The time: The not too distant future.
The place: A major city in India, possibly Nagpur, the ideological centre of right wing Hinduism.
The background: Things have not been going well for the government of Prime Minister Narendrabhai Modi. Economic stagnation, increasing prices, and rising unemployment, corruption and intolerance, for minorities and dissent in all forms, have very severely dented his image and that of his government. A series of defeats in state elections, in which Modi had campaigned personally, and thus put his own reputation on the line, have emboldened the Opposition parties, which have temporarily put aside their differences and are actively setting up a Grand Alliance against Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Big Business, which had counted on Modi to smooth its way by throwing open the forests and rivers for exploitation, doing away with land laws, crushing all labour rights, and suppressing activism, is also very unhappy. Modi has not been able to get them what they wanted. The “reforms” are stuck in Parliament, with the Opposition, scenting blood, effectively blocking them. The attempts to crush environmental groups and dump labour laws have been summarily thrown out as unconstitutional by the courts. In the next elections, Big Business may well invest in another candidate who might be able to deliver.
The Great Indian Muddle Class, which had voted en masse for Modi in 2014, is restive. The Golden Age they had been promised has signally failed to arrive. They are paying more taxes than ever and getting nothing in return. Reservations in employment and education for the lower castes, which they had confidently presumed would be abolished, are as they were. The increasing levels of Hindu fascism, which is starting to tell them – even them, who had voted for it – what they should or should not eat, wear, read or do, whether they can go out with their significant others for an evening out without getting harassed, has got them baffled and worried. This was supposed to happen to Muslims and Christians, not to them. They’re beginning to look back to the old Congress government with misty-eyed nostalgia. It might have been corrupt to the core, but at least it had left their private lives alone.
In an attempt to reverse the tide, Modi’s supporters – the Modi bhakts as the rest of India have derisively renamed them – have unleashed a vicious campaign of hate against all dissenters, both online and in the streets. Famous film actors, writers and artists have been harried and abused to the point where those of them who have the money to do so are relocating abroad in increasing numbers. The offices of media outlets which have dared publish articles critical of Modi or the BJP have been sacked by carefully arranged and instigated mobs. Muslims and Christians have, in the villages, been lynched on accusations ranging from “beef eating” to “conversions”, and anyone who dares protest has been further attacked on the charge of “defaming India”. This has only raised yet more disillusionment and dissent.
Even among Modi’s own BJP colleagues, there is rising alarm about the way things are going. Modi, himself, is almost inaccessible to them; he rules through a small coterie, centred around party chief Amit Shah and Modi loyalist Arun Jaitley, which is answerable only to him and treats everyone else with disdain. Inner party democracy is dead; it is now a rule by Führerprinzip, where it’s Modi’s way or the highway. Increasingly openly, they demand a change.
Worry has even reached the halls of the BJP’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, headquartered in Nagpur. The RSS feels itself marginalised, too, its core Hindu fascist message sidelined by Modi’s cult of personality and his personal coterie. Besides, the RSS can see for itself that the way things are going, the next election will see the BJP out of power and all hope of a Hindu theocracy gone for the foreseeable future. It demands that the BJP call a joint meeting with it to “solve the problems”.
Modi, as usual, is out of the country, on a trip to Paraguay, Senegal, and Mozambique. Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley are too busy, they say, with other work to attend the meeting. However, the rest of the BJP top brass, including most of Modi’s detractors in the party, is eager to attend; they want to make their concerns clear to the RSS and hope that the mentor body puts pressure on Modi to set things right while he still has time.
The incident: The meeting is scheduled for a winter evening at a venue in a major Indian city. Police pickets are posted outside, with sandbagged checkpoints manned by commandos armed with assault rifles, but the atmosphere is fairly relaxed, with desultory checking of ID and random frisking of pedestrians, just to pass the time*. One by one, the politicians and RSS men arrive, and are soon in a huddle inside the hall, talking behind closed doors.
[*Taken from personal experience. I was once, in Bombay, unfortunate enough to be waiting for someone on the street near a hall where a political meeting was going on. The police on guard, apparently bored with their duties, came over and started interrogating me, checking my ID, searching my bag, etc. There must have been four or five of them gathered around me, leaving their post empty, all with their attention fully fixed on me for almost ten minutes. When the person I was waiting for turned up, they explained to her that my tattooed arms and shaved head marked me out as a “vichitra prani” – an exotic animal – and drew their attention. Kind of a thin excuse, it seemed then and still seems now.]
