SPEAKING IN AN internet briefing organised by the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) on January 14th, Gregory Stanton, the founder-head of Genocide Watch, declared a Genocide Emergency Alert for India. I think he is completely—and thankfully—wrong. But before I go into the reasons, a couple of related matters. Who is Gregory Stanton and what is Genocide Watch?
Stanton, formerly a research professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention at the George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, near Washington DC, founded Genocide Watch in 1999. This NGO is the coordinator of the Alliance Against Genocide, which includes some 70 organisations in 24 countries. The Alliance has led campaigns against genocide in a number of countries, including Cambodia, Kosovo, East Timor, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe. It has also sounded genocide alarms in other countries. Stanton warned of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 when he was with the US State Department.
Stanton is justly famous for his 10-stage genocide model: Classification, Symbolisation, Discrimination, Dehumanisation, Organisation, Polarisation, Preparation, Persecution, Extermination, and Denial. What is important is that these may not occur in a unilinear order, but can be simultaneous. Genocide can occur even if all of them are not present or if some of the steps are skipped over. As such, Stanton’s and Genocide Watch’s work to prevent, document, and bring to justice perpetrators of mass extermination is laudable.
Sadly, our world is not safe for several ethnicities, communities, and individuals. In fact, the twentieth was the most violent of human centuries, with over 100 million dead in genocides, holocausts, mass murders, wars, famines, gulags, concentration camps, and other man-made horrors. Who were the victims of these vicious and violent pogroms? Fellow humans. As to the mass manufacture and slaughter of other species, albeit mostly for food, humans have no parallel in earthly existence.
How can so much violence, generation after generation, go without lasting consequences? It has bred a highly ferocious and belligerent planetary environment for our species. Shouldn’t the twenty-first century be better for all of us? Without question, it should. Especially because we have other things to worry about, such as climate change, not to mention the twin and worldwide energy and economy crises.
However, when it comes to our part of the world, Stanton seems to have gone soft on the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. Or China’s decimation of Tibetans and Uighurs. Instead, he has given previous genocide warnings on Kashmir and Assam, when after Article 370 was amended and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed. Now, less than a month after the infamous Haridwar “Dharma Sansad” of December 17th-19th, he has issued another genocide notice on India, “We believe that [genocide] is [what] the Haridwar meeting was especially aimed at inciting. Incitement of genocide is a crime under the Genocide Convention, and it is law in India that incitement of genocide is illegal. That law must be enforced.”
Stanton fails to mention that the “Dharma Sansad” has been unanimously and unequivocally condemned in India. I myself wrote about how dangerous and self-defeating such hate speech can be. Stanton also neglected to acknowledge that the law has indeed taken its course, with several speakers in the “Dharma Sansad,” including Yati Narsinghanand, its chief organiser, already under arrest. Nor did he bother to point out that the CAA has not yet been notified. He was also deficient in condemning the communally provocative speeches of others such as the Owaisi brothers or Shabbir Ali Azad.
Instead, he made it a point to be very vocal in his denunciation of Narendra Modi, BJP, and RSS: “Genocide Watch has been speaking out warnings of genocide in India since 2002 when riots and massacres that occurred in Gujarat killed over a thousand Muslims. At that time, the chief minister of Gujarat was Narendra Modi, and he did nothing. In fact, there’s actually a lot of evidence that he encouraged those massacres.”What evidence does he have which our courts omitted to consider?
Stanton’s anti-Modi slant is obvious: “Under his BJP party’s policies, he [Modi] has used anti-Muslim, Islamophobic rhetoric to build his political base, and one of those ways has been the revocation of the autonomous status of Kashmir…. The revocation was aimed at restoring Hinduism and Hindu domination in Kashmir” (ibid).
Stanton also said, “The idea of India as a Hindu nation, which is the Hindutva movement, is contrary to the history of India and the Indian Constitution” and that “What we have now though is, an actual member of the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh]—this extremist, Hindutva-oriented group—Mr Modi as prime minister of India. So, what we have here is an extremist who has taken over the government” (ibid).
Unfortunately, Stanton’s partisan and irresponsible remarks played straight into the hands of a number of interested parties, both in India and abroad, who went to town over his testimony. They gleefully repeated his observations on Narendra Modi and BJP. Let us not forget that he was speaking in the briefing organised by the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), one of the main supporters of the recent conference on “Dismantling Global Hindutva.”
What is amply clear is that there is a concerted attempt to oppose and discredit not just Hindutva as an ideology, but also its champions, BJP, and its parent body, RSS. Any number of leftist and Islamist groups, not only domestic but active in the neighbourhood extending from the Indian subcontinent to the largely Muslim countries both west and east, have been active in promoting such a narrative. Add to them Khalistani and other separatist bodies abroad and other anti-India forces in the West, promoted, in all likelihood, by our hostile neighbours. An assorted, unscrupulous and determined network whose main target is Prime Minister Modi, has been trying to discredit or defeat the Modi-led BJP Government.
But, even if Stanton is wrong about most of his 10 genocidal stages, he is right when it comes to increasing polarisation. True, that its main cause is political mobilisation, whether in Gujarat, the Northeast, Bengal, Punjab, or in Uttar Pradesh, the very Hindi heartland of India. We must ask, with hardening of identity divisions, what the long-term repercussions of this social and religious discord in India will be.
How are peaceful cultures to be created if we continually sow the seeds of war, conflict, hatred, and mutual distrust? It is in this context that we should view the current state of communal relations in India. Hate speech, oppositional, and sectarian rhetoric have certainly grown, spawned, and spewed endlessly over social media.
If appeasement and coddling of certain communities, vote banks, and special interest groups characterised the undesirable political legacy of the nearly six decades of Congress Raj, the present times seem to be characterised by especially strident rhetoric against certain sections of
If the earlier master narrative of Indian politics was marked by trying to garner, even corner, the minority vote, the present boilerplate is to ignore it altogether. This is how the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as Swagato Ganguly argued recently, changed the very operating system of Indian politics.
Now, everyone is trying to catch up with BJP to attract a major chunk of the majority votes. They can only do so by splintering and breaking up the larger, pan-India unity among Hindus that the Sangh Parivar has been trying to accomplish through its new idea of a Hindutva-led Bharatiyata (pan-Indianness). Stanton is mistaken and prejudiced in blaming only one side and ignoring the history of Partition, religious violence, and the ongoing communal riots in the subcontinent in which every possible political party and formation is, to a greater or lesser extent, complicit. He is also blind to the glaring fact that while the number of Hindus in Pakistan has dwindled to less than 2 per cent after Independence, the number and percentage of Muslims in India has steadily increased. By this token, which side of the border is really genocidal?
To return to our reflections on aesthetics and politics, let us remember that in Bharata’s rasa aesthetics, there are four positive and four negative rasas. The positive rasas are sringara-hasya (love and laughter) and veera-adhbhuta (valorous and wonderous). Of the negative four, karuna-roudra (pity and wrath) and bhayanaka-bibhatsa (fear and disgust), it is extreme anger, which is the most dangerous.
Whether in textual or political drama, it is important to keep wrath and fear in check lest they overrun our society and polity. Inducing fury in perpetrators and fear in victims, they further exacerbate the creed of hatred and terror that we have come to recognise as a worldwide scourge.