Outbreak of anti-Muslim violence in India: only the proletarian struggle for the overthrow of capitalism can put an end to nationalist and racist crimes, and emancipate oppressed minorities!
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 16; Spring-Summer 2020)
From February 22 to February 26, while the Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi was meeting with the American president Donald Trump with great pomp in New Delhi, the Indian capital city’s northeast proletarian districts, home to an important Muslim minority, have been the scene of racist terror attacks. Gangs of Hindu nationalist extremists were unleashed on Muslims, breaking into their homes and shops, and even burning them down. All of which, under the watch of an unperturbed police.
Global Medias have been reporting on “communal violence”, or clashes between local believers. In fact, the local leaders of the ruling reactionary, Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), and of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a nationalist paramilitary organisation from which the BJP spawned, are directly responsible for these attacks. For weeks, they had been encouraging violence against those who have been protesting against the BJP government’s new anti-Muslim citizenship act (CAA). The attacks followed an inflaming meeting speech by Kapil Mishra, BJP’s unsuccessful candidate in Delhi’s regional elections in early February. Mishra wanted the police to disperse the protesters who were blocking one of Delhi’s main roads; failing that, his supporters would do it themselves. A few hours later, said supporters followed through with the threats, by attacking the protesters first, then Muslim inhabitants.
The toll is heavy: almost 40 dead, some burned alive in their homes, some shot, some lynched by thugs shouting BJP slogans like “India for Hindus” or “Jai Shree Ram” (Hail Lord Ram), and several hundreds wounded.
These victims are swelling the ranks of the many who had already been struck by the repression of anti-CAA protests all over India. In order to have free rein, the government has been invoking the penal code’s article 144, which forbids any gathering of more than four people, in vast parts of the country, including the whole of Uttar Pradesh (230 million people), the whole of Karnataka (65 million), and some parts of New Delhi.
The main cause for this violence is not some Indian peculiarity or the legacy of some centuries-old antagonism between religions. No! Ethnic and religious violence is the direct consequence of Capital’s domination.
HINDU NATIONALISTS PERPETUATE THE “DIVIDE AND CONQUER” POLICY…
British colonisers had segregated the Indian population into distinct, impermeable communities, with a clear cut between Hindus and Muslims. Having become masters in the art of “dividing and conquering”, they consistently opposed Muslim Indians to the other believers. This policy end in a bloodbath when India and Pakistan gained independence. Between one and two million people died in massacres or after vast exoduses. In the end, the newly formed Indian State was home to a 15% Muslim minority.
Anti-Muslim hatred is an integral part of the BJP’s ideology. This far right party is responsible for one of the bloodiest anti-Muslim pogroms in recent Indian history. The BJP’s leader and current Prime minister, Narendra Modi, was Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002, when he orchestrated a communal massacre that is believed to have killed more than 2,000 people, most of them Muslims.
Since he has taken the helm of the federal government, the number of anti-Muslim crimes, expulsions and forced “reconversion” campaigns targeting non-Hindus have surged. RSS and BJP members act freely, helped by the passivity of both police and the judicial system. On top of this extra-legal violence, come several new anti-Muslim discriminatory laws. Last year, in the State of Assam, the BJP has established a register depriving 4 million inhabitants of their citizenship (a number later reduced to about 2 million).
In August, the government has stripped Kashmir, a Muslim-majority northern Indian State, of its autonomous status. This status had been enshrined in the country’s constitution back in the days of independence, when the region had been split de facto between India and Pakistan, which both have claims on it and have gone at war with one another twice over it. For decades, clashes, repression and guerrilla have kept happening in Indian Kashmir, and dozens of thousands have died. Indian nationalists had been demanding the abolition of Kashmir’s autonomy for a long time; when Modi’s government finally decided to enforce it, in the blink of an eye, the State’s 13 million inhabitants found themselves under siege, and thousands were arrested; six months later, Kashmir still hasn’t a rule of law.
Finally, on December 4, 2019, the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) was promulgated. This law makes it easier for refugees to be granted citizenship, provided that they are not Muslims. Muslims risk being declared “stateless”, losing all rights to citizenship and potentially being arrested and expelled. Many protests have followed (and have been brutally repressed by the government), because the CAA seems to be a milestone in the BJP’s agenda of depriving India’s 200 million Muslims of their citizenship, or making them into second-class citizens.
… IN THE HOPE OF DISTRACTING WORKERS FROM CLASS STRUGGLE
India’s bourgeoisie uses Hindu chauvinism to bind the exploited classes to their exploiters, thus facilitating bourgeois attacks.
Modi and the BJP ascended to power in order to launch a ferocious offensive against proletarian conditions of life, labour, and struggle. They are the advocates of a “shock therapy” based on “structural reforms” claimed to be able to ensure a quick development of the nation’s economy. The IMF has praised these “ModiNomics”. The social measures and labour laws that had been granted at the time of Independence in order to prevent social unrest from gaining traction are now under attack, in the name of a legislative “simplification” necessary to “promote business”. The few rules about lay-offs, salary and conditions of labour have been rewritten. Union rights have been limited as well. At the same time, radical cuts in social benefits, privatisations and massive tax reductions for employers have all been multiplying.
In the face of the discontent that such anti-proletarian measures were bound to cause, a discontent even intensified by the last months’ sharp economic downturn, the government uses the classic method of every bourgeoisie in the world: it intensifies its nationalistic and racist propaganda, according to which Muslims are agents of the Pakistani enemy, and cause of all evils.
British bourgeois used this “divide and conquer” policy in order to secure their colonial domination. Indian bourgeois have used the same policy in order to secure their brutal exploitation of proletarian and peasant masses, and the BJP is this “biggest democracy in the world” worthy heir.
