Raking up the hotly debated Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the NRC during an election rally in West Bengal, BJP chief Amit Shah said his party would remove all infiltrators from the country, except Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Shah is suggesting that people without documentation be expelled from India, on the basis of their religion: India, though constitutionally a secular state, is Hindu in character, the BJP assumes, so Hindus (and their close relatives Sikhs and Buddhists) have a right to be in it. Muslims, not quite. Shah’s NRC promise is, effectively, a code for Muslim persecution. Though he technically speaks about unauthorized immigrants, his true target is Muslims. The country’s large Christian population, the other minority technically affected by NRC rules, is hardly made up of immigrants.
A similar premise led to the genocide against the Rohingya in nearby Myanmar. In India’s northeastern state of Assam, where the register is already active, even the non-immigrant Muslim population faces displacement because of it. Around four million residents were deemed unauthorized immigrants overnight last July, among them was also an Indian Army veteran.
This is hardly new. Shah has been openly making this kind of threat throughout the BJP’s rule, making up with intolerance for what his party has failed to deliver in economic and job growth.
“#NaMoforNewIndia,” reads the hashtag appended to the BJP’s tweet, which leaves little doubt to what kind of “new India” the party is pushing for—one where non-Hindus are not welcome. It is in perfect alignment with the BJP’s philosophical DNA: One of its venerated ideological fountainheads had, in the early 20th century, sought second-class status for non-Hindus while another even approved of rape as a political tool.
With the election of Modi in 2014, India ushered in the global wave of nationalism and right-wing populism that followed. Five years later, it seems to be at the forefront again, as the first of the big democracies flirting with authoritarianism. Its nationalist party dare says what its obsession with illegal immigration really is about: not economic growth or job losses but ethnic, religious, and racial intolerance.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that she will never allow NRC in Bengal at a party rally in Darjeeling on Thursday. Shah responded at a rally in Kalimpong, reiterating that upon returning to power, BJP will conduct NRC across the country. She said that they (BJP) are saying that they will conduct NRC in Bengal. I dare them to even touch anyone from Bengal. They want to drive out whomever they want to from the country. They struck off the names of 43 lakh Bengalis in Assam. I will never allow this in Bengal,” She also asked how can a party like the BJP, which will not even be able to win a single seat in Bengal, can make such claims.
Indian democracy is going through a dark phase and it is the job of every citizen to vote wisely and restore the true secularist and democratic nature of the country.