Also under attack are other marginalized groups. By aggressively pursuing the twin policies of anti-conversion and gharwapasi (reconversion to Hinduism), oppressed caste groups are prevented from challenging a cycle of inequality and oppression. TheBJP’s response to attacks on Dalits has been insensitive, a Union Minister compared caste violence resulting in the murder of two Dalit children to “throwing stones on dogs”.Leaders from the BJP’s ideological mentors, the RSS, have also sought the dismantling of existing affirmative action policies for Dalits and Other Backward Classes. Among Mr. Modi’s earliest policy initiatives was a move to dilute protections for India’s numerous small and marginal farmers against land grabs by industrialists: although concerted action by farmers’ groups forced the government to back down, the threat of state-sanctioned land grabs against farmers remains.
It must also be noted that Mr Modi’s coming to power has been accompanied by an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian culture. Institutions as well as individuals are feeling the heat. The autonomy of academic institutions such as the Film and Television Institute of India, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and the Indian Council for Historical Research is under threat. Writers and rationalists like the Kannada writer M. M. Kalburgi have been murdered and several others threatened. Contrary to what the ‘Digital India’ campaign might claim, the Modi government has actively restricted citizens’ access to the internet, with recent bans on mobile internet services in Gujarat and Kashmir. Online harassment of dissenters, activists and eminent journalists is also on the risk as the space for critique and dissent shrinks under this regime. The government has also attacked NGOs working on peace, environmental justice, human rights and poverty.
There have been several protests most recently by a very large numbers of writers, filmmakers and academics, who have returned the awards conferred by the government and expressed their alarm. There are also various groups that are protesting his visit in the UK. We stand with them to say that we are far from enthusiastic to welcome the Indian Prime Minister to Britain. As current and former members of the University of Oxford, we — the undersigned — condemn the Society’s move to participate in welcoming a figure whose party and government threatens basic freedoms. We would instead like to use this opportunity to place on record our discomfort with the divisive and undemocratic agenda that the current Indian government has pursued.