The meeting is almost half over when it happens. From round the corner, with a roar of an engine labouring in low gear, appears an enormous vehicle. It is a lorry, fully covered in makeshift armour plate, and from its front end juts a spike like a battering ram. Since the street is closed to normal traffic for the meeting, there’s nothing in its way – it easily rolls over the flimsy sandbag barricades, the haphazard shooting of the policemen bouncing harmlessly off the armour plate. Smashing through the venue gate, it rumbles into the forecourt and stops. An instant later the tons of explosive packed into the back go up in a blinding flash and a thunderclap of sound.
The meeting venue is virtually wiped out. The entire front half of the building is scooped out, debris raining down on the entire locality. Windows in buildings within hundreds of metres are blown in by the shock wave, killing and injuring many people. The blast is so severe it is heard all over the city, and a tower of smoke rises to spread out in a mushroom cloud in the night air.
And this is just the beginning.
As though waiting for the sound of the explosion as a signal, small teams of armed men appear at several points. One of them storms a luxury mall, shooting the security guards at the entrance, and then gunning down the shoppers crowding the escalators and the emporiums. Running up to the upper levels, they throw grenades down on to the main floor, blowing huge bloody gaps in the frantic crowds trying to escape. They jog along the corridors, firing their automatic rifles through the plate glass windows at the staff and customers cowering in the shops and restaurants. By the time they stop shooting, the mall is filled with the silence of the dead and the moans of the dying.
Hanging out black flags with white circles from the balconies of the upper levels, the armed men settle down to wait for the counterattack to come.
Another team, perhaps, repeats the same performance in a high-end restaurant in another part of the city. A third group appears in the midst of a crowd of commuters at a bus stop, shoots around at random, and then blows themselves up with suicide belts, turning the area into a smorgasbord of wreckage and mangled body parts.
Small bombs, meant more to create panic than damage, go off one after the other at random points in the city. People running from one bomb explosion are as likely to run into another. More are killed and injured in the inevitable stampedes.
The emergency services, suddenly challenged on multiple fronts, are overwhelmed. The ambulances and fire engines have to fight their way through panicked crowds desperately fleeing for their lives. Rumours and false alarms swamp the police telephones. Nobody knows what to do.
By the time the media arrive in force and the world’s attention is fixed on the city, the body count is already huge. The TV cameras, in between showing the troops massing outside the mall and the restaurant, also show the devastated rubble of the meeting venue, and compete with each other in reporting on the number of dead and wounded. Outside the hospitals, teary-eyed relatives of victims claim that the doctors and ambulances have given the BJP politicians and RSS people priority over them, thus letting their relatives die who could have otherwise been saved. Some Opposition politicians immediately take up the refrain.
The army arrives, counter-insurgency troops flown in from Delhi, men who are trained to take down rebels but with no familiarity of the city or the precise task they are to accomplish. By the time they’ve sealed off the mall, it’s evident that some at least of the armed men inside might have already slipped away and might still be at large. The restaurant is already empty, the attackers all gone.
Through the morning and the noon of the next day, the soldiers fight their way into the mall. The men inside put up a kind of resistance the troops had not encountered before. Using captive shoppers and staff as human shields, they fight their way from floor to floor, from shop to shop, with a tenacity the troops had never encountered before, not even from the Lashkar e Toiba terrorists who had attacked Bombay in 2008. Slowly, over the course of the day, they drive them up to the top level of the mall, and keep them pinned down there with sniper fire. Commandos rappel down from helicopters on to the building roof, meaning to smash their way in through the skylights and bring the siege to an end. The surviving attackers promptly detonate their suicide vests, bringing part of the roof of the mall down and setting the building on fire.
The battle is over. The drama is about to begin.
The aftermath: As the battle for the mall still rages, Modi cuts short his trip and flies back home from Maputo in Mozambique. He’s met at the Delhi airport by Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley, and, under extremely heavy security cover, goes straight into a meeting of the remaining members of the coterie.
By this time, mid-afternoon, the media has got over its initial shock and has moved from endlessly replaying scenes of the carnage to shrill demands that something be done. The black flags at the mall “prove” that this is the work of ISIS, of course, as does the truck bombing that has, in an instant, wiped out half the top leadership of the RSS and BJP. When ISIS had attacked Paris in 2015, France had at once declared a national emergency, sealed the borders, and declared martial law; and that had been a much smaller attack, causing much less damage, than this one. It is only because India is so “soft” on Muslim terror, say the media heads, so tolerant of “jihad supporters” in its midst, that such a thing can happen. Already, the electronic spaces are flooded with WhatsApp and Twitter messages calling for action to be taken against Muslims and “sickulars”, as the Modi bhakts refer to liberal Hindus. Hagiographic portrayals of the dead BJP leaders, now called martyrs, are all over the channels. Opposition political party offices are ransacked by mobs of goons, and Muslim localities are attacked as the police look on.
