New Delhi, India – A tweet posted by India’s governing party has triggered controversy, with the right-wing party accused of mocking a phrase used by anti-citizenship law protesters.
India has witnessed nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed by Parliament in December last year in the latest in a string of anti-Muslim policies pushed by the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
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The slogan “Kaaghaz Nahi Dikhayenge Hum” (we will not show the documents) has reverberated through the more than seven weeks of protests, as a mark of defiance against the planned National Register of Citizens (NRC).
— BJP Karnataka (@BJP4Karnataka) February 8, 2020
The government says it has yet to decide on the implementation of the NRC, but wants to go ahead with National Population Register (NPR), which critics say is a precursor to the NRC.
The BJP Karnataka unit on Saturday tweeted a video of burqa-clad Muslim women standing in a queue apparently outside a polling station in the Indian capital New Delhi, to cast their votes, with a caption: “Kaagaz Nahi Dikayenge Hum !!!. Keep the documents safe, you will need to show them again during NPR exercise.”
The tweet has gained over 31,000 likes and has been retweeted more than 10,000 times with many criticising the right-wing party for threatening protesters.
This is India’s ruling party, a group of extreme nationalists, openly mocking a phrase being used by dissenters and protesters across their nation to resist discriminatory policies. Somebody please remind the BJP that, in a democracy: Dissent in Patriotic. https://t.co/cvwddRohzr
— Audrey Truschke (@AudreyTruschke) February 9, 2020
“What an utterly crude handle you operate. The language of thugs and goons from the state of Karnataka known for its literary excellence. Disgraceful,” one user wrote.
Senior journalist Suhasini Haider tweeted: “This taunting and mocking tone towards a minority by the ruling party is not just frightening; it is against everything India stands for.”
“There is reason to believe that the party’s bigoted dog-whistling is the true intent and the union government’s denials are not taken seriously even by the party in power itself,” said Gazala Wahab, assistant professor at JNU’s Centre for the Study of Law and Governance.
This is not the first time the @BJP4Karnataka handle has come under fire for controversial tweets.
Last month, it posted a controversial tweet comparing a student from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) with a gunman who fired at protesters near Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university in New Delhi.
The tweet had photos of Sharjeel Imam – who is in police custody for making a speech – and the gunman with the caption: “Action” for Imam and “reaction” for the gunman, implying the firing was in reaction to Imam’s speech.
Two recent posts by BJP handles which they had to delete. ‘The nation wants to know’ why they put these up. Their supporters wish to know why they deleted them. Unless, of course, their social media handles are also operated, like guns at Jamia, by juveniles?! pic.twitter.com/xjjN9Z7AUp
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) January 31, 2020
The tweet was later deleted after public outcry.
Even some BJP supporters took exception to the tone of the tweet. “Not done! Adds to the fear factor! Derails PM Modi’s pitch. Please be sensible,” wrote Amrita Bhinder, a vocal supporter of the BJP and a former member of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha [the BJP youth wing].
Delhi-based activist, Shabnam Hashmi told Al Jazeera that Karnataka BJP is “menacingly offensive” and it is constantly creating an atmosphere of “hate and polarisation”.
“It seems to say whether you [Muslims] like it or not you will have to show the documents during NPR. Not only Muslims but all marginalised sections will suffer heavily during the NRC process the first step of which begins with NPR,” Hashmi said.
“It’s during the NPR process that doubtful citizens will be marked. They are only fooling the people,” she said.
BJP leaders from Karnataka in the past have been accused of whipping up a xenophobic frenzy, with the state government cracking down on undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh.
Last month, hundreds of people were rendered homeless after authorities demolished a slum in the state capital of Bengaluru, also known as the Silicon Valley of India, over rumours it was inhabited by Bangladeshis. It later turned out that all residents were Indian citizens.
Tejasvi Surya, a BJP member of parliament from Karnataka, has been accused of fear-mongering and Islamophobia.
“Shaheen Bagh is [a] symbol of Islamic fanaticism in garb of constitutional secularism,” he tweeted, referring to the epicentre of anti-CAA protests.
Critics say the citizenship law, which fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslims from three neighbouring countries, goes against the country’s secular constitution.
The law along with the proposed nationwide NRC has instilled fear among the country’s Muslims, who form nearly 15 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population.
India has witnessed massive protests after the BJP-led government passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act in December last year [File: Bilal Kuchay/Al Jazeera]
Nearly 30 people have died in the anti-CAA protests across the country so far.
A similar exercise conducted in the northeastern state of Assam excluded nearly two million people from the citizenship list last year.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said no individual will be required to submit any document for the NPR survey, but the tweet by Karnataka BJP says otherwise.
BJP spokesman Nalin Kohli also said the NPR does not require citizenship documents.
