India: Narendra Modi stokes divisions in the world’s biggest democracy – The Economist

India’s 200m Muslims fear the prime minister is building a Hindu state

Narendra Modi

Leaders- Jan 23rd 2020 edition – Jan 23rd 2020 – The Economist

Last month India changed the law to make it easier for adherents of all the subcontinent’s religions, except Islam, to acquire citizenship. At the same time, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) wants to compile a register of all India’s 1.3bn citizens, as a means to hunt down illegal immigrants (see Briefing). Those sound like technicalities, but many of the country’s 200m Muslims do not have the papers to prove they are Indian, so they risk being made stateless. Ominously, the government has ordered the building of camps to detain those caught in the net.       

You might think that the bjp’s scheme was a miscalculation. It has sparked widespread and lasting protests. Students, secularists, even the largely fawning media have begun to speak out against Narendra Modi, the prime minister, for his apparent determination to transform India from a tolerant, multi-religious place into a chauvinist Hindu state.

In fact, the scheme looks like the most ambitious step yet in a decades-long project of incitement. The bjp first rose to national prominence by agitating for the demolition of a mosque in the city of Ayodhya, to make way for a temple to Ram, a Hindu deity. The destruction of the mosque in 1992 by a mob of Hindu extremists, followed by deadly riots, only propelled the party’s ascent. Likewise, a massacre of Muslims in the state of Gujarat in 2002, when Mr Modi was chief minister, made him a hero to Hindu nationalists around the country.

Alas, what has been electoral nectar for the bjp is political poison for India. By undermining the secular principles of the constitution, Mr Modi’s latest initiatives threaten to do damage to India’s democracy that could last for decades. They are also likely to lead to bloodshed.

The sad truth is that Mr Modi and the bjp are likely to benefit politically by creating divisions over religion and national identity. Such subjects keep the party’s activists and their allies in Hindu-nationalist groups energised—always a boon, given India’s relentless sequence of state elections. They also distract attention from awkward topics such as the economy, which has struggled since the bjp’s thumping election victory last year (see article). Most important, Mr Modi seems to calculate that a sizeable minority of Indian voters are sympathetic to his constant insinuation that Muslims are dangerous fifth-columnists, always scheming to do Hindus down and sell out their country to Pakistan. That is enough to keep him in office. Because of India’s first-past-the-post electoral system and a divided opposition, the bjp won its outright majority in parliament with just 37% of the vote.

Just now the bjp may be hunting for a new grievance. The Supreme Court recently issued a ruling that had the effect of depriving it of its favourite cause, by clearing the way for a Hindu temple to be built at the site of the demolished mosque in Ayodhya. The citizenship ruckus appeals to the party for the very same reasons that it has prompted widespread alarm. The plan to compile a register of genuine Indians as part of a hunt for foreign interlopers affects all 1.3bn people in the country. It could drag on for years, inflaming passions over and over again, as the list is compiled, challenged and revised. Just how the register will be drawn up, and what the consequences of exclusion are, remain woolly. Indeed, Mr Modi is already claiming it has all been misunderstood. Meanwhile, the hullabaloo helps reinforce the notion, so electorally valuable to the bjp, that Hindus, although about 80% of the population, are threatened by shadowy forces that it alone has the courage to confront.

This imperils the inspiring idea of India as the world’s largest democracy. Mr Modi’s policies blatantly discriminate against his Muslim compatriots. Why should a secular government shelter persecuted Hindus from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, but explicitly vow not to take a single downtrodden Muslim? The citizenship row is only the latest in a series of affronts, from the bjp’s lionising of vigilantes thought to have killed Muslims to the collective punishment of the people of the Kashmir valley, who have suffered arbitrary arrests, smothering curfews and an internet blackout for five months.

Since independence, India has confounded predictions that its democracy would crumble by accommodating its many constituencies of language, ethnicity, caste and religion. A secular and impartial government, even if flawed in many other ways, protects all these groups. The deliberate and sustained persecution of one of them constitutes an implicit threat against all—and so puts the political system at risk. Voters should recall that the bjp has experimented with policies that disadvantage other minorities, from low-caste Hindus who defy the party’s view of their religion to speakers of languages other than Hindi.

Because his rabble-rousing has a human cost, Mr Modi is also tarnishing the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, a preacher of non-violence. As it is, many Muslims have been lynched or beaten to death for supposed slights to Hinduism, such as loving a Hindu woman or killing a cow. From time to time the stoking of anti-Muslim sentiment leads to massacres like the one in Gujarat, in which more than 1,000 people were killed. By perpetually firing up Hindus and infuriating Muslims, the bjp makes fresh bloodshed more likely.