By evening, as the burning ruins of the mall are finally cleared of resistance, there’s no doubt what will happen. And, sure enough, a couple of hours later, Modi appears on television in an address to the nation.
An emergency is declared. The constitution is suspended, as is the judicial system. The opposition political parties are banned, the internet is closed down except for a few approved websites, and the nation’s access to the world cut sharply. All civil liberties are indefinitely cancelled. Elections are abolished for as long as the emergency lasts. There will be vengeance, Modi declares. The attackers, and anyone who sympathises with them, will have nowhere to hide.
There is no opposition, of course. Modi’s opponents in the party have been wiped out by the bomb; his coterie now rules with absolute authority over what is left. The opposition parties are cowed into silence, their members hiding from the mobs or making public statements of support to Modi to guarantee their own personal safety. Teams of army and police rampage through mixed and Muslim-dominated localities, searching, they say, for the attackers and their sympathisers. By morning, the country is a giant prison camp.
Even as there are whispers that such a large and well-planned attack could not happen, could not have been planned, without the knowledge or active connivance of the government, it is already far too late. India is a dictatorship, and the top men can do anything they like.
Anything at all.
The above is, of course, a work of future speculative fiction. I am not actually making a definite prediction that this will happen, or that anything resembling it will happen. But can it happen? Is it possible?
There’s no doubt at all that the answer is yes.
In the great republic of Hindunazistan the tide of fascist intolerance is rising steadily. This intolerance is focussed, as expected, primarily on the liberal middle – the intellectuals, artists, writers, actors and other members of the intelligentsia, of all shapes and religions, who form the retaining wall of civilised discourse against the absolutism of the fascists. It’s reached the ludicrous level where the Hindunazis, to show how tolerant they are, demand that anyone who says they’re intolerant should go to Pakistan.
Yes, Pakistan. Hindunazis have two standard “arguments” they deploy against us “’sickulars”. The first is the demand that anyone who says they, the Hindunazis, are intolerant should go to Pakistan any/or Bangladesh. Of course, Bangladesh is a dysfunctional basket case just waiting to be overrun by ISIS; and, as for Pakistan, it’s a country struggling to recover from fifty years of military rule and thirty years of deliberate Islamicisation. And these are the countries the Hindunazis want to compare India to, to prove that they aren’t intolerant.
If you have to compare yourselves to Pakistan and Bangladesh to feel good about yourself, then one has to feel sorry for you.
In reality, as one can readily see, what the Hindunazis are trying hard to do is make India into a clone of Pakistan. As I’ve said before, whatever they claim in public, they’re helpless admirers of the extreme Christian and Muslim right, and model themselves closely on them. It’s also significant that when they attack Christians, and more especially Muslims, the religious fundamentalists are never, ever, their targets. The Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi, for instance, a particularly odious specimen who has been frequently opposed loudly and vociferously by Muslim liberals, is not a prominent target of their ire; that’s reserved for the likes of Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, both of whom are, incidentally, total secularists married to Hindu women.
The second argument is the logical fallacy of tu quoque, also known as “whataboutism”: instead of responding to criticism, they reply along the lines of “How dare you say we massacre minorities but don’t talk about the fact that the Congress participated in mass-murdering Sikhs in 1984?” So what, precisely, does the pogrom of 1984 have to do with excusing the pogroms the Hindunazis execute in 2015? Is it a case of “How dare you say I’m a mass murderer when XYZ is a mass murderer too?”
Of course, there’s one highly significant fact: this campaign of fascist intolerance has not brought the BJP any electoral rewards – quite the reverse, with resounding defeats in the states of Delhi and Bihar and a huge drop in its support.
This did not, naturally, go unnoticed in the BJP. For a brief few days after the Bihar disaster, the goons and online bullies fell silent, the fascists withdrew to lick their wounds, and Modi’s opponents within the party found the voice to make their feelings known. But that only lasted a few days, and then the fascists and the bhakt troll army were back, louder and shriller than ever.
This was clearly not spontaneous; like all sudden internet phenomena, it had originators and propagators, in this case the Modi troll army. And since there is no doubt at all that the abuse directed at the liberal intelligentsia and the demands that they go to Pakistan have had no effect in terms of electoral benefits, there can be only one logical conclusion: Modi and his followers no longer have any great interest in the ramifications of electoral democracy. This is turn means that – since it’s more than obvious that they aren’t exactly going to cede power willingly – they are looking to “other options”.
