Lockdown India: Modi Becomes the Nation’s Jailer

Modi’s regime has finally achieved what it has perpetuated for so long in Kashmir: the lockdown of the entire country. He’s even charmed his harshest of critics, who now urge the population to behave as though his word is law and obey the man nick-named “the Butcher of Gujarat.”

The compassionate, bleeding hearts are coming out of the woodwork to tell us that they care so much about the public’s safety that it’s imperative that the people be locked away in their homes and the key entrusted to a man who has been tirelessly protested as the new Hitler in the East.

“Modi is turning all of India into Kashmir,” we were saying for months as people rose up to resist the rising fascism of his regime. “End the lockdown in Kashmir,” we urged after the region was annexed, occupied, and turned into a complete black zone, severed from contact with the outside world.

Now, many who raised such concerns are turning to the man they’ve described as the “Butcher of Gujarat” and the “new Hitler in the East,” begging him to please lock them in their homes, confident that the one who oversaw a pogrom of his own people has their best interests at heart — and will make for a trustworthy and humane jailer.

“You can’t claim a moral high ground while putting eight million under lockdown,” said Kashmiri political activist Shehla Rashid about Kashmir following the scrapping of its constitutionally-guaranteed semi-autonomy in August 2019. Following the Indian Prime Minister’s iron-fisted crackdown on protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, she declared, “India is not a democracy anymore. Modi is running a terror regime.”

Yet, on 15 March 2020, Rashid insisted, “India needs to go into lockdown mode already.” After Modi imposed a one-day “Janata (People’s) Curfew” on 22 March — which soon emerged as a dry-run to psychologically prepare the populace for a much longer nation-wide lockdown — she praised how the “unanimous cheering” of people “across India” showed how Modi’s “word is law,” announcing, “He must use this power to make people comply with health guidelines strictly. Normally, I’m not a fan of obedience, but this time we need it.”

Even if it were not Modi holding the keys to the cells that people are clamoring to be locked away in, the Indian State has a blood-drenched track record of displacing, torturing, disappearing, massacring, and waging war on its own citizens, many of whom — as in Kashmir — rest in mass graves.

For decades, the atrocities of the Indian State have occurred under the cover of darkness — behind lockdowns like that in Kashmir — and in the name of securing the nation’s safety through “emergencies” or “special powers.”

With a “new Hitler in the East” at the helm, how can we trust that India’s lockdown will be any different?

“There’s a looming threat of genocide in India,” I and so many others have warned for months. “The violence in Delhi was a pogrom,” we’ve said, referring to the anti-Muslim riots that claimed the lives of over 50 in February 2020. “Modi’s hands are stained with blood,” I’ve said.

Yet now, for the sake of “public safety,” his staunchest critics want him to lock up the country?

Meanwhile, eighty percent of India’s population works in the informal (untaxed, unregulated) sector of the economy. At least one out of every three Indians (probably more) lives paycheck to paycheck. Around half of all Indians are financially supporting their families — many of them sons and daughters providing for their parents or siblings as well as others providing for their extended family. Hundreds of millions of Indians are considered “destitute” (lacking the most basic means of survival), perhaps 15 percent — over 200 million people — are undernourished, and thousands die daily from hunger.

Furthermore, around 75 million live in slums or tenements, often packed five or 10 to a room in decrepit, frequently open-air shanties. Countless impoverished people — families with young children and babies — dwell in tarp cities strung up on sidewalks which are, all too often, located directly across the street from gleaming super-malls. People squat in the grounds of historical monuments, in the medians of busy thoroughfares, and alongside the tracks on which the country’s trains ran before the lockdown came.

What will these day laborers, auto-rickshaw drivers, tea-stall vendors, chaat cart chefs, peddlers, hawkers, purveyors of wares, and keepers of tiny shops and hole in the wall restaurants outside which cattle, goats, and dogs wander do under a nation-wide lockdown?

If it were even possible to compel them all to abide by a “shelter at home” mandate and obey a lockdown (it’s not), some opponents of Modi do suggest a solution to the economic catastrophe that would cause. They say that the Modi regime should provide all these people with guaranteed shelter, food, and cash. Thus, despite all their years of crying out that Modi is a tyrant, now they demand that every person in the country should be made utterly, absolutely, impotently dependent on him and him alone for their survival.

“Modi is a fascist, but in the interest of public safety, it’s necessary to make every Indian permanently indebted to him,” they implicitly argue.

Modi rose to power as the Butcher of Gujarat, overseeing a state-sanctioned pogrom that left 2,000 dead just days after his formal election to office. Do we really think he is putting India on lockdown because he cares about human life? Will Indians really be safer by inviting Modi to be their bread-giver, banker, landlord, nanny, papa, Big Brother, savior — and jailer?

Are we really so certain that the only solution to a public health crisis is to immediately refine the already centralized power of the Indian State into pure totalitarianism and hand over dictatorial powers to the same person who many of the people now demanding this solution have spent so long attempting to (accurately) brand as a burgeoning dictator?

Perhaps the resistance, along with its cries of “Inquilab Zindabad,” was truly all just for show all along.



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Pieter Friedrich

Pieter Friedrich


Friedrich is a freelance journalist and analyst of South Asian affairs. Learn more about him at www.PieterFriedrich.com.