Is India’s BJP a threat to minorities?

We challenge the spokesperson for Narendra Modi’s BJP and debate whether foreign ISIL fighters should be repatriated.

In this week’s UpFront, we challenge BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli on the party’s tacit support of hate speech.

And in the arena, we discuss whether former ISIL fighters, their wives and children should be allowed back to their home countries.

Kohli: ‘Perfectly apt’ to call undocumented immigrants ‘termites’

The world’s biggest exercise in democracy is happening right now in India. The country’s seven-phase general election is a massive logistical exercise, with 900 million eligible voters, more than 2,000 political parties and a million polling stations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been in power since 2014, is hoping to secure another five years in office.

But the party has overseen a nearly 30 percent rise in communal violence and a nearly 500 percent increase in the use of hateful and divisive language by politicians.

BJP party president Amit Shah, for example, referred to undocumented Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh as “termites” and “infiltrators”.

When asked whether he thought the use of that language was dehumanising, BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said it was an “apt analogy.”

“A termite, essentially, and in India, we’re used to it because we do have a lot of termites, they come from the ground and they eat you up hollow from the inside … it’s a perfectly apt analogy,” Kohli said.

Should former ISIL fighters have the right to return home?

More than 250 people were killed on Easter Sunday when eight coordinated bomb blasts tore through multiple sites in Sri Lanka, including three churches.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group claimed responsibility and according to one report at least one of the bombers trained in Syria with the group.

The attacks have reignited the debate over what should be done with thousands of foreign fighters who want to return to their home countries. Should they be sent back to face trial?

Jasmine el Gamal, a former Pentagon official under the Obama administration, says they should be repatriated for moral, legal and security reasons.

“We have an obligation to follow the principles of humanity, and we have to act humanely in an armed conflict,” el Gamal said.

“The alternative to bringing them back and trying them, however difficult it is, is to let them stay in Syria and Iraq, potentially becoming more radicalised and posing a greater risk to us in the future,” she added.

Anti-ISIL campaigner Macer Gifford, who went to Syria to fight with the Kurdish YPG militia, believes former fighters should not be sent back to their home countries.

“They’ve been ideologically indoctrinated,” Gifford said.

“They’ve received a huge amount of military training and we simply can’t take the risk of allowing these people, hundreds of well-trained Jihadis, to flood back into the West,” he added.

In this week’s arena, Jasmine el Gamal and Macer Gifford debate the repatriation of former ISIL fighters and their families.

Follow UpFront on Twitter @AJUpFront and Facebook.