Peace vs. Violence? Democracy vs. Dictatorship? | Rock & Art
The India Chapter

Peace vs. Violence? Democracy vs. Dictatorship?

In the previous part of this article series on human rights, we delved into the contentious debate over the secular credentials of America, Britain, and India. We scrutinised America’s claim to being a functioning democracy, especially in the wake of its controversial decision to ban abortion, presenting tangible evidence to fuel the discussion. As we progress to Part 5, our focus shifts to India’s political trajectory. We will critically assess whether India is inching towards autocracy under its current leadership. The spotlight turns to Narendra Modi, the nation’s Prime Minister, as we explore the unnerving possibility of his governance veering towards dictatorship.

The Shadow of Dictatorship in Modern Democracies

This exploration is not just about labelling a regime but understanding the subtle shifts in governance that may signal a departure from democratic principles. We will examine the consolidation of power, the stifling of dissent, and the erosion of checks and balances that are often indicative of autocratic rule. Through this analysis, we aim to uncover the implications for human rights and individual freedoms in a nation that has long prided itself on its democratic foundation. Stay tuned as we unravel the complexities of this critical issue in the next instalment of our series.

Throughout history, there have been peaceful and non-peaceful ways of achieving national aims. On one end of the spectrum of peace to terror is the most successful civil rights movement of all time: the Indian Independence non-violence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, which removed the largest empire ever and arguably the most powerful military ever.

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A play on words on the National Democratic Alliance coalition, which includes the BJP. (Image from National Herald)

Is Terrorism Successful?

On the other end of the scale, there is terrorism. For instance, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) started in 1964 with two primary aims:

  1. Eliminate Israel.
  2. Establish an Arab state in the Palestinian territory.

The PLO’s terrorist attacks, such as the infamous murder of 11 Israeli athletes during the Olympic Games in Munich (depicted in the multi-Oscar-winning film, “Munich,” directed by Steven Spielberg), have targeted and killed thousands of innocent civilians, including schoolchildren.

Did the PLO achieve it’s aims?

  1. Israel is now much more powerful and globally influential. As reported by Macrotrends, the country´s economy has increased from $3 billion in 1964 to $525 billion in 2022.
  1. In the 1993 Oslo Accords, brokered by US President Bill Clinton, the most statistically and economically successful post-war president alongside Ronald Reagan, the PLO was offered approximately 40% of the disputed area as well as self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza. However, the PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, declined. Today, almost the entire disputed area is Israel, or occupied by Israel.
Peace vs. Violence? Democracy vs. Dictatorship? | Rock & Art
Munich Massacre Victims

The BBC exclaims, “At the time the Oslo Accord was signed in 1993, just over 110,000 Jewish settlers were living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.” In 2023, “The figure is more than 700,000.”

It can be concluded that the PLO, like arguably all ultra-violent terrorist organisations, haven’t achieved any of their aims, and as can be seen from above, mass campaigns of barbarity never achieve their objectives.

Peace vs. Violence? Democracy vs. Dictatorship? | Rock & Art

Instead of the PLO establishing a Palestinian state, the Palestine loss of land has been over 90%. Image: the Economist.

This is something that Hindu radicals need to understand. In today’s society, there isn’t the need to resort to violence for a voice to be heard. Online social media campaigns have been very successful, some argue too successful and maybe unfair in some cases, in cancelling high-profile public figures.

A case in point is the Muslim trader who was killed for selling beef. If this is done in a state where trading in beef is illegal, the police can be contacted. If it’s in a state where it’s legal, instead of attacking the person, a boycott can be initiated to not purchase the seller’s meat. Not ideal, but at least a peaceful resolution instead of the trigger-happy violence that has escalated in the last ten years. Hindu fundamentalists argue that these radicals are conducting their distorted version of the faith and not in line with the foundational ideals of the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita.

Did Black Lives Matter?

Moving again towards the left of the above spectrum is the Black Lives Matter movement. A civil rights movement that brought about massive change due to its peaceful protests after the George Floyd murder.

To the point that people who posted blank pages on Instagram in support of Black Lives Matter, jumping on the civil rights bandwagon, were later accused of previous racism. The match that ignited the indignant flame, that spread like wildfire throughout the world was Colin Kaepernick. It was the silent protest that was heard around the world and got the whole of America talking. Ironically, causing ear-splitting noise, even though he didn’t utter a word, by his peaceful protest of taking a knee during the playing of the American national anthem.

