The Modi disaster for ordinary Indians – commentary

The Modi disaster for ordinary Indians

By Saraswati Ali

By the time this piece is published, the Indian election results will be fully out. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has taken over 31% of the vote and the clear majority of the seats. No other party even reached 56 seats in order to form an official opposition. In some letters to the Caribbean press, Narendra Modi has been hailed as a “man of the masses,” who will “finally unleash the true potential of India.” Let us take a closer look at Narendra Modi,and this force that has swept him into unchallengeable power.

India's P.M. Narendra Modi

India’s P.M. Narendra Modi

Modi first shot to infamy in the world and national media for his putative role in the 2002 state-sanctioned massacre of close to 2000 Muslims in the state of Gujarat where he was Chief Minister. The U.S. denied him a diplomatic visa for a number of years. Modi, in turn, denied his involvement, and counter- attacked and charged the numerous persons who were attempting to piece together the copious evidence against him. In 2012, a Special Investigation Team appointed by the courts cleared him, and the U.K. was quickest to restore his diplomatic status.

Yet, Modi’s biographical roots in fascist, upper-caste Hindu ideology (from the age of 8) and its political arm, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) speaks for itself, and is indeed the wedge issue which gives him so much political capital. At the same time he has caused rifts in his own party, which one can only hope deepens.

Since 2005, Modi spent hundreds of millions of rupees (there is no cap on campaign funds in India) in re-branding his image, and clearly, successfully so. He became touted as the Chief Minister hailing from the successful business state of Gujarat who could promise ‘development’ to all Indians. Once again in history, glittering monuments of amnesia were built over bloody battlefields so as to erase the unpleasant past. While this sounds like rhetoric on my part, let it be widely known that for Modi-defenders it is no big deal that thousands of Muslims were brutally massacred, raped, and displaced in those horrific days in 2002. They label you as a “liberal”, or as “not realistic”, or even “Pakistan lover” if you show your sympathy. Meanwhile, the courts, that quintessential liberal institution where two sides are debated, are unable to handle massacres in India. Nobody has yet been convicted for the anti-Sikh pogrom in Delhi after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. In Gujarat, social activists claim that the evidence on the 2002 massacre has been suppressed.

And as for development, according to a Labour Bureau report of October 2013, the wage rate for unskilled male agricultural labour in Gujarat is the lowest in the country – (US$2) Rs 129/ per day. More than ninety five percent of villages practice untouchability in Gujarat, and in more than sixty percent of villages, dalits are not allowed to use common water resources. In other words, business, which is thriving on division, hatred, and exploitation, is being touted as a great development achievement, whereas it is nothing of the sort. It is a rapid conduit of increasing inequality in India to mega-proportions. The news alone of Modi’s expected victory caused India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani – whose 27 storey residence in Mumbai is one of the most expensive ‘houses’ ever to be built – to gain billions of dollars.

The corporate houses in India and abroad backed Modi to the hilt for the 2014 elections, corporate media capitulated to him, and Modi’s party, the BJP, spent more on the elections than Obama did for his last electoral run,, in a country with 32.7% people living below the international poverty of $1.25 a day. India continues to be home to a third of the world’s poor, and a third of the world’s slave population, according to one calculation.

Truth, justice, and “democratic development” are not the only victims of the 2014 elections. Critical editors of major English language media outlets, such as The Hindu and Open magazine, have been fired for critical commentary on the Congress Party and the BJP in the past year. Intellectuals with a critical orientation are being surveilled and may be picked up at any time. Last week, a left-wing Delhi University professor, Dr. GN Saibaba, who is afflicted by polio and uses a wheelchair, was arrested without charges, whisked away, and will likely be denied bail if he is charged. Authors of a book Gas Wars, which documents the fixing of prices of natural gas by the Ambani empire have been served legal notice. The wagons are steadily closing.

So, seeing Modi as “a man of the masses” is really to cover up many stark, ugly and disturbing truths. To expect him to deliver true development is a sick dream. And when he fails, the reasonable fear is that he will distract and cow the general population through violence, grand gestures, and spectacles of greed. As writer Pankaj Mishra noted in an essay in last Friday’s London Guardian, “The electorally bountiful pogrom in Gujarat in 2002, too, now seems an early initiation ritual for Modi’s India.”

In this context, we have to remember that this was also an election that saw a new political formation called the Aam Admi Party (AAP) which breathed fresh air into the electoral air through speaking the highly popular language of anti-corruption and pro- basic needs such as water, electricity, roads, and food.