“The tweet by the Karnataka BJP handle … leads to an unnecessary confusion because the NPR doesn’t require any documents and it has been reiterated by the union government on a number of occasions.”
India’s Modi visits Ladakh region where troops clashed with China |NationalTribune.com
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the “age of expansionism” is over, as he paid tribute to soldiers killed in last month’s border skirmish with China on a surprise visit to the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh amid escalating tension between the Asian giants. “Age of expansionism is over, this is the age of development.…
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the “age of expansionism” is over, as he paid tribute to soldiers killed in last month’s border skirmish with China on a surprise visit to the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh amid escalating tension between the Asian giants.
“Age of expansionism is over, this is the age of development. History is witness that expansionist forces have either lost or were forced to turn back,” Modi said without naming China during his first trip to the disputed region since June 15 deadly border clash, in which at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
Modi, who has been under pressure to respond to what India deems Chinese incursions, met troops at a base in Ladakh’s Nimu area, pictures from Reuters partner ANI showed.
“Your courage is higher than the heights where you are posted today,” he said in his address to soldiers in Ladakh.
“The bravery that you and your compatriots showed, a message has gone to the world about India’s strength.”
Earlier visuals of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in Ladakh, he was later briefed by senior officials in Nimmoo. pic.twitter.com/fDO6qvpMcM
— ANI (@ANI) July 3, 2020
Modi was accompanied by the chief of defence staff, General Bipin Rawat, and the chief of the army, General Manoj Mukund Naravane.
India and China have traded blame for triggering the high-altitude brawl in the Galwan Valley on June 15, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed and at least 76 were injured.
The border clash saw soldiers engaged in brutal hand-to-hand fighting with clubs and staves about 4,270 metres (14,000 feet) above sea level amid sub-zero temperatures. It was the worst border skirmish in nearly 50 years.
Officials said Modi was accompanied by the chief of defence staff, General Bipin Rawat, and the chief of the army, General Manoj Mukund Naravane [Reuters]
China has not disclosed how many casualties its troops suffered.
The nuclear-armed neighbours have amassed troops along the 3,500km (2,200 mile) long border, most of which is not demarcated, and military and diplomatic talks are going on to de-escalate the confrontation.
India claims 38,000sq km (15,000sq miles) of land currently under Chinese control while Beijing stakes claim to 90,000sq km (34,700sq miles) area within Indian territory.
Analysts say the current standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a result of Chinese pushback against India’s building of military infrastructure at the de facto border in recent years.
Another reason, according to some experts, is linked to India’s unilateral move last year to repeal Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which had guaranteed a measure of autonomy to Indian-administered Kashmir, which also included the disputed areas of Ladakh region.
China, which, like Pakistan, saw India’s move as unilaterally affecting its territory, strongly denounced the move at the United Nations Security Council last year.
India buys fighter jets
Meanwhile, India’s Ministry of Defence on Thursday approved the purchase of 21 Russian MiG-29 and 12 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft costing $2.43bn to augment its air force in the wake of the border standoff with China.
India is also awaiting the arrival of the first batch of 36 Rafale fighter jets ordered as part of a $8.78bn deal signed with France in 2016.
Last week, India banned 59, mostly Chinese, mobile phone applications in retaliation to the killing of its soldiers that has caused an anti-Chinese backlash.
China said on Friday that artificial blocks to bilateral cooperation would harm India’s interests and that the two countries should work together to uphold peace in their border region.
Beijing will take necessary measures to uphold the rights of Chinese businesses in India, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing.
India-China annual bilateral trade stands at $92bn.
India’s Anti-Terror Raids Are Leaving Kashmiris Homeless During Coronavirus
SRINAGAR, India — Insurgents and Indian security forces ambushed each other nearly every day this week in the disputed territory of Kashmir, despite calls for a ceasefire during the pandemic. On Tuesday, a fierce gunfight erupted in Srinagar, Kashmir’s capital city, where police killed a top commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, a militant outfit that’s thought…
SRINAGAR, India — Insurgents and Indian security forces ambushed each other nearly every day this week in the disputed territory of Kashmir, despite calls for a ceasefire during the pandemic.
On Tuesday, a fierce gunfight erupted in Srinagar, Kashmir’s capital city, where police killed a top commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, a militant outfit that’s thought to be supported by Pakistan. In the process, security forces destroyed about a dozen civilian homes.
“They kicked down the door to our house. They told us ‘put your hands up!’” Beba Bashir, a homemaker, told VICE News.
Bashir says the police accused her family of harboring terrorists, beat her two sons, and forced them to take a video of their home to prove there were no militants hiding inside. All the while, she said, they threatened to shoot them.
