A new South African movement has been formed to voice opposition to the unprecedented trend in racist and fascist laws affecting marginalized and minority communities in many parts of the world. People Against Apartheid and Fascism (PAAF) was launched in Cape Town on Monday at a meeting of concerned individuals, activists and organizations. It was formed in response to protests in India in the wake of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which legitimizes discrimination on the basis of religion. India faces the rise of fascism and it seems the Modi government is on course to create a Hindu nationalist state. The movement believes that the outcomes of religious and ethno-nationalism are likely to be ethnic cleansing and genocide.
“The impunity with which blatant human rights violations are being perpetrated by supposedly democratically elected governments points to a breakdown in the implementation of international law and to the inability of multilateral institutions, such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, to hold offending countries accountable,” said the movement in a statement.
The Constitution of India guarantees the right to equality. This right is one of six fundamental rights in the Indian constitution. It includes equality before the law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of race, religion, gender, caste and birthplace. The CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) infringe upon these fundamental rights.
Large-scale protests against these unjust laws have been met with brutal force and the Indian government has pursued criminal charges against many of its citizens. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 25 people have been killed since the protests started on December 12, including an 8-year-old boy in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
A student also allegedly lost his eyesight in the crackdown against the protests and many protestors have fractures, serious wounds and internal bleeding. In addition, hundreds of people have been detained and arrested. These include some prominent activists, but also ordinary protestors, including young students, women and the elderly. Many of those who are being detained are also being given heavy fines, which are intended to deter others from exercising their right to free speech.
Another major concern is that communication is being blocked. The internet and cell phone networks in some regions were shut down, whilst movement is being curtailed by closing down public transport in targeted areas. Pro-government agents, including members of the police, have damaged private and public property, including universities and libraries.
“As South Africans, we have experienced state-enforced racism and segregation under apartheid; it is therefore extremely disturbing to witness the rise of fascism and apartheid in India, which has long been a beacon of secular democratic values, such as tolerance and diversity. We have recently seen the devastation inflicted on the Rohingya minority in Myanmar as a result of state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing. Countries, including Rwanda, Burundi and Serbia Herzegovina, are still recovering from genocides that were initiated by fascist-racist regimes,” said the organisation.
“People Against Apartheid and Fascism believes that India’s ruling party is pursuing the same path as these countries. We also see parallels between the rise of fascism in India and the rise of Nazism in Germany before World War II. The outcomes of religious and ethno-nationalism are likely to be ethnic cleansing and genocide. India can ill afford to relive the trauma of the partition. As citizens who embrace the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we need to take a collective and decisive stand and say #NeverAgain.”
As a member of BRICS and as a nation that is making a slow recovery from apartheid and state repression, South Africa has a moral obligation to take a position on the crisis in India,” said the group.
“As South Africans, we have many cultural and historic ties to the sub-continent and our concerns are raised in the interest of our strong economic and cultural links to India. We should also speak up to prevent a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. With a population of 1,3 billion people, the Indian government is likely to set off a full-scale genocide.”
The organisation will host a protest soon and aims to build a broad coalition that can lobby and petition national and international governments to persuade India “to abandon its fascist ambitions”.