The AAP shot to prominence when it got the second largest number of seats in the Delhi legislative assembly elections in December 2013 where it formed a minority government, ousting the BJP. In the general elections, the BJP and the AAP went head to head in the famous city of Benares in central India, as leaders of both parties directly faced off there. Across the country, many loved social activists (as well as Internet Technology – IT – successes and business people) contested on AAP tickets, and campaigned for a revival of the kind of politics that only a few decades ago made India really great – the politics of the pro-poor, pro-justice and pro-people’s democracy.

While the AAP won only 1 seat at the national level, it is to these kinds of hopeful political developments and principled stances, to the fact that 60% of the electorate did not vote for Modi, and that people’s struggles continue to grow around issues of the environment, nuclear power, the rights of the commons, rights of workers, rights of women, rights of prisoners, that we should all support and encourage if the ordinary Indian’s life is not be further destroyed in the name of progress for very few.

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  • mnjnths  On 05/20/2014 at 11:42 am

    In India one is I know only minorities appeasement none of them want majority hindus votes in this stage modi was coming appeasement of enemy countries is not good. Most of the news was far from reality. Very carefully we have to go none of them was thinking what was happening in pakistan bangladesh. Now india was going to another muslim country if the situation was was tocontinue like this. The minority are not taking any family planning.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 05/20/2014 at 1:06 pm

    I suppose you could transpose Narendra Modi with any other name you choose and post the same article verbatim. Prime Minister of India is a challenge in any body’s book. Governing over a billion people is a daunting task. I wish him well!!

  • guyaneseonline  On 05/24/2014 at 5:05 am

    India’s tectonic shift

    The electoral victory of Narendra Modi and the BJP marks a major shift for India – inspiring great hope for many and worry for others. However, both the euphoria and the fears will calm down when Modi gets down to the hard business of governing a large, diverse, chaotic India.

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On 05/25/2014 at 5:06 am

    Ms. Ali is regurgitating the same lie (repeated three times in her article) which Peter Ford of the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) told in its May 16, 2014 article and was posted on this site last week. Clearly, some influential non-Hindu/non-India organization is behind this as the high-profile Christian voice, the CSM, wouldn’t make such an error when the official numbers are out there for all to view. It is well documented in in recent scholarly works such as Breaking India and Invading the Sacred that Western academics, supported by the Christian Right Wing, Pakistan and China are out to vilifying Hindus and splinter India into The Christian south (Dravidstan and Dalitstan), the Muslim Northwest to the Bay of Bengal (Mughulstan) and the Eastern portion for the Maoists and Marxist rebels.
    I am referring to the alleged 2,000 Muslims ‘massacred’ or as Ms. Ali now charges, “state-sanctioned massacre”. 2,000 Muslims were NOT “massacred” in 2002 in Gujarat during Modi’s gov’t. Only 790 Muslims while 254 Hindus (or over 24%) were killed in obviously riots. Indeed, this is a terrible cost in lives for both sides and the reputation of India and Modi. See here for numerous links to substantiate these numbers, which were reported in the Indian Parliament.
    I will not spend time tackling the several falsities or hyperboles in Ms Ali’s article. Suffice to say that the ‘2,000 Muslim’ lie discredits her whole argument.
    But, what the CSM and Ms. Ali (and numerous other media reportings) fail to do, in order to slam heathen, and caste-ridden Hindus and India, is that they all ignore the catalyst for the riots. A train of Hindu pilgrims was returning from Ayodhya (Lord Rama’s birthplace) when it was stalled and incinerated by Muslims at the Godhra station resulting in the fiery end to mostly 60 women and children (described in the Toronto Star by a former Editorial Page Editor, the pro-Muslim, Haroon Siddiqui as ‘Hindu fundamentalists’). So, no wonder Sri Modi is sidelined by the US. These countries’ foreign policies are influenced heavily by Judeo-Christian-Islamic viewpoints about ‘polytheistic heathen Hinduism’ ignoring her world-moving contribution such as Yoga, Meditation (even the Beatles went to India to practise), Ayurvedic therapies, and, yes, The Decimal Number system which we all depend on for daily commerce and scientific calculations (without which, Einstein remarked: ‘no meaningful scientific achievements would have been possible’ (certainly, not with Roman Numerals). Or Sanskrit which most of the world’s languages are sourced from.

    It is the same Hinduism which Philicia Rashad (Cosby show fame) has been following since she was a teenager. See this
    Or why Tina Turner chants a Hindus-Sanskrit peace prayer.
    Or, why the European, Maria Wirth comes to the defence of Modi and Hinduism.

