Militarization and excessive nationalism are permeating all strata of Indian society. Retired Air Marshals publish books praising Indian soldiers while downplaying or ignoring their worst crimes. Sociologists like Sanjay Srivastava lament that chauvinistic food and consumer goods marketing campaigns, especially after India’s forays into occupied Pakistani Kashmir in 2016, have insidiously normalized the gruesome violence “as mere playful events. daily ”. Talk shows, news channels and interview panels are inundated with hawkish ex-generals comparing Pakistan to a “mad dog”, as The Print shows. India is even home to the second most heavily armed civilian population in the world. An investigation by the International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom concluded that widespread economic insecurity, status-seeking and a deep-rooted “machismo” culture fuel the black market arms trade. Illegal firearms bazaars are growing at an alarming rate in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana.
Additionally, philosopher Samir Chopra has revealed how the Indian armed forces are using the Bollywood film industry as a tool to spread propaganda. Filmmakers are constantly producing popular blockbusters that glorify or whitewash Delhi’s brutal occupation of Kashmir. Even politicians are shooting a war tale on the Covid-19 pandemic – a tale that justifies the near-permanent suspension of civil liberties and conveniently absolves authorities of all responsibility for the deaths of millions of poor and marginalized people as a result of the virus, as noted by Niharika Pandit, specialist in gender studies.
The devastating defeat at the hands of China in 1962 pushed India down the path of militarization. The vision of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India as the leading representative of peaceful development was shattered overnight. An assertive militarism quickly replaced Nehru’s pacifism as Delhi relied on an aggressive force to exert influence abroad and crush rebellions or social movements at home. The armed forces quickly exercised unprecedented police powers during Indira Gandhi’s “emergency” dictatorship of 1975-77. Two years later, the Communist administration of West Bengal oversaw the massacre of Dalit refugees on the island of Marichjhanpi. No police have been held responsible for the alleged murder of thousands of unarmed women and children, according to journalist Deep Halder. In the early 1990s, millions of citizens of Kashmir, Punjab and the northeastern states of Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh were living under a direct or secret military regime, according to political scientist Seema Kazi. A cruel autocracy lurks beneath the world’s largest democracy.
Militarization persists today and is more apparent in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). According to Professor Devesh Kapur of South Asian Studies, the size of the paramilitary police force has grown exponentially over the past two decades. The Ministry of the Interior, which controls among others the Border Security Force (BSF), the Central Police Reserve Force (CRPF), the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police ( ITBP), is one of the few departments to see a significant increase in their staff. In 2015, the CAPF almost surpassed the Indian Army in terms of numbers.
The CAPF, according to GP Joshi, a member of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and retired police officer, “are organized more or less like the army’s infantry battalions … trained to attack and annihilate.” In other words, they are trained to fight exceptional threats like Maoist insurgencies in Chhattisgarh or to patrol India’s volatile borders with Pakistan and China, not to handle day-to-day law enforcement affairs. . Yet state administrations continue to use ill-equipped and poorly managed CAPFs to the detriment of neglected and under-funded state police.
To make matters worse, the public supports the deployment of paramilitaries due to local police corruption and lack of impartiality during violent inter-communal skirmishes. Vulnerable religious minorities, Adivasis tribes, and lower castes such as Dalits and Shudras often view the police as the foot soldiers of the owners of the upper castes. A Human Rights Watch report even cited an activist in Delhi who compared India’s police force to a criminal enterprise “masquerading as the law.” Additionally, Indian Army veterans like Major Gaurav Arya take advantage of the police’s dismal reputation to argue that supposedly disciplined, competent and honest army officers deserve more access to leadership positions in the world. various police organizations, as Asia Times noted.
It is therefore not surprising that ordinary Indians instead trust highly militarized units to protect them, no matter how dangerous the CAPF may be to the stability of the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to centralize the police have so far been a resounding success. Article 14 alleges that 2021 has seen the proliferation of secret agencies with frightening powers. The new Uttar Pradesh Special Security Force is “protected from civil or criminal prosecution and can search or arrest anyone only on” reasonable suspicion “without a warrant or magistrate’s order. The jurisdiction of the Border Security Force has also been expanded to include Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. Indian states must stop ceding their dwindling policing powers to an increasingly authoritarian government in Delhi. Trigger-friendly paramilitaries are no substitute for level-headed, well-paid and respectable state policemen.
