Five states go to the polls in February . . .
Beginning February 10, 184 million Indians will go to the polls in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Goa, Manipur, Punjab, and Uttarakhand for the country’s State Assembly Elections (lower house). Except for Punjab, these states are currently under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) leadership. Despite a third wave of COVID-19 hitting the country with a daily average of over 280,000 cases, India’s Election Commission maintains that timely elections are the “essence of maintaining democratic governance.” Results are scheduled to be announced by March 10. The election outcome, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, will be significant in determining the BJP’s future in India and the country’s status as a secular democracy.
Uttar Pradesh, the bellwether state . . .
The most populous Indian state, UP, enjoys the largest number of seats in both houses of the Indian parliament. Therefore, winning a majority will be imperative to BJP’s image and position at the national level. The UP poll will take place in seven phases next month. Modi has been working closely with the state’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, a monk turned politician, to help him win the state election. But Adityanath is a deeply polarizing figure who has gained prominence for his unabashed promotion of Hinduism in the state and divisive rhetoric against non-Hindus, particularly Muslims. Meanwhile, Modi’s BJP faces multiple political defections in UP that negatively impact the party’s image in the state.
Impending ‘genocide’ of Muslims, expert warns . . .
The founder and director of the Washington, DC-based non-governmental organization Genocide Watch, Gregory Stanton, warned on Monday that there are early signs of genocide in the Indian state of Assam and the Union Territory of Kashmir. Stanton cited the revocation of Kashmir’s autonomous status in 2019 and the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act in Assam, and drew comparisons with the current state of Myanmar. Over the years, multiple organizations have highlighted the plight of Indian Muslims who have met with an increase in intolerance, hate speech, abuse, and deadly crimes. Even recently, unsuspecting Muslim women found themselves auctioned off online, and Hindu religious leaders have openly called for ethnic cleansing and genocide. Whistleblowers accused Meta (formerly Facebook) of holding back reports that exhibit the extent of damage caused by online misinformation and hate speech in India. Islamophobia has reached disturbing new heights in the country of 1.4 billion.