Saturday January 22, 2022

Modi’s India

November 22, 2021

Over the years, India has orchestrated a mystical image for itself. It has shrouded itself in the smoke and mirror illusion of a secular, tolerant and democratic country. Before its opening game in the recently held T20 World Cup, the Indian cricket team expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

However, these very cricketers, along with a vast majority of Indian celebrities, remain starkly unmoved to the plight of religious/ethnic minorities in India and the atrocities meted out in Indian-occupied Kashmir. The World Population Review 2021 names India as one of the world’s most racist country.

The fact that the Indian cricket team took the knee on the directives of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) made it all the more dichotomous. The BCCI is led by 33-year-old Jay Amitbhai Shah. He owes this position and his fortunes, which rose by 16,000 percent – from INR50,000 in 2014 to over $15 million in 2020, to his father Amit Shah, Modi’s ethnic cleansing comrade in arms. The truth also came to the fore after India’s loss to Pakistan. Mohammed Shami, the lone Muslim member of the Indian team, faced threats and virulent abuse; he was also called a Pakistani spy.

The BJP’s IT cell at Delhi’s Ashoka Road is the headquarters of an online troll army that monitors and sends out rape and death threats to dissenting Indians. ‘Getting away with murder’, a report by journalists Geeta Seshu and Urvashi Sarkar, tabulates 198 attacks on journalists alone in the last five years. Forty journalists, including an outspoken critic of Modi’s government Gauri Lankesh, the editor of Lankesh Patrike, and Shujaat Bukhari, the editor of Rising Kashmir, were shot dead by ‘unknown’ assailants.

Modi has mastered the use of technology to spread venom and hate. Despite the dire mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent severe economic downturn, the success of his lethal seduction can be gauged from the fact that since 2019, Modi has amassed over 70 million followers on Twitter and 63 million on Instagram. His YouTube channel clocked over one billion views. This contagious hate spiel has ensnared millions of Indians across the globe. It indoctrinates 700 million online people in India alone with round-the-clock exposure to fake news and religious/ethnic bigotry.

The four million Indian diaspora in the US is the wealthiest and the highly educated ethnic group there. Equating themselves with people of colour, these people are outspoken about their rights in the US, but remain callously unmoved about the oppression back home.

Richard Shapiro was the anthropology department chair at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). His wife Angana Chatterji, also a CIIS faculty member, was the co-convener of the International Tribunal on human rights in Occupied Kashmir.

On documenting mass graves in Kashmir, Chatterji faced rape and death threats and was charged with sedition; Shapiro was denied entry into India. An infuriated Indian government, aided by influential Indians in the US, proved its outreach by having Chatterji and Shapiro suspended and threatened with termination of their CIIS faculty positions.

Earlier this year, Rashmi Samant from Karnataka was elected president of the Oxford University Student Union. She had to quit the position after her racist social media posts surfaced. One had a picture of her family members celebrating the destruction of a mosque in India and the construction of a Hindu temple in its place. Ironically, Samant called her removal racism. Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha and said, “India can’t ever turn its eyes away from racism”; dichotomous words in a blatant dichotomy that is India today.

When Shobhana Bhartia, the chair of Hindustan Times (HT), met Modi, the latter conveyed his displeasure regarding the editorial policies of Bobby Ghosh, the editor of HT. Ghosh had launched a webpage ‘Hate Tracker’ that recorded violent crimes based on religion, gender and ethnicity. Ghosh was forced to resign; Hate Tracker was immediately taken down.

Modi’s story of humble beginnings, true that it may be, has morphed into a macabre farce where a tea-selling boy dons the mantle of an alpha-male to create Hindurashtra by delivering India from deshdrohis (traitors). It also has the butcher of Kashmir and Gujarat transform into the ‘serene Modi’ with his yoga and peacocks. Unfortunately, this Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde charade has resonated with the Indians; temples have come up in his name, and his statues are revered a god.

The stark reality is that India has become the perpetrator of state-sponsored terrorism targeting religious, ethnic and caste minorities. It is a land where Rajeshwar Singh, a prominent BJP/RSS leader, proclaims that “Muslims and Christians shall be wiped out of India; this is our pledge”. This person also heads the Dharm Jagran Samiti which is the movement of forcibly converting Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.

This India has Haryana CM Manohar Khattar gloating that “now we will bring girls from Kashmir”. It is here that Sunita Gaur, a BJP leader, encourages “Hindus to openly gang-rape Muslim women in the streets” and Pragya Thakur, an MP from Bhopal, a proven perpetrator of saffron terror, voices the BJP sentiment of calling Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse, a true patriot.

Modi’s India is a paradox that is dichotomous, morally flawed and the worst violator of human rights. It is also an indictment of the complicit West that chooses to remain callously unmoved.

Since the dawn of time, a fractious people divided by hate have bred tyranny; Modi and his alma mater the RSS thrive on the same. Being such a large and diverse nation, India is bound to have differences within. Encouraged and patronised by the state itself, these differences morph into hate and jingoism. A recipe for disaster, it is as implosive within India as it is a security nightmare for the whole world.

The writer is a freelance contributor.