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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 43, New Delhi, October 10, 2020

The “Foreign Hand” Bogey To Target Critics Of Hindutva Brigade | Amulya Ganguli

Amnesty International Is A Victim Of Ruling Party’s Intolerance

Friday 9 October 2020

by Amulya Ganguli

October 5, 2020

The response of the BJP’s troll army to the Amnesty International’s departure from India showed that Islamophobia was not the only arrow in the Hindutva brotherhood’s ideological quiver.

There were also other projectiles which included animus against foreigners. Hence, the comparison drawn by some of the saffron netizens between the East India Company and Amnesty.

Like the predatory English outfit of the 18th and 19th centuries, the reputed humanitarian organization of the present times is also accused of being engaged in a clandestine operation of undermining India’s sovereignty by engaging in activities which are said to violate the laws of the land.

This is, of course, not the first time that the ruling class in India has suspected a conspiracy hatched by foreigners against them. In Indira Gandhi’s time, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US was a constant bugbear. The phrase, “foreign hand”, was generally used to describe its allegedly sinister activities.

The present dispensation tends to see a larger number of conspirators, not only among NGOs receiving funds from abroad, but also among “anti-national” urban Naxalites at home. Their identities are usually determined by the stand which they take on Kashmir or on the government’s commitment to the constitutional order.

If they are critical, they are lambasted. If not, they are invited to an all-expenses paid junket in Kashmir, as were the far right parliamentarians of Europe some time ago. One probable reason why the Amnesty is now in the government’s bad books is its views on Kashmir.

For instance, on the first anniversary of the revocation of Article 370, which conferred a special status on Kashmir, the Amnesty called for the release of all political leaders, activists and journalists and pointed out that seven state-level commissions, including the human rights panel, had been closed down in the Union territory. Similarly, on the Delhi riots earlier this year, the Amnesty accused the police of “serious human rights violations”.

However, the home ministry’s denial of the amnesty’s charge that the latter was being subjected to a witch-hunt and the official assertion that human rights cannot be an excuse for defying the law suggest that the government is least bothered by the organization’s walkout.

Much of the government’s confidence stems from the belief that public opinion is overwhelmingly on its side. It is not only the reaction of the trolls which has bolstered its self-assurance, but also the general political ambience.

As was evident from the banging of pots and pans to show solidarity with the Covid “warriors”, as the prime minister wanted, virtually the entire middle class appears to comprise the BJP’s supporters.

Not only that, a measure of their devotion can be gauged from a lead article in a Mumbai newspaper which compared Narendra Modi to Mahatma Gandhi and also from the recent comments of Prasoon Joshi, the head of the film censor board, that the prime minister is thinking day and night about the betterment of the country.

Since an opinion poll conducted by an established magazine endorses these views, it is understandable why the BJP believes that it has a carte blanche from the general public to act according to its agenda.

In addition, the inability of the opposition parties to get their acts together, except sporadically as when a tragic incident as in Hathras occurs, also helps the BJP to act in accordance with its belief that it is destined to rule for half a century from panchayats to parliament, as home minister Amit Shah once said.

Just as the government does not take the criticism of its opponents at home seriously, it is similarly indifferent towards the unkind comments made against it abroad – or, at least, pretends to be unconcerned.

So, it has put the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist and other media outlets which are critical of the Indian government in the same category as the Indian “urban Naxalites” with the RSS mouthpiece, the Organiser, calling the Wall Street Journal a “Modi-baiter” which has been lying about the Delhi riots.

Up until now, New Delhi had placed its faith in the Trump administration’s backing for Modi – the US president called him a “great gentleman” – and on the Indian diaspora’s apparent pro-Republican bias as exemplified in the “howdy Modi” event in Houston.
But, reports that the Indian Americans may not desert their all-time favourites, the Democrat Party after all, and the likelihood of a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris dispensation taking charge, which has, till now, been critical of India’s Kashmir policy, cannot but worry the Indian government. A Biden White House is also unlikely to regard the Amnesty’s ouster as a matter only between New Delhi and the human rights organization. (IPA Service)

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