The BJP has many altruistic aims that favour Hindus, women, and ethnic and religious minorities, such as the banning of Instant Divorce, which, although accused of discriminating against Muslim men, does provide more protection to Muslim women. The CAA is accused of discriminating against Muslims, but it does provide much more protection to Christians, Sikhs, and Buddhists fleeing persecution and war.

However, the way the BJP is carrying this out is highly questionable. Modi has the power and influence to achieve all the BJP’s aims but only if the peaceful option is used. By scrutinising the history of terrorist organisations, it can be surmised that campaigns of continued, targeted destruction have never achieved any aims. The BJP or it’s connected arm, the RSS, is not a terrorist organisation or anywhere close and has never carried out a terror attack, but the point is, even physical attacks on innocent minorities will not achieve any aims and not attract anyone to their cause.

The Long-Term Benefits of Attacking, Raping, and Murdering

Peace vs. Violence? Democracy vs. Dictatorship? | Rock & Art

The Art of Empire. Lady Elizabeth Butler.

When exploring the history of the so-called greatest empires of all time, which invaded countries, raped and murdered citizens, and seized lands that encompassed most of the planet. Only six are now within the top 40 countries by GDP. Of the European colonisers who travelled around the world invading countries from Japan to South America, Britain and France rank five and six respectively, Italy’s Roman Empire now ranks ten, Spain at fifteen, and the Netherlands is twenty-three. Portugal is forty-seven. Turkey’s former Ottoman Empire is nineteen.

The Mongol Empire, slaughtered 40 million people and once covered 23 million square kilometres, from Hungary to North Korea, containing a massive 25% of the world’s population and ruled a mammoth 28 countries. It is now ranked a lowly 129. It can be determined how successful the largest land empire in history is today, by asking anyone to point to Mongolia on a map. Or asking which famous Mongolians they know. Barbur, the barbaric emperor who invaded India, was from Uzbekistan. Its GDP ranking is seventy-three. Afghanistan is 155.

Iran, once the mighty and murderous Persian empire, the largest empire at that point in history, that numerous religious minorities such as Zoroastrianism fled from due to their mass conversions, is ranked 41st. That despite having some of the world’s largest oil, gas and hydrocarbon reserves.

Peace vs. Violence? Democracy vs. Dictatorship? | Rock & Art

Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empireby Caroline Elkins. Knopf.

On the contrary, India’s GDP, ranked at number five, has overtaken every single one of its colonial invaders and oppressors. India is the most invaded country, but has never itself invaded another country. One of history’s most valuable lessons is that its taught that the country that chooses peace will always prevail in the long run. GDP by Country

The BJP wants to achieve its aims, but there is a certain way to do it, and they can learn from their own country’s history. Moving forward, they must find a way of achieving these aims by peaceful and democratic means and stop the vicious verbal and physical attacks on certain minorities.

Undemocratic Practices – “Our leaders can’t even buy a rail ticket.”

Modi’s target for the BJP is 370 out of 543 parliament seats, 400 for their National Democratic Alliance (NDA) giving them constitutional changing powers. This is fairly optimistic as it’s up significantly from 303 in 2019. This would mean retaining the northern states they swept last time, whilst gaining the more highly educated and affluent Southern states. This may explain the supposedly “aggressive” methods the BJP has taken to quell opposition or criticism.

CNBC affirms, “Modi and his team have an exceptional understanding of branding and narrative-control – he is highly visible, but rarely gives interviews. He’s never held a press conference in India, since becoming prime minister.” The FT asks, “Is India’s BJP the world’s most ruthlessly efficient political party?”

The U.S. research group Freedom House said Indian elections will be taking place in a media landscape characterised by increasing “legal attacks on critical journalists” and news outlets. “India shuts down the internet more than any other country, with authorities frequently using such tactics to stem political protests and suppress criticism,” rights groups say.

Ahead of the elections, India’s main opposition—the National Congress Party—accused the Modi government of freezing its bank accounts. “This is a criminal action on the Congress party done by the prime minister and the home minister,” said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a fiery attack. “It is being orchestrated to cripple us before the elections,” he claimed, adding that people were being “robbed of their constitution and democratic structure. We can do no campaign work. Our leaders cannot fly from one part of the country to the other. Forget about flying, they cannot even buy a rail ticket.”

The BJP was quick to deny Gandhi’s charges, saying the Congress was guilty of tax evasion and had to face action because of that. Mirroring Trump’s situation in America, Trump owes approximately $500 million, if he wins the election in November, before paying, would he really pay once he becomes president? The investigation is still pending. However, the BJP was also accused of suppressing freedom of speech when it raided the BBC offices, soon after the BBC‘s televised documentary “The Modi Question,” which was banned in India. Four months later, the BBC confessed to tax evasion and admitted underpaying £4.8 million.