One hurdle in this search for “other options” is the judicial system. Indian judges, like I assume judges in most parts of the world, tend to be hidebound conservatives, and to this day the Supreme Court is packed with death penalty proponents. But, over the last decade or so, as the last two regimes have proved spectacularly inept at governance, the judiciary has stepped in, virtually forming a parallel government that has ruled by ordering the official legislative arm around and curbing some of its worst excesses.
A recent example was the case of Greenpeace India. The Modi regime is even more beholden to Big Business than its Congress party predecessor was, and has looked for ways to liberate said Big Business from the shackles of such restrictions as environmental, labour and land regulations. Mining concerns, for instance, are slavering with anticipation at the prospect of ripping up the forests to dig out coal and minerals (never mind that even China is moving away as fast as it can from the use of fossil fuels; there’s no money to be made from wind and sun, is there?). But the environmentalists of course stood in the way of that. So they had to go.
This effort to make them go took two forms: first, Greenpeace was banned from receiving funds from abroad, so it could only operate with what it could generate in the country from sympathetic donors. Then, a vicious media campaign was launched to poison public opinion, claiming that the organisation was part of a nefarious conspiracy to hold back the nation’s economic development by blocking progress with its “environmental concerns”. When neither of these worked, a few weeks ago, the government dropped all pretence and simply ordered the organisation to close down within a month.
This order was contrary to the law, and, as expected, Greenpeace appealed, and the court threw the ban right out of the window.
So, along with all left-liberals, all environmentalists, and anyone else opposed to absolutism, the courts have now joined the list of the Hindunazis’ enemies. What is a good Modi bhakt to do?
There’s only one obvious solution: an emergency, which would get rid of all the enemies in one fell swoop.
I can assure you that the so-called ISIS attack on Paris would have seemed like manna from heaven to the Hindunazis. One can imagine them huddling together in front of TV sets, watching enviously as Hollande declared emergency, shut down the borders, unleashed full spectrum eavesdropping on his citizens, and let the army loose on the streets. One can almost hear them sighing enviously and wishing ISIS would do the same in India.
After all, if France could do all that after an “ISIS” attack, how could India hold back? Anything less than that would be “being soft on terror”, “tolerating jihadism”, and, worst of all, “appeasing Muslims”. The BJP wouldn’t even have to raise these arguments by itself; the right wing media would fall over itself doing all that. All the Hindunazis would have to do is sign the emergency order. The only thing lacking is an ISIS attack. And attacks can be arranged.
In fact, it wouldn’t even have to be a false ISIS attack. As I’ve said before, even Hindunazi ideologue Arun Shourie stated months ago that the current government’s policies are tantamount to an open invitation for ISIS. Sooner or later, the group is going to hit India; by now, just about everyone knows it’s inevitable.
So inevitable is it that a read through Indian online fora, always a hotbed of Modi bhaktism, can give you a clear idea of the line that will be adopted when this attack comes. I’ve already seen more than one Hindunazi say that the fault will be of the leftists and the liberals, who are on the side of the Muslims and actually “support ISIS”. From there, it’s no step at all to saying that anyone who (allegedly) supports ISIS is ISIS. And such a person, of course, deserves to be treated exactly as ISIS does.
In the case of the Paris attack, I am convinced that the ultra-intrusive French spy services (which routinely snoops on its citizens even more than the American ones do, and which were already on “high alert”) knew of the attack and deliberately let it happen, whether with or without the knowledge of Hollande himself. India’s own spy services are so incompetent that it’s highly unlikely they’d ever know of a planned attack, even if it’s a highly complex one with months of preparation and buildup. But even if they did, it’s more than likely they’d be ordered to shut up and let it happen.
And what happens after emergency is declared? How long will it last? What horrors will be perpetrated under it, and what would be the shape of the regime that emerges? Will there be any effective opposition? Will ISIS carry out more attacks, and entrench itself firmly among the 150 million Indian Muslims, many of whom will then begin depending on it for protection? Will we see a civil war?
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions.
But I’m afraid we’re going to find out.
Note: I anticipate with some confidence that this article will serve as Hindunazi troll bait. I will therefore exercise my rights as blog administrator and will not approve comments including any or all of these: death threats/threats of physical violence, hate speech directed at any religious group or nation, or, indeed, blandishments from ISIS members, who, as I have said in an earlier article, I have reason to believe read my blog. Thank you for your attention.