Former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha – who also served as India's minister of finance – has recently alleged that the ruling BJP government has turned the entire country of India into Kashmir.
As India embraces itself for growing civil unrest over the controversial citizenship laws that discriminate India's Muslim population, Sinha made such remarks in reference to the BJP government's apartheid, repression and curbing of civic rights in Kashmir following the abrogation of the Article 370 and 35 (A).
"Those in the government had claimed that we will make Kashmir like the rest of India. Today, after five months, Kashmir has not become like any other part of India but the rest of India has become like Kashmir," remarked Yashwant Sinha while addressing the anti-citizenship law protesters outside Jamia Millia Islamia University.
In India, protests are escalating against the controversial citizenship laws known as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register for Citizens (NRC) that contradict the country's founding principles.
Secular India's constitution protects equity of all the citizens irrespective of faiths and castes. However, the new law discriminates the Muslims in a stark contrast of the Indian constitution.
As protesters flooded the streets, the Indian police are reported to have used "barbaric" forces against them as they fired teargas, rubber bullets and beat up peaceful protesters with batons. Using of such forces against the people resonates the country's controversial Kashmir policy where dissent is usually responded with the use of force.
Along with police suppression, accusations have emerged against the student wing of the ruling BJP over the attacks on the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University. "Earlier they would use police to suppress voices but now they are also using goons to this effect. Whatever happened in JNU yesterday, shows this very tie-up," Sinha told the agitating crowd in Jamia Millia protests.
The "largest democracy" of the world, India has long been silent over the BJP government's failures in the economy and its incompetence to curb soaring unemployment. After Modi government secured a landslide victory in elections last May – despite the economic odds and implementation of bizarre policies like demonetisation of 500 rupee banknotes – the deafening silence of the Indian population over the BJP policies was disappointing.
Consequently, the practitioners of divisive politics, Indian Prime Minister Modi and BJP President Amit Shah, seemed to have assumed that they were privileged with impunity from the Indian population.
To the contrary, the recent development in the Indian political spectrum has proved it wrong. Indians, irrespective of races and faiths, have taken to the streets with a loud and clear message that they refuse to give the Modi-Shah pair a political blank cheque. The Indians have apparently begun to understand Hindutva's astute politics of division and hatred.
Last year, when Modi's electoral success was in doubt prior to the last parliamentarian elections because of a disarrayed economy, unemployment, and unrest among the farmers, the BJP chose a lethal Hindutva policy to win the elections.
Following the Pulwama attacks, when an extreme nationalist vibe took over India, Modi used the opportunity by rebranding his Hindutva politics in an even more communal and chauvinistic manner – eventually taking India on the verge of a war with Pakistan which indeed brought him electoral success. This put the opposition in a dilemma to come up with a prudent policy against Modi's ultra-nationalism, chauvinism and communalism.
Such electoral successes dangerously emboldened the BJP government. Gradually, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah grew more desperate with their politics of apartheid.
Modi began his second term by annulling the constitutional autonomy of Kashmir in last August, as Yashwant Sinha said, in a bid to make Kashmir like the rest of India. But since the nullification of the Kashmiri autonomy, there has been "a lockdown spanning travel, communications and ordinary life." In that regard, Indian author Madhav Khosla said, "The communalisation is taking place with state absolutism."
After the BJP annulled the autonomy of Kashmir, the government did not face much pressure at home. Nevertheless, following the implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC), India found numbers of detention centres mushrooming with an implication of an ominous future. The Indian state of Assam braced for violence and bloodshed because of the NRC.
With the NRC list released, the BJP policies finally began to backfire. At the same time, the CAA finally turned out to be a boomerang for the BJP government. Tens of thousands of people comprising of most of the Indian states are taking to the streets. The Modi government futilely tried to paint the protesters as Muslims initially to create communal unrest. But as days are passing by, the protests are going widespread and deep.
Consequently, unsettled as agitations grow, the government chose to use force against the protesters in a coercive manner. The more the government becomes desperate to tackle the protests, the more the student agitations and silent marches intensify defying the police crackdowns and recriminations.
The protests are no longer limited against the CAA and NRC. India is now making louder demands of "Azadi". Unlike the Kashmiri demands for Azadi, these new demands of Azadi is the freedom from the BJP's politics of apartheid and communalism. These protests, according to Khosla, are about "redefinition of Indianness and the decline in democratic freedoms."
This "Kashmirisation" of India is posing a threat to the politics of the ruling BJP in the electoral levels. With the defeat in Jharkhand elections last December, the BJP suffered its fifth consecutive bypoll defeat in the last year.
The street protests in India are still largely a social unrest. As the Indian opposition still fails to form a coordinated and clear response, the success of the outcry is hard to predict. "It's a strange situation" in India, as Sinha portrayed, where the "police helps the goons and not the innocent people."