Then came the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi chief minister and head of the popular Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). A vocal political rival of Modi, Kejriwal was arrested in March under a bribery case. Kejriwal’s imprisonment on corruption allegations came after the announcement of the general election last month, sparking protests in the capital. Analysts say it’s the first time in post-independence history that an Indian chief minister has governed from jail.

Kejriwal has denied the allegations, claiming they are politically motivated. He’s just one of the prominent members of the opposition, including three other senior AAP leaders, who have also been arrested or investigated by state agencies in moves decried as political by their parties. India’s Supreme Court recently granted interim bail to Kejriwal, but he has to return to jail on June 5th, the day after the marathon Indian election results are announced.

“I think there are serious concerns about how free and fair the elections are going to be in India this time around,” said Atishi, Delhi minister of education for the AAP. Reports have emerged of opposition party members being coerced into joining the BJP with the threat of arrest while they were under investigation by state agencies. Other reports suggest politicians have had their probes dropped after switching sides.

Atishi said she was also approached to switch to the BJP. “Either you join the ruling party, and then the cases are closed or put into cold storage. Or if you don’t, like the AAP leaders, then cases go ahead and you’re arrested and put into jail,” she said, without specifically naming who approached her.

In his interview with ANI, Modi denied any sliding of democracy under his rule and emphasised the independence of the Election Commission and state agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate, saying political leaders make up just 3% of cases. “Shouldn’t we let the ED work independently when it is supposed to?” he said. “I am convinced that corruption has destroyed the country. We should fight against corruption with our full strength.”

Analyst Jerath said a BJP-led campaign to weaken the opposition was part of Modi’s “scorched earth policy.” CNBC reported that previous governments have also pursued “a witch hunt against opposition politicians,” said Chietigj Bajpaee, a senior research fellow for South Asia at the London-based, world-leading policy institute think tank, Chatham House, who hosted an open event panel on May 29 to discuss Modi, where Bajpaee was one of the speakers. The timing was “unusual” as it came just before the elections, said Bajpaee. It appears the government doesn’t “want to leave any stone unturned” in its stated target of securing 400 seats,” he added. The BJP has repeatedly denied plans to change the constitution.

A rally took place weeks ago at the Ramlila Ground, a large ground located in New Delhi, traditionally used for staging religious festivals and major political rallies. Same as thousands of grounds around India, except for one reason.

“This election is for saving democracy,” main opposition party INC chief Mallikarjun Kharge told the crowds gathered. “There’s no level playing field in this election.”

Peace vs. Violence? Democracy vs. Dictatorship? | Rock & Art

Award winning actress Kangana Ranaut, who plays Indira Gandhi in the 2024 biopic “Emergency.”. Getty Images.

History is repeating itself. It echoed a similar rally 40 years ago in the same spot when opposition leaders fired up huge crowds to help change the course of the 1977 election. Indira Gandhi, India’s autocratic-leaning third prime minister, had imposed a state of emergency, jailed key opposition leaders, and curtailed civil freedoms. India’s future was balancing on a needlepoint between autocracy and democracy. She lost the election and, in the eyes of the people, India’s democracy was saved.

India is now at a parallel crossroads with the descendants of those supporters from a generation ago. They are now the ones with the burden of legacy, precariously weighing on their shoulders. Deciding which path their country follows for their children and grandchildren. Their grandparents voted against Indira Gandhi. Will they vote for Modi?Or will they do the same and vote against Indira’s grandson, and hammer the final nail in the coffin, which will bury the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

The Modi Question: Is India a Democracy or Autocracy?

The Modi Answer:

Undemocratic practices have increased since the election commenced. The BJP may be acting in a dictatorial manner, such as their jailing of an opposition minister on accusations of misuse of power and money, or freezing their opponents’ bank accounts due to allegations of tax evasion. Or, as with the BBC raids, where the global news organisation, later admitted to tax evasion, Modi’s actions may be proven to be justified in a few months. Alternatively, the BJP may be proven to be acting highly autocratically and Modi dictatorially.

USA president Joe Biden averages ten press conferences per year. Although Modi was notoriously bad at interviews historically, to increase transparency and limit false narratives by biased media outlets, Modi should start doing press conferences more frequently, as well as curtailing the recent limits on press freedoms and actions against journalists.

The ideal scenario for many Indians is a win for Modi, but not achieving the 400 target, so that the question of democracy or dictatorship, is taken out of the BJP’s or at least the INC’s hand.

Tune in Tomorrow for Part 6:

Muslim bans, genocide and wiping out 86% of India’s cash overnight.