Against these ethnic, racist and religious divisions, the proletariat will have to affirm its own unity and class solidarity, if it is to repel successfully bourgeois attacks, whether they come from the BJP’s “fascists”, the Congress’s “democrats” or… the fake “communists” à la Stalin.
DALITS AND ADIVASIS ARE STILL BEING OPPRESSED
Beside Muslims, India is home to other minorities, of a distinct nature: the native or tribal peoples (Adivasis), and the “untouchables” (Dalits).
The 80 million Adivasis form the poorest strata of India’s population. They live in forests, jungles, and have almost no access to schools, hospitals or basic amenities, like clean water. Literacy is below 25%, and there is widespread malnutrition. These people are often violently forced out of their villages in order to hand over their land to the mining industry. Houses are set on fire; natives are thrown into detention camps so that capitalists can exploit the huge deposits of iron, coal, limestone and bauxite.
The Indian constitution has formally abolished untouchability, but little has changed for most of the country’s 220 million Dalits. The old caste system is well ingrained in India’s rural villages. Higher castes dominate lower castes and their many sub-castes, and, below them all, those who do not belong to a caste, the “untouchables”, are forcefully segregated, socially and often physically. Their specific, hereditary role is to work in others’ domains, or to perform tasks that others find too degrading. They have to live outside of villages and must not enter temples. They also face many more restrictions: they cannot share clean water sources with members of a Hindu caste, eat next to them or even use the same cooking tools… This segregation is violently enforced: every 15 minutes, a Dalit is victim of a crime. Some are murdered because they rode a bicycle or a horse, some because they wore sandals or a moustache…
“THE WORLD’S LARGEST DEMOCRACY” HAS CLEARED THE WAY FOR HINDU SUPREMACISM
Hindu chauvinists and Congress Party’s democrats (as well as their flunkies in “communist” parties) are two sides of a same coin.
A few years after India’s independence, the RSS leaders – admirers of Mussolini and Hitler – offered their support to the Prime Minister Nehru’s Congress Party, in the name of their struggle against communism and their rejection of class struggle. Under the kind supervision of the democratic State, the RSS formed unions with the avowed goal of promoting collaboration between workers and employers. Later, during the 1971 and 1984 elections, RSS cronies campaigned for the Congress leader Indira Gandhi (Nehru’s daughter). Rajiv Gandhi, who had become Prime Minister after his mother’s assassination, then promoted the RSS crusade against the Ayodhya mosque. Built in 1525, it was a symbol of Islam’s presence in India, and therefore a target of nationalist and bigoted Hindus. In 1985, Gandhi’s government ordered the police to open the mosque’s gates by force. Then, in 1989, he campaigned for re-election in the name of Hinduism. In 1992, all of this resulted in the mosque’s destruction by a huge crowd gathered by the RSS, leading to violence that killed almost 2,000 people, most of them Muslims.
Today, the defence of “secularism” by the Congress and the fake communists in the CPI and the CPI(M), is sheer hypocrisy. Sheer hypocrisy as well, their “opposition” to the anti-workers measures that merely aggravate their own attacks against workers. For example, all these democrats have provided their support to the brutal repression targeting Muslim Kashmiris who demand more autonomy or independence for Indian Kashmir. All these democrats are the advocates of Indian nationalism against Muslim Pakistan and Bangladesh.
All these democrats and fake communists have Dalit and Adivasi blood on their hands. In power in West Bengal in 1979, the CPI(M) (“Communist Party of India – Marxist”, which split from the “Communist Party of India”) has massacred hundreds of Hindu Dalits fleeing Bangladesh. In 2006, peasants who were resisting an expropriation from their land by Tata Motors, one of India’s biggest capitalist conglomerates, have been arrested and beaten up with much ferocity, while a young activist was raped and murdered. One year later in the same region, CPI(M) thugs sided with the police and have been reported to have slaughtered about 100 people who were protesting against land appropriation.
Moreover, both CPI and CPI(M) have voiced their support for the government’s military offensives against the Maoist guerrillas that recruit many Adivasis struggling against the pillaging of their resources.
ONE DIRE NEED: THE CLASS PARTY, INTERNATIONALIST AND INTERNATIONAL
India has never had a class party. Founded in 1925, the Communist Party quickly bowed to bourgeois nationalism. After a “peasant-worker” party, it tried to build a “popular” nationalist one. This is why the CPI offered its political support for the Congress, just like the Chinese communist party did with the Kuomintang, an alliance that led to the slaughter of the Chinese proletariat in 1927. Of course, such a support could only come with a refusal to fight the oppression of Dalits. In the late 1920s, there were massive protests against untouchability in the State of Maharashtra. The CPI leaders refused to call proletarians to join this battle, claiming that the struggle against caste oppression was diverting them form “anti-imperialist” struggle.
The formation of an actual class party – in India and elsewhere – must be the sign of a radical departure from this rotten tradition of bowing to interclassism and nationalism. It can only happen with a re-affirmation of true Marxism, of its anti-national, international and internationalist character. It can only happen under the banner of the communist revolution, against pacific transition and Menshevik-like “stage-by-stage revolution”.
Only the proletariat has the power to threaten the foundations of India’s bourgeois State and provide a direction to the Dalits, Adivasis and peasant masses’ struggles, toward the revolutionary struggle against capitalism.
Only the proletarian revolution will provide relief to the masses of pariahs struck by misery and hunger, whom reformists try their best to keep into a dead-end where the only outcome is religious and ethnic revolt, i.e. a reactionary revolt and a victory of capitalism…
March, 1st 2020
International Communist Party