BJP’s Revanchist Romance under a Nuclear Overhang

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The current BJP government under PM Narendra Modi has a long history that can be traced back to the pre-partition era. Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) was founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar and was not formally introduced to Indian politics until 1951, when Bharatiya Jana Sangh was formed to counter Centre-left secularist Indian National Congress and promote ethnic nationalism. In order to adapt to the evolving political scenario, the party [RSS] was relaunched as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980. It is an open secret that BJP’s Hindu nationalist militia RSS –which has membership in millions– draws direct inspiration from Adolf Hitler and the Nazi ideology. In the last two decades of the 20th century, BJP tried to balance its approach between moderate Hinduism and the naturally-aspired extremist ideology. However, in 2002, the well-documented Gujarat Riots under the then-CM Narendra Modi showed how Hindu extremism dominated BJP.

Afterwards, BJP followed a systematically-driven coordinated set of strategies to label Muslims (14% of the population) as a threat to the Hindu majority, build a narrative of Hindu insecurity and portray Islam as the root of evilness against the Hindu nation. The BJP not only projects Muslims as an internal enemy but also as an external enemy. In the contemporary scenario, this extremist ideology has targeted other religious and ethnic minorities and has also contaminated the country’s foreign policy and security outlook. Moreover, its spill-over effects have taken into the fold the state’s military institutions to serve the interests of a religiously-activated anti-minority political party.

In 2020, more than 50 Muslims were burned or shot to death during the Delhi riots. These riots were led by Hindu extremists, most of whom are part of the BJP. Earlier in January 2022, BJP leaders who organized an event in Haridwar called for the genocide of Muslims. Scholars have called on the international community to stop these anti-minorities campaigns. Dr. Gregory Stanton, the founder of Genocide Watch, has warned that genocide in India and Kashmir is being planned.

BJP’s Akhand Bharat narrative, anti-Muslim approach, and extremist-led policies have polluted and divided the Indian population and its armed forces and pose a grave threat to the country’s national security. In addition, these policies have time and again pushed the three nuclear-armed neighbours to the brink of a nuclear war. Senior leadership from the BJP government has called out the country’s law enforcement and security forces to wipe out Islam and any competing religious ideology against Hinduism in the country. Moreover, they have also instigated a drive to reclaim the lost territories allegedly taken by Muslims through brute force. The said BJP leaders connect these directions with religion, press everyone to weaponize themselves and wage war on Muslims home and abroad under Dharmadesh, or a deadly war would be in order.

Merits on the promotion ladder in the Indian Army are also heavily dominated by the Hindutva doctrine. Indian Army stands divided at its greatest: reports have indicated preferential promotions based on [indoctrination with] Hindutva ideological supporters; the promotion of General Bipin Rawat, former Indian Chief of Defence Staff, is explicitly linked to the political agenda of BJP. Based on this, the Indian armed forces are publically being referred to as “Modi ki Sena [Modi’s Army].” However, another group of Indian army officers hold a principle difference of opinion. Lt. Gen. (R) HS Panag said that it is a worrisome trend that the Indian Army’s hierarchy is associated with the ruling party and shows signs of religion-based biases. Admiral (R) Arun Prakash, former Indian naval chief, expressed his concerns about BJP’s vigilante brigade polarizing society and armed forces and endangering Indian national security.

PM Modi’s revanchist romance spearheads the adoption of a renewed [but miscalculated] military doctrine and force posturing based on a hegemonic strategy to suppress Muslims in and around India. The ulterior motives of BJP’s current hierarchy are to reclaim territories under the Akhand Bharat concept and implement their version of Hinduism in them, overlooking rather negating the fact that they are rightful parts of two nuclear-armed neighbours. The usage of Hindutva to exploit the electoral process and fuel hatred among society might have been successful for BJP. However, it has misread the situation at the borders several times while pushing its armed forces towards confrontation. Notable examples from recent years include the Pulwama crisis, the claimed-Balakot surgical strikes and the Ladakh-Aksai Chin standoff.

Not to limit the debate in a tunnelled view, one must analyze the cost of war for India, where the majority of the population lives under the line of poverty. Many would ask why link such a critical debate to poverty? Two-thirds of the Indian population (around 68.8%) survive under $2 per day, mainly because India funnels the majority of its revenue towards arms acquisition, up-gradation of weapons, associated technologies, test-bed exercises and transformation of its deployment patterns. If these funds are channelized towards activities promoting peace, facilitating confidence-building measures, opening table talks etc., it will help cast away the dark clouds of a nuclear war.

BJP, under PM Modi, continues to operate in a toxic manner that destabilizes the region and sets aside many of India’s principle claims, such as non-intervention policy, harmonious relations with neighbours, promoting peace and stability in the world and so on. The people of India must recognize the insider threats to the country, which are currently visible in the form of a war-mongering government maligning each state institution.

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