Do you ever wonder what were the regular germans living circa 1935 thinking?
Do you wonder how did the well-meaning intellectuals, good-hearted regular citizens allowed for the rise of Nazism? We certainly do not believe, else let me rest my case at the start itself, that general populations at large are filled with evil and hatred towards one another. We certainly don't believe that all the Germans were accepted the Holocaust. Yet it did happen. Yet the collective citizen allowed it to happen. Yet very smart people in positions of power & wealth enabled it.
2019, the life of the average Indians is not very different. In one year, we saw the rise of the extreme right, we saw abrogation of Article 370 and a series of violations of fundamental human rights in Kashmir, the rise of lynchings across the country, pride in cow vigilantism. The only significant thing where we saw a decrement aside from the constitution fabric of the nation, was probably the economic status of growth.
On August 5, 2019, the newly minted government led by Narendra Modi used its electoral mandate to strip Jammu and Kashmir of special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. As part of the strategic process to ensure peace in the region, the heavy military was deployed in the region, leaders put on house arrest, curfews imposed and access to the internet snatched away. Twitter, WhatsApp, google search, calling family friends all gone at the decision of one man, one government, one almost totalitarian regime.
What is disheartening, shocking, and concerning is not the action of the government. Leaders (especially the strong ones with low ethics and high hunger for power) in the governments time and again, across the world, have pushed the boundaries on their powers and committed a great many sub-constitutional acts. This slow and steady pushing of the boundaries of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable is smart strategizing at its best.
What is disheartening, shocking, and concerning is the lack of actions by the people. Lack of voices, opinions, protests, and opposition. From other political parties, from leaders in all aspects of society, from the intelligentsia, from the HNWI community, from students and professionals at large.
Kashmir continues to stay dark without internet. There may be mass killings, extreme tortures, random checks, all sorts of power games: rapes, imprisonments for villages, towns, and communities at large, going underway right now as we talk, and yet no one in mainland India cares. About 38,000 to 45,000 troops were deployed in the valley ahead of Aug 4th. Estimates say about 600,000 military personnel in the valley to manage a population of 12 million people. For a few days after August 4th, few people protested, few tweets happened, new cycles carried the story for few weeks, and though neither internet nor basic safety, independence, freedom, the dignity of human existence return to the valley, the protests, tweets, news stories died down. From August to December, more than 100 days, 10+ weeks, and mainland India couldn't find a bone of collective care, capital, will to question things.
Then, as a smart strategic person would do, they headed for Assam. Another tiny state but of geopolitical value with second-highest Muslim populations. Mainland Indians are still fine. Let's build some detention/encampment centers. Does this change the general perception of us? Does it erode our political capital? From lack of action on air pollution and climate change to a series of extremely bold and fast moves on polarisation, this government and its political machinery have proven one thing, they are smart, strategic, and competent, but also communal, polar, fascist, and evil.
But, time and again, many such individuals or group, have found their way at the helm of power. History is filled with leaders across nations who made their grab for absolute power with similar tactics. What differs is the reaction of its citizenry. Today, in December 2019, the world's largest democracy and world's largest economy both suffer from leaders with eroded values, political machinery with "divide and rule" tactics, and the rise of the right and extreme. Climate change fanatics like myself will say that this is just the start of the rise of right predicted from the lack of resources and increment of survival risks. But what differs today in India and the US, is the response of the nation to this moral corruption at its helm. What differs is the collective opposition formed by different components of society. What differs is the roles and responsibilities taken by other ancillary parts of democracy at the invasion from its leadership.
Today, we have the biggest attack on the democratic fabric of our society. An ultimate erosion of the character of our country. But worse than the attack is the lack of response from the mainstream Indian society. There are few protests and revolts here and there but the difference in the intensity of attack and response is in orders of magnitude. Maybe it is the complacence, maybe it is the lack of awareness, or maybe it's apathy, or maybe we just don't think these steps are that big, "that" unconstitutional, "that" harmful. But this day is that day in history that our future generations will judge us for. Either India 2019 will become the new 1935 Germany, or it will find its way out of the clutches of communal divisive autocracy. Our actions or inactions today will define our history.
The above words were written on 15 December 2019 after the ratification of the Citizen Amendment Bill, introduced by Union Cabinet to 17th Lok Sabha on 9 December 2019; passed by Lok Sabha on 10 Dec 2019, Rajya Sabha on 11 Dec 2019, and then assented by President on 12 Dec 2019. All in a matter of 4 days.