While tens of thousands of Indian farmers marching on the capital New Delhi are currently being brutally fired upon by tear gas and water cannons, a global round table was held from the NSW Parliament yesterday, Thursday 26 November seeking to explore the question, “Is India becoming a fascist state?” in response to the rising authoritarian tendencies of the Modi government and human rights violations in India. The speakers at the event included eminent civil society activists, academics, journalists and politicians from Australia, India, Britain, and the US.
The round table was organised by a broad international coalition comprising of the Australia based, The Humanism Project (THP) , the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) , Hindus for Human Rights, US and Amnesty International, Australia.
NSW MP David Shoebridge opened the round table with a commentary on the significance of the event saying,“the erosion of civil liberties, the aggression of police and the increasing politicisation of the judiciary means that people are now seriously asking, ‘Is India slipping towards fascism? As a friend of India, Australia and Australian politicians should support those voices from India and the diaspora who commit to our shared values of democracy, liberty and rule of law.”
Greens Foreign Affairs spokesman and Federal Senator Janet Rice said, “Human rights are fundamental, and must be protected in all countries and for all people. Sadly in India, as in many countries around the world, people’s human rights are frequently not respected. We are particularly concerned at the impacts on religious minorities, political opposition groups, Indigenous peoples and other vulnerable communities. This forum is an important opportunity to hear from human rights advocates and a range of voices from around the world.”
Former Senator Lee Rhiannon said, “I am often asked ‘Is the Modi government promoting a fascist vision for India?’ I understand why people ask this question. There has been an alarming decline in democratic and secular standards in India. Massive detention centres have been constructed for the millions deemed to be non-citizens under new laws. Minorities are being killed. In Kashmir, in addition to the unilateral abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, the entire population of Kashmir has been deprived of their right to freedom of expression and opinion through protracted communication restrictions, in place for the past year. These actions are compounded by a censored media, continuing detention of political leaders and a compromised judicial system. This forum is timely. The global community needs to be informed.”
The roundtable was also addressed by a number of overseas speakers.
Mr Shaffaq Mohammed MBE, a British politician of Kashmiri heritage who served as a Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Yorkshire & The Humber region from 2019 to 2020 compared the fascism in Europe that led to the killing of around 6 millions of jews and the ideology of Hindutva targeting minorities in India specially Muslim Indians.
Mr Mohammed talked about the brutal lockdown now for more than a year imposed in Indian Administered Kashmir following the revocation of Article 370 & 35A in Aug 2019, that gave the region special status & autonomy.
In January 2020 Mohammed was the lead proposer of a resolution against the Indian Citizen Amendment Act that gained the support of the main 5 political groups that made up the 750 seat European parliament.
US Congress woman elect Ms Marie Newman who won election in Illinois’s 3rd congressional district to the United States House of Representatives as the Democratic nominee talked about the change in US and assured her full support to rights groups calling for accountability of the Indian government with respect to human rights in the country.
Ms Suchitra Vijayan, the founder and the Executive Director of The Polis Project who writes about war, conflict, foreign policy, politics, literature, and photography listed the increasing fascist policies of the Modi government and its total control on judiciary, law enforcement and mass media in India in order to suppress any descent in the country.
Mr Raju Rajagopal, C0-founder of Hindus for Human Rights talked about the cooperation of civil society activists from Indian diaspora to coordinate their efforts on a global level fighting against Hindutva ideology and creating awareness of human rights abuses in India by the current Modi government amongst the international community.
Professor Anjali Arondekar, a professor of Feminist Studies, and Director, Center for South Asian Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz talked about the caste based politics in India and discrimination, oppression and marginalisation of low caste Indians and other minorities including Muslims by the current BJP government.
Mr Pieter Friedrich who specialises in analysis of historical and current affairs in South Asia and engages with issues such as human rights, supremacist political ideologies, ethno-nationalism, politicisation of religion, authoritarian government structures and policies, state-sponsored atrocities, and the need to unify around doctrines of liberty informed the audience of RSS and HSS influence on Indian American diaspora, its funding efforts towards re-election of Trump and in turn funding of Hindutva organisations by rich American Indians.
Mr Joel MacKay, a human rights campaigner at Amnesty International Australia talked about erosion of human rights in India since Modi came to power and intimidation, laws against funding and finally shutting down of rights organisations and arrest of their staff in India, in particular that of Amnesty International.
Watch the proceedings of the full Round Table here: