'Policy of Exclusion'

Despite enormous resources at their disposal, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) these days see red in every opposition move. They are trying to make a case out of trifle nothing. So they found staple in cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu's participation in Imran Khan's oath-taking ceremony in Islamabad. One Anil Viz, supposed to be a heavy-weight in Haryana BJP, lost no time to accuse Sidhu of 'behaving like a Pakistani agent'. He questioned Sidhu's loyalty to the nation while doubting his partriotism. The saffronties seem to have earned divine right to certify someone patriotic or unpatriotic as per their set stances. And Pakistan-bashing is one yardstick to become patriotic. But not very long ago prime minister Narendra Modi visited Pakistan, without being invited, to attend, of all things, a family function, of former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Modi's shameless unofficial diplomacy didn't get flak from the people like Viz. Nor did they question Modi's loyalty and patriotism. Meanwhile, the Goa unit of the Bharatiya Yuba Janata Morcha, the youth wing of BJP, burnt an effigy of Sidhu for hugging Pakistan's army chief, at the oath-taking ceremony of newly elected prime minister of Pakistan. The die-hard Pakistan-haters like Viz, are the last persons to see India and Pakistan resuming dialogue to improve bilateral relations. In reality these over-enthusiastic saffronties are doing a great disservice to the people of the sub-continent at a time when both countries desperately need peace to revive their shattered economies.

Of late the BJP is said to have adopted a "default position" of attacking everything Congress president Rahul Gandhi is saying—or not saying. The saffron spokespersons slammed Rahul Gandhi for "belittling and insulting" India in his recent speech in Germany. If anything they always distort facts and dish out half-truths to divert public attention and polarise people on communal lines. Addressing a gathering at the Bucerises Summer School in Hamburg, Mr Gandhi traced the phenomenon of ISIS to the exclusion of people from the development process. Not that there was no logic in the statement. And at the same venue he accused the Modi government of excluding the tribals, dalits and minority community people from the development narrative, creating a situation conducive to the growth of terrorism in India. He described Modi's policy of exclusion, and quite justifiably, as a 'dangerous thing'. What he said about comparative job creation in India and China may be disputed. But there is no denying the fact that Modi has failed miserably to create adequate jobs to mitigate the burning problem of unemployment. As per Rahul Gandhi's estimates India produces only 450 jobs every 24 hours against China's 50,000 during the same period. In truth to compare India's development status with that of China is meaningless today and it was equally meaningless yesterday when his party was in power before Modi's ascent to the throne in 2014.

Modi's exclusion policy is a serious issue—its pan-Indian dimension might have international repercussions. The way dalits and minority community people are attacked in institutions of higher eduction, work-places and streets, has already created an explosive situation which in turn may give birth to new 'terror outfits'. Terrorism doesn't grow in vacuum. Nor does it fall from the sky. With the continuing shrinkage of democratic space for the socially and economically disadvantaged people, violent outbursts will be the logical culmination. Denying constitutional rights to a large segment of population while hailing Ambedkar as the architect of the constitution is anything but farcical. They talk of democracy day in and day out only to deny democratic rights to the poor.

And now Modi's exclusion policy has reached its zenith through the publication of list of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. Whether they like it or not it is a document of disaster to happen. To talk of Modi brand of fascism vaguely makes no sense. Here fascism is in action in Assam. Four million people who have not found their names in the list are living in perpetual danger of being evicted and butchered in communal rights. Maybe, their final destination is camp, rather concentration camp of Indian variety. Strangely, Rahul Gandhi didn't utter a word or two about the ill-fated four million who are the worst victims of Modi's exclusion policy. Militancy is likely to crop up if such a huge population is kept outside the nation-building process under the pretext of infiltration from neighbouring Bangladesh. It's not yet clear whether Rahul Gandhi's party—Congress party—is distancing itself from the BJP's migration atrocities. After Assam they are planning to introduce NRC in Bengal. A state-level BJP leader said the other day in no uncertain terms that they are going to register the names of genuine citizens to identify 'infiltrators'. But there was a rider that 'those who are living in India since their childhood for many decades need not to worry about NRC'. No doubt the target was very specific—muslims. Migration from Bangladesh has been taking place for decades on economic grounds—it is economic migration. They are the source of cheap labour and all the hazardous jobs are done by them. If they go on strike even for a day there will be serious problems for hundreds of municipalities in border districts as also the outskirts of Kolkata proper. All cleaning jobs are monopolised by them because there are no competitors from local job-seekers. Also they are filling up the vacant space left by the rural youth of Bengal, seeking equally hazardous and insecure jobs with better minimum wages, of course in other states. The shortage of daily wage labourers in rural Bengal during sowing season is a serious concern for those who are engaged in agriculture either as farmers or as agriculture promotion officials. That migrants would foot the bill even in a limited way though, is a fact of life.

The BJP's direct threat to muslims in Bengal through NRC is aimed at forcing them to vote for the saffron party otherwise they would face an Assam like situation. Economic migration is a global phenomenon. Political asylum seekers, refugees fleeing civil wars in their countries in the Middle East, all are now facing the threat of deportation because of ultra-right national swing in European politics. But the scenario in the sub-continent is totally different. Then Bangladesh is not Pakistan. Bangladesh had to win independence after fighting the Pakistani junta in a bloody war while making tremendous sacrifices. The young nation is proud of their hard earned freedom. Economic migration has nothing to do with persecution. And migrants who earn their living through hard and hazardous toil in no way pose a threat to national security though the BJP quite often exaggerates the perception of national security.

Hitler had a solution for the Jews—Gas Chambers. The saffronities have their own idea of extermination through dubious means—riots, recurring communal riots. Secular for decades India has now been inculcated with religious trappings directed by the saffron ideologues. They are waging sporadic wars on the minority and dalits and NRC is part of that great gamble called "exclusion".

Vol. 51, No.9, Sep 2 - 8, 2018