India elections 2022: “There is no logic in fascism”
India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has claimed victory in four significant state elections so far, including the country’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh. BJP is a right-wing party, and its policy has historically reflected Hindu nationalist positions.
Jyotsna Siddharth is an activist and artist who lives in Delhi. Here she shares with us her opinion on the current political climate, and her hopes for the future.
I am not surprised that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is winning, because I believe that there is no logic in fascism. Democratic rights and freedom have been compromised – electronic voting machines have been rigged, and there has been a lot of propaganda saying that Hindus are in danger and they must reclaim the country.
During all the years that the BJP was not in power, they worked on the ground, talking to people in remote areas, especially with uneducated, unemployed youths who have always felt left out of the democratic process. The BJP has been cashing in on their insecurities, leading them to think that their religion is the greatest, and that somehow other minorities and marginalised communities have been taking away their much deserved place. I think the BJP has mobilised a lot of voices that way.
There is a lot of support for the BJP among the most progressive, educated people too. Looking at the current political climate, people feel that there is a lack of political will and leadership in the country. The BJP has been the only political party to provide a vision, whether it’s good or bad, something that no other party, especially the Indian National Congress, has been able to do. And so the BJP is winning, and it’s a matter of concern.
We are seeing a constant attack on human rights defenders, where they are under surveillance and are jailed. Women activists constantly receive rape and death threats. We see how gender equality is under severe threat with the crackdown on women’s rights organisations by the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act, a law to regulate foreign contributions, especially monetary donations, to NGOs in India. It’s really hard to keep the movement going when the non-profit organisations are being blacklisted. There is a lot of crushing dissent: anybody who speaks against the government, whether they are activists or feminists, is currently under scrutinity, and in danger.
It’s very clear from BJP’s strategy that they are not really interested in advancing women’s rights. The BJP is pushing for women leadership, bringing women to the forefront of the party, but these women are not interested in advancing a more equitable, social justice framework. They are operating from a very masculine agenda and gaze and are interested in reclaiming brahminical, patriarchal power.
THERE IS A DEEP CRISIS IN CIVIC LIBERTIES, RIGHTS AND FREEDOM FOR WOMEN AND OTHER MARGINALISED COMMUNITIES
We need to address the security, safety and freedom of women. It includes women from marginalised communities, women who are at the intersection of caste, class and religion – particularly from Muslim communities. All of their lives have been made more and more precarious. While it is covert, people’s fundamental rights and needs are being curtailed.
Five years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned all 500 and 1000-rupee notes, which represented 86% of the currency in circulation at the time in terms of value. There was a sharp decrease in workforce participation and in wages, and small businesses and labourers were left to fend for themselves. It was extremely brutal, and people still haven’t recovered from this demonetisation.
A freedom and human rights crisis
During the migrant workers crisis, when a large number of migrant workers left for their home towns and villages because of COVID lockdowns, the central government was absolutely silent and didn’t respond at all – state governments did. Civil societies and individuals came together and took the load of the government’s work. The government also kept quiet during the second wave of COVID. When the pandemic was at its peak and no oxygen cylinders were made available, the government actually denied that there were deaths or a shortage of oxygen. The government is constantly gaslighting us.
I think there is a deep crisis in civil liberties, rights and freedom for women and other marginalised communities. We need for international media to work with the national media at this moment to highlight what is going on in the country because the image painted by the ruling government is completely different. A few days ago my Twitter account was hacked. It’s happening a lot that accounts that take a stance and put out these kinds of narratives are being curtailed. So how do you provide digital security, as well as actual physical security to people?
We need platforms that are able to actually give the right picture, and to amplify and support human rights defenders. We need something more than just at the national level at this moment to help us work through this chaos.