    If Ms. Ali is honest she will look at history to see who massacred whom, Read what happened to Hindus in 1971 in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh (but was India pre-1947 partition to create an Islamic state). Reporter, Anthony Mascarenhas, who was embedded with the West Pak military which carried out the pogrom/genocide of 1-2 million Hindus made a report to the London Sunday Times, June 13, 1971 and is reproduced here. (Even senator Edward Kennedy reported on the genocide of Hindus). .
    And this slaughter of Hindus is only part of what took place in India. The Muslim invaders, going back to the 7th C., inflicted scores of millions of loss of Hindu lives. The Catholic Church Goan Inquisition did its share as well; as did the British imperialists…..
    Veda Nath Mohabir

    • Thinker  On 05/25/2014 at 7:06 pm

      Very informative for all. However, Sanskrit cannot be described as the source of most of the world’s languages. It is just about the oldest of the Indo-European languages, without doubt. Even today one can notice the resemblances between Latin and Hindi.

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On 05/26/2014 at 3:48 am

    When I said Sanskrit was the source of most languages, I meant of the known languages outside Africa, China and the various‘aboriginial languages’…Sanskrit is not only related (source of) the ancient languages such as Latin, Greek and Iranian but other indo-European languages such as Germanic, Slavic and Baltic. Even Hebrew has links to Sanskrit.
    Re Slavic. A study by a Slovenian (Skulj) and an India scholar found that Slovenia, the most westerly (with Czech) had the oldest links to Sanskrit (about 8,000 years old) based on agro-pastoral terminology. Migration (DNA supported) out of India was thought to be the cause. A few years ago, a Winter Olympic ‘luger’ died in practice in Vancouver. His name was Nodar Kumarashvilli. Note the ‘Kumar’, an Indian name. Even the name ‘Nodar’ is closely linked to another Indian name “Podar’. Secondly, I happened to hear some Caoucasian people talking on a TV show, and their language sounded somewhat Sanskrit/Hindi. I waited for the credits to see which country they were from, It turned out to be the Baltic state, Lithuania. I did an internet seach and found a list of at least 100 words that linked Lithuanian with Sanskrit. The Luger was also Lithuanian!
    Now Hebrew. Abraham is the father of all the Jewish tribes and the ‘Abrahamic’ religions. If we separate the “A” from the rest we get the remainder “Braham’. As it turns out “Brahman” is the overarching Hindu God. As well, “Brahma” is the creator deity in Hinduism. The words come from the Sanskrit root. “Brah” to grow large. In otherwords, in Hinduism the Universe and all seen and unseen are derived from Brahman; or is the father of all that exists. “A” in Latin is a preposition meaning to or from; In English it means ‘one of’’. So, Abraham can be considered to be patterned after “Brahman” ( looking ‘to’ or derived ‘from’) as ‘a’ ‘father’ of the Semetic people and by extension the early followers of Christianity and Islam. Not only that, but Abraham’s wife was “Sara”. Brahma’s consort is Saraswati. Note the similarity. There are numerous other words, when put together make my perhaps tenuous argument about Abraham- Brahman more believable..

  • Thinker  On 05/26/2014 at 9:20 am

    Yes, it is certain that lots in history have a common origin, preserved in various ways. The similarities between Krishna and Jesus are striking. Some believe that the latter may be a reincarnation of the former.

    The fact that Modi has had links to the RSS, just like Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, is generally used against him. But people evolve.

    • Thinker  On 05/26/2014 at 10:54 pm

      Adam (the first man according to Genesis) and Aadmi (meaning “man” in Hindi) is no coincidence.

      • Veda Nath Mohabir  On 05/27/2014 at 2:39 am

        Tom Harpur (author of the Pagan Christ and retd Prof of Greek and New Testament wrote in 2004 that ‘all world’s major religions are like branches from one tree’. Harpur wrote about the similarity of Jesus’ teachings and some of Krishna’s (3,000 years earlier) in the Bhagavad Gita. Furthermore he says that the ‘Greek word “Christos” in the Old Testament and Krishna, both come from the Sanskrit root “kri” meaning to anoint’. Holger Kersten ‘s book “Jesus Lived in India” gives very plausible argument that Jesus did go Indian to get his learning during his ‘missing years’ (12-29) .
        Also, you are right, Adam and aadmi (Hindi) = man is no coincidence. In fact, “adi” = first, in Sanskrit and “Adim” refers to the ‘first man’. So, it is quite likely that Adam is derived from Sanskrit

        Re Modi. As the European woman Maria Wirth pointed out, too much is made of his Hindu background which is not done for several other world leaders, especially in the Muslim world. Keep in mind that Modi was voted in by a clear majority of seats (only once in the past); and voters gave up on the dynastic and corruption-tainted Congress party gov’t that was in power for over 50 years in the last 67 since independence with even a youthful leader.
        The youths clearly moved to Modi.

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