Members of Hindu nationalist groups like the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and BJP (Bharatiya Jana Party) also tend to adopt a militarist philosophy and worldview. Academics like Bidyut Chakrabarty, Bhuwan Jha, and Marzia Casolari have amply demonstrated how fanatic supporters of Hindu supremacism expressed their admiration for the military prowess and martial spirit that fascist regimes in Italy and Nazi Germany displayed in the 1930s. Ideologues like BS Moonje and VD Savarkar believed that it was only through rigorous physical “regeneration” and rifle practice that young Hindus could hope to assert their dominance over the Muslim minority in India.
The leaders and recruits of the contemporary RSS took these grim lessons to heart. Journalist Samanth Subramanian reports that around four million RSS volunteers take an oath of allegiance to Hindu culture and religion, wear matching uniforms, participate in quasi-military exercises, and participate in fascist parades at the edge of their field. aversion to Muslims, secularists, socialists and liberals. with each passing year. In January 2020, brigades of young Hindu extremists like the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad), affiliated with the RSS, shouted “shoot the traitors to the nation” while besieging premises belonging to professors and students who dared to criticize the BJP at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). Numerous Amnesty International reports attest that anti-Muslim hate crimes, lynchings and mob violence are on the increase in BJP-controlled states. A cold civil war is underway.
Modi’s government is also waging a relentless “war” against Muslims in India. Following its victory in the 2019 general election, a series of legislative coups confirmed that the main objective of the BJP is to institutionalize anti-Muslim discrimination and transform India into a Hindu supremacist nation. Repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution deprived the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir of autonomy, while revision of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) could deprive thousands of Muslims Indians of their citizenship. Additionally, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) prevents Muslim immigrants fleeing Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan from acquiring Indian citizenship, according to Usama Hameed and DW News. The fact that Delhi is even considering rounding up “foreigners” (read Assamese Muslims) in internment centers strangely resembling concentration camps is another disturbing illustration of how far the BJP is willing to go to win the war. against “enemies within,” as reported in the Guardian.
What can be done to stem the tide of militarism? The many local human rights organizations that have emerged in response to disastrous counterinsurgency tactics in northeastern states like Manipur offer many lessons worth emulating elsewhere in India. Countless people who live in the shadow of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which allows armed personnel to commit heinous atrocities against mostly innocent civilians without fear of persecution, fight fiercely to resist the militarization of their communities. Women’s movements, like the Meira Paibis (torchbearers), have an exemplary track record when it comes to organizing imaginative and eye-catching non-violent protests. Following the rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama by paramilitaries in 2004, twelve women undressed in front of the headquarters of the Assam Rifles regiment in Imphal. The naked demonstration caused a stir nationally and internationally. Although Delhi ultimately refused to accept protesters’ demands to repeal AFSPA, the Assam Rifles have since refrained from engaging in serious human rights violations and the number of paramilitary crimes has steadily declined.
Groups like Human Rights Alert (HRA) and the Association of Families of Victims of Extrajudicial Executions (EEVFAM) have also been very successful in containing the Manipur Police Commandos (MPC). The wives, mothers and family members of victims indiscriminately killed by the MPC have filed a public interest complaint with the Indian Supreme Court, demanding an investigation into the extrajudicial killings and compensation. In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that security forces should be held accountable for the crimes they committed. Sociologist Makiko Kimura says extrajudicial killings in Manipur have now almost entirely disappeared. The police and security personnel are finally really afraid of being punished.
Militarization can be stopped. It is incumbent on organizations like the Control Arms Foundation of India to transform the cause of anti-militarism into a mass movement akin to farmers’ strikes. Skanda, the Hindu god of war, should not replace Gandhi as an icon of India.