslim, communal forces from outside are laying siege to the village, shouting communal slogans and speeches outside the homes of Muslims. The father and other family members of the victim have repeatedly called for an end to such communalisation, pointing out that there is no communal motive in the murder – but the attempts to communalise the crime continue unabated. The UP police too has appeased such communal pressure by invoking the draconian National Security Act in this case – while the NSA has not been invoked in other cases of violence against children in the state. For instance, the police has not invoked NSA against the accused in a recent gangrape of a 12-year-old Dalit girl by six men in Kushinagar in UP. The selective use of NSA by the UP police, primarily against Muslims, is an attempt to send the communal message that crimes like murder, when committed by Muslims, must be treated as crimes against the nation. In Assam, the arbitrary and potentially communal nature of the National Register of Citizens and Foreigner Tribunal processes were once again underlined when a former Army subedar and war veteran Mohammad Sanaullah was sent to a detention camp in Assam after a Foreigners Tribunal had declared him an illegal immigrant. The enquiry report by the Assam Border Police which was the basis for this detention proved to be full of fabrications and obvious falsehoods. The enquiry against Mr Sanaullah had been initiated in 2008, and his name was not in the NRC draft in 2018. While Mr Sanaullah has now been released on bail, the whole episode exposes the unjust and arbitrary nature of the NRC and Foreigners Tribunal processes which can so easily be used to harass religious and linguistic minorities. Given the BJP’s plans to impose NRC (combined with the Citizenship Amendment Act that will exempt Hindus from having to prove citizenship) all over the country, such an episode is a warning of the kind of harassment and humiliation to which Muslims will be subjected. With the elections over, the Government finally allowed unemployment data to be released – which confirmed that India is witnessing the worst unemployment in 47 years. Also, a research paper by Modi 1.0 regime’s own former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian has exposed the fact that the Government’s claims of 7% GDP growth between 2011-2017 are inflated, with the actual growth being only 4.5%. The official claims of India being the world’s “fastest growing economy” are based on dishonest figures. These early warning signs bely the ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas, Saba Vishwas’ (Support, Development and Trust For All) claims of PM Modi himself and expose the character and intent of the Modi 2.0 regime.