Friday, March 31st, 2023 14:39:48

West Gone Wild

Updated: June 3, 2014 12:06 pm

They all are expressing their concern about India if Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister. Be it a group of “Intellectuals”, most of whom are of Indian origin, who have jointly written an article in The Guardian or a leader in The Economist, comments in The Times and The Independent, these are some of the publications which have expressed their angst against Modi and said he would be ruinous for India. In The Guardian the ‘elite’ group includes Salman Rushdie, Deepa Mehta, Sir Anish Kapoor, Vivan Sundaram, artist Dame Helena Kennedy, barrister Imran Khan, solicitor Mike Wood, British MP, John McDonnell, MP, Fiona Mactaggart, MP, Jacqueline Bhabha, director of research, François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University, Geeta Kapur, art historian and Pragna Patel, director of the Southall Black Sisters.

A formidable group this, of which the MPs have been known sympathisers of pro-plebiscite lobbies, some hardly know about India and most have always disliked right to the centre politics. “Without questioning the validity of India’s democratic election process, it is crucial to remember the role played by the Modi government in the horrifying events that took place in Gujarat in 2002. The Muslim minority was overwhelmingly the victim of pillage, murder and terror, resulting in the deaths of more than 2,000 men, women and children. Women, in particular, were subjected to brutal acts of violence and were left largely unprotected by the security forces. Although some members of Narendra Modi’s government are now facing trial, Modi himself repeatedly refuses to accept any responsibility or to render an apology. Such a failure of moral character and political ethics on the part of Modi is incompatible with India’s secular Constitution, which, in advance of many constitutions across the world, is founded on pluralist principles and seeks fair and full representation for minorities. Were he to be elected prime minister, it would bode ill for India’s future as a country that cherishes the ideals of inclusion and protection for all its people and communities.”.

These ladies and gentlemen have long memories. Having fed on the media reports and comments of their compatriots in India, they have concluded that there was a criminal neglect by the Modi government. The fact that India’s apex court cleared Modi and in fact only very recently the Supreme Court refused to start a fresh inquiry is of no value to this fired-up group. Nor the recent reports of two Madhu Kishwar and Tavleen Singh, one time most virulent critics of Modi, that clear Modi of all charges. They were converted after their own investigations. The signatories have apparently closed mind. The surprise is that Rushdie too is one of the signatories. He has been coming to India almost every year and never spoke about this. He was stopped from coming to the Jaipur literary Festival in Jaipur by a Congress state government. He could try seeking entry into a city where there is security risk, when Modi is at the Centre. He would be permitted to come. Modi government would not be a putty in the hands of a few Hindu or Muslim fundamentals. Has he succumbed to the call of the intellectuals?

Presumably these ladies and gentlemen were minors in1984 when in literally a genocide almost 5000 Sikhs were killed. So they have never condemned that. In fact many want Rajiv Gandhi’s heir to head India.

The fact that over 100 have been convicted for Gujarat riots but not one for1984 genocide, is lost on this group. Riots in Brixton and not many years ago in Mirpuri-dominated Bradford, were equally vicious but no comments were ever made.

Facts are obviously uncomfortable. There were 12 million Christians and Hindus in Pakistan at the time of Partition. Almost 30 milliojn Muslims were in India then. Today, the minorities in Pakistan is one million, and in India Muslims are over 170 million. They have grown in the same ratio in Gujarat. In Gujarat no riots have taken place for 12 years, whereas otherwise riots were almost annual fixtures. Why? Even if we presume that Modi is not entirely clean, he has realised that such things leave a scar that never heals. In many ways he has been more than convicted by being pillared by a horde of Modi-baiters for whom it is a lucrative cottage industry.

Unfortunately these residents abroad are not interested to study anything which is pro-Modi. But if out of 800 million voters, 500 million make Modi prime minister, he would be India’s choice. After a long period of policy paralysis, economic spiralling downslide, corruption and scams bleeding the country of over Rs 500,000 crore, complete insecurity of women and the country’s standing internationally never as low as now, when even a tiny Maldives dares to violate promises, and Pakistan’s Rangers cross over to the Indian territory and behead Indian soldiers at will, India will have a strong leader at the Centre.

But possibly unconsciously this group would not like it. And some in the West want the Gandhis to continue presiding over the country. That would mean status quo. A Modi would mean production of defence items in India and as he said he wants to make India to a state where America lines up for visas, not he. He wants India capable and strong enough to not let China or Pakistan dare entertain any thought of ‘fixing’ the country. What happens then to the defence industries in the UK and the US? This must gnaw the more loyal to the Queen and the Star and Stripes than to India, the origin of many.

They are also in the good company of the Christian Church. It is incensed with Modi since he banned conversions. It has umpteen NGOs which receive funds and are now reportedly spending money to stop Modi. Now one comes to the leader in The Economists. ‘If Mr Modi were to explain his role in the violence and show genuine remorse, we would consider backing him, but he never has; it would be wrong for a man who has thrived on division to become prime minister of a country as fissile as India. We do not find the prospect of a government led by Congress under Mr Gandhi an inspiring one. But we have to recommend it to Indians as less disturbing option.’

Less disturbing to whom, to the leader writer or to Indians? One can assure The Economists that 800 million voters want nothing more than to see the back of the Congress under the Gandhis. All of them may not like, even hate Modi but the Gandhis were party to a government that ruined the country in all aspects and brought misery to every household because of high prices and insecurity of women.

Rajiv Dogra, former Ambassador, wrote about the Economist leader. “Economist too sets a fair standard of accuracy for itself, usually. But sometimes there are aberrations; as is likely with a busy magazine. Then, passionate belief overwhelms the desirable. I remember an editorial (Leader if you like) in The Economist soon after the Indian elections in 1977.

“Those elections were held after a particularly traumatic two years for India when Mrs. Gandhi had imposed an ‘Emergency’ rule in the country. People welcomed the announcement of elections as restoration of democracy, and viewed the process as their chance to deliver a verdict against Mrs. Gandhi.

“She lost predictably. But The Economist had a unique view on the election result. I recall that immediately after the election results, The Economist published a Leader to the effect that the villagers of India had been reading the magazine advising them to cast their vote against Mrs. Gandhi! It (The Economist) felt gratified that they had heeded its advice.”

We as Indians were thrilled that when the literarcy rate was really low and most villagers did not know English, they were reading The Economist. Referring to the present advice by The Economist as given above, Ambassador Dogra writes, “This call by The Economist may or may not reach 814 million voters, incidentally a count larger than the entire population of Europe…. Among the voters this time, over 150 million would be first time voters below the age of 23. Nearly 100 million would be Muslim voters.” A large number may make this the first election where considerations of caste and religion take a back seat to the aspirations of youth and the middle class.

And who has given hope to this class for its aspirations and for development and corruption-free India? When The Economist identifies the leader or the party, it could if it pleases write another leader.

By Vijay Dutt

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