India 2019: Assaulting the world’s largest democracy; building a kingdom of cruelty and fear

Autore: Michelguglielmo Torri
In: Asia Maior. XXX / 2019

The seven months starting with the formation of the second Modi’s government in May 2019 and the end of the year were characterised by the systematic and massive assault on democracy launched by the incumbent government. The highpoints of this assault were basically two. The first was the hollowing out of two key articles of the Constitution, which had guaranteed the autonomy of Jammu & Kashmir, the only Union state with a Muslim majority, followed by its dismantling as a state and its transformation into an internal colony brutally ruled through military force. The second highpoint was the attempt to modify the concept of Indian citizenship by introducing a religious criterion aimed at excluding persons of Muslim religion. Both moves appeared to be in contrast with the Indian Constitution; however, the Supreme Court studiously avoided contrasting the Modi government’s policies. The most important Supreme Court’s sentence in the period under review, far from being related to the possibly unconstitutional activities of the government, dealt with the Ayodhya question and de facto justified the destruction of the Babri Masjid by Hindu extremists in 1992. Eventually a reaction to the country’s slide towards authoritarianism set in at the beginning of December, when a mass movement against the modification of the secular concept of citizenship spread in large parts of India and was harshly repressed in the Union states governed by Modi’s party, the BJP. Modi and his closest aides, while focussing their efforts on the assault on democracy, seemed to be disinterested in the disappointing economic situation, possibly as a consequence of their inability, during the previous term, to manage it properly. Hence, the real dimensions of the slowdown, resulting from the first Modi government’s mismanagement of the economy became increasingly evident. As evident became the inability of the new finance minister to redress the situation. Ominously, by the end of the period the GDP appeared to be sliding back to the infamous «Hindu rate of growth», namely the slow growth characterising the years from 1950 to 1980.

Michelguglielmo Torri | University of Turin |