Members of Modi’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) perpetuate Hindu supremacist beliefs and policies abroad to crack down on anti-fascist dissent and actions.
To resist Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Islamophobic Citizenship Amendment Act in India, but even abroad, is to also exist in fear. The CAA proposes to revoke millions of Muslims of Indian citizenship and government forces have cracked down on protests decrying the blatantly Hindu supremacist policy.
My colleague, who I will not name, organized a protest in Turku, Finland on Jan. 26, 2020, India’s Republic Day, which I assisted in as well. We did so in conjunction with others in Helsinki and in Tampere.
However, it quickly became clear that dissent against Modi and against Hindu supremacy — even in Finland! — carries serious implications.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Modi’s version of the SS, is active internationally. Its members carry and perpetuate Hindu supremacist beliefs and policies abroad to crack down on anti-fascist dissent and actions. This reality became quickly evident as the day of the protest came closer.
The posters we printed read, “Say no to Hindu fascism!” As soon as we placed them on university buildings, bars, and cafe walls, we began to see a wave of vitriol online.
One individual posted a picture of our poster to the Indians in Turku Facebook page, demanding the identity of the persons that distributed this message. The Facebook group responded with a menacing message: “…it is highly advised that ‘protesters’ need to choose their words very very carefully.” Later, rumors spread that these posters were placed by ‘Muslims’.
Our fears were confirmed when the messaging — an implicit threat against our right to free speech and to protest — was also shared by the Indian Embassy to Finland.
As the protest started to materialize, there began a concerted effort by the Embassy to dissuade attendance. Heads of Indian associations were called and asked to desist. One even reported that an Embassy representative requested the cancellation of the protest altogether, adding that they “did not want to see anyone hurt.”
The day before the protest, the First Secretary deemed our dissent a product of “misinformation” and “wrong perceptions,” sharing a document that “explained” the CAA to those making a “brouhaha” about it.
The fear that had been created grew to be so pervasive that organizers started to contest what could and could not be said, on the very day of the protest.
If the CAA becomes enacted to its full potential, then the next step will be genocide. The fear that had been created prompted one organizer to request for the word, ‘genocide,’ to not be mentioned — at all.
The day of the protest had been powerful, but there was a paranoia that could be tangibly felt. Hesitation. Yes, we collectively resisted. But, many remain in fear of whether we can return to India. If our identities and therefore our dissent is revealed, will we be able to keep our visas, our OCIs? The Indian government already revoked one Indian American journalist of his OCI, India’s form of secondary citizenship, for labeling Modi a ‘divider-in-chief.’
I would be lying if I did not divulge the fear that I have felt to write the words above.
I want to be able to return to India. To see my grandmother. To smell her morning coffee, to hear her voice. To sit on the deevan under the ceiling fan. To have the front door open. To be next to my family. But I am Hindu. My family is Hindu. Muslims, however, live in great fear; they protest at great risk to their mental and physical wellbeing.
The law is openly Islamophobic. As is Modi. As is the government. 2002 already saw the extent to which Modi would like to see India cleansed of its Muslim population. Do we really think that he will stop, as he exists in the highest position of power?