Eventually, Bashir and her children were allowed to leave. But when they returned the next day, their house was completely destroyed.
“We lost everything,” Bashir said. “They did this during this pandemic. Where should we go?”
The violence is only ratcheting up an already tense situation; Kashmir has been under lockdown since long before the coronavirus hit. Last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi changed the country’s constitution to do away with the disputed region’s special autonomy, jailing opposition leaders and restricting internet and phone services as a way to prevent a mass uprising against him.
Though he promised his reforms would bring economic prosperity to the valley, the unending political lockdown has made life in the pandemic near impossible.
“Throughout the world, people are saying work from your houses. Unfortunately, we are not able to do such things here in Kashmir; there is no internet,” Sheikh Ashiq, the president of Kashmir’s Chamber of Commerce, told VICE News.
And during the lockdown, Modi’s government passed a new law allowing outsiders to acquire property in Kashmir.
Pakistan, which also lays claim to Kashmir, accuses India’s Hindu nationalist leadership of using the coronavirus lockdown to engineer demographic change in its largest Muslim-majority region.
For business leaders like Ashiq, the timing of the new law shows the government is focused on controlling the political climate rather than caring for the well-being of Kashmiris.
“This [decision] is too much in haste,” Ashiq said. “At this time, I think one has to think about how to support people, how to give them a humanitarian touch, rather than going for all these things where they feel more insecure.”
Cover: Beba Bashir hugs a friend amidst the rubble of her home in Srinagar, Kashmir’s capital city.
Video produced by: Angad Singh, Zubair Ahmed Dar
Video edited by: Danny Card
‘Stigmatised’: India’s coronavirus ‘heroes’ come under attack
Doctors, nurses and other frontline workers in the fight against coronavirus in India, who have been hailed as “heroes”, have come under attack and in some cases evicted from their homes by panicked residents. Some e-commerce giants have even halted deliveries partly due to the harassment of staff, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi said abuse…
Doctors, nurses and other frontline workers in the fight against coronavirus in India, who have been hailed as “heroes”, have come under attack and in some cases evicted from their homes by panicked residents.
Some e-commerce giants have even halted deliveries partly due to the harassment of staff, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi said abuse of hospital workers had become a “huge issue”.
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Reports of attacks and abuse have come from across India, increasing with the imposition this week of a 21-day nationwide lockdown. In at least one case, police were accused of beating a delivery driver carrying medicines.
Sanjibani Panigrahi, a doctor in the western city of Surat, described how she was accosted as she returned home from a long day at a hospital that is treating COVID-19 patients.
She said neighbours blocked her at the entrance to her apartment building and threatened “consequences” if she continued to work.
“These are the same people who have happily interacted with me (in the past). Whenever they’ve faced a problem, I’ve helped them out,” the 36-year-old told AFP.
“There is a sense of fear among people. I do understand. But it’s like I suddenly became an untouchable.”
This week, doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences appealed to the government for help after health workers were forced out of their homes by panicked landlords and housing societies.
“Many doctors are stranded on the roads with all their luggage, nowhere to go, across the country,” the letter said.
Modi called on Indians to stop treating medical workers as pariahs, describing those fighting the virus as “God-like”.
“Today they are the people who are saving us from dying, putting their lives in danger.”
Health workers are not the only ones facing the brunt of the frightened population in an environment where misinformation and rumours are thriving.
Airline and airport staff, who are still being called on for evacuations of Indians stuck overseas and to manage key cargo deliveries, have also been threatened.
Indigo and Air India have condemned threats made against their staff.
An Air India flight attendant told AFP her neighbours threatened to evict her from her apartment while she was heading to the United States, saying she would “infect everyone”.
“I couldn’t sleep that night,” she said, afraid to reveal her name over the fear of further stigmatisation.
“I was scared that even if I did go home, would someone break open the door or call people to kick me out?”
Her husband had to ask the police for help.
Others have not been as lucky, the flight attendant said, with one colleague – who declined to speak to AFP – forced out of her home and now living with her parents.
“With all the fake news and WhatsApp forwards, they don’t know what is going on, so there’s this paranoia that makes them behave like this,” she said.
T Praveen Keerthi, general secretary of the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (IPCA), told AFP the organisation had received more than 50 complaints from airline crew.
“Airline staffers are being stopped from entering their own residential premises by security guards,” he said.
“We also have families and children that we leave at home to help fellow citizens … The least we expect is for our colleagues to not be harassed and ostracised.”
Airport workers involved in moving essential supplies have also faced attacks as have delivery workers transporting medicines and groceries.
E-commerce giant Flipkart temporarily suspended services this week.
The Walmart-owned group said it only resumed home deliveries after police guaranteed “the safe and smooth passage of our supply chain and delivery executives”.
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