Mr Modi may imagine he can keep communal tensions under control, ramping them up and tamping them down as his political fortunes demand. But even if he is only cynically exploiting religious bigotry, many in the Hindu nationalist rank-and-file are true believers. They are not easily restrained, as the slaughter in Gujarat showed. With his warlike rhetoric about Pakistan, his head-cracking in Kashmir and his flagrantly biased approach to citizenship, the prime minister has raised the zealots’ expectations. He may not want to take things too far—he has a country to govern—but they will have no such compunction.

Something worth defending

Happily, many Indians have already had enough, as the recent protests show. The Supreme Court, which this week declined to suspend the citizenship law, should heed this, show some unexpected spine and declare it unconstitutional. And rather than stoke hostility between two of the world’s great religions, Mr Modi should look for other paths to voters’ hearts. ■

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Narendra Modi stokes divisions in the world’s biggest democracy”

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Comments

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On January 27, 2020 at 2:31 pm

    This Economist article is just drivel that can be found in all anti-Modi-Hindu/India publications, as in the mostly foreign owned Indian media (even Seecharan, in last September Gafoor lectures in England, blurted out that the audience should read the “Hindu” paper because the name Hindu is misleading as it is British-owned, hence objective). When you listen to the BBC, Canadian CBC, CTV News, etc, CNN, or read NY Times, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Canadian Toronto Star or Globe and Mail, you get the same anti-Modi/Hindu propaganda.
    Why this is so?

    Two reasons, (I have addressed in other commentaries on this blog).
    One: is because they get their news in the Indian cocktail circuits where the Leftist (Marxist-Maoist), Muslim, Christians, so-called ‘Secularists’ (but really modern-day “Lord Macaulay’s Children” – ‘coconuts’, Gunga Dins, sepoys) predominate. So you are getting news from an anti-Modi/Hindu ‘echo chamber’.

    Secondly, these elite ‘Secularists’ have links around the world, in media and academic circles (I disclose some in Chap 1 of my new book, The Mauling of Indians, where I rebut Clem Seecharan). I see or read them in the media often.
    As two examples, in my recent letter to Stabroek News (link below), I take on Indian and fairly well-known around the world (was Under-Secretary in Kofi Anan’s UN administration; and appeared in CNN’s Fareed Zacharias GPS). All the way from India, his article appeared in Stabroek News. My letter addresses three issues showing how the protestors are instigated against Modi.
    Secondly, Arundhati Roy – well-loved abroad – was twice interviewed by BBC and CBC where she slammed Mr Modi. So Mr Modi and Hindus are in an uphill battle against the elites.
    https://www.stabroeknews.com/2019/12/28/opinion/letters/mr-tharoors-arguments-are-specious-on-these-three-issues/

    Specifically on the article, here is an incongruity:
    “ but many of the country’s 200m Muslims do not have the papers to prove they are India”. Why only Muslims don’t have papers, and not Hindus, given that both communities are supposed to be Indian citizens?

    Re. “massacre of Muslims in the state of Gujarat in 2002”. This is related to the ‘Ram Mandir’ issue.

    As noted in my letter in SN, the Indian Supreme Court – not appointed by Mr. Modi – agreed with Hindus that a Muslim mosque was rebuilt over a destroye Hindu temple to deity Rama. (This was a common practice during the 800 years of Muslim invasions and hegemony over Hindus in India. Former Harvard Economics professor, Dr S. Swamy, put the figure of such destructions/replacements as 40,000.

    Now, the relationship of the so-called ‘massacre’ to Mosque/Ram temple. ‘Secularists’ reports will separate the two issues.
    In February, 2002, Hindu pilgrims were returning from the temple site. Fifty-nine (59) Hindus mainly women and children were burned alive in an Express Sabarmati train attack at the Godhra train station. The express train was stopped, doors barred by Muslims who gathered at the station, so the weaker women and children couldn’t escape, and thus were incinerated. (As I write this, coincidentally, I just listened to the 75th anniversary of the freeing of the Auschwitz Nazi death factory for the gassing and incineration of Jews, Roma & Sinti people – of Indian ancestry- etc.)

    Of the estimated 1,000 people killed in the ensuing riots in Gujurat, 254 were Hindus.

    Re. Cow slaughter, Article 48 of the Indian Constitution bans cow slaughter. This was upheld by the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the Hindu source books, the Vedas, at sevearl places prohibit the slaughter of cows. I imagine the unfairness of the Muslims and protestors. Would a Muslim country allow the slaughter of pigs for consumption, Even cafeterias, in government and educational institutions in Canada have a Halal section for Muslims. Why everyone must respect Muslim sentiments but in the Hindus’ motherland, India, they are criticized for observing both the Constitution and their premier religions texts.

    The article states: “Why should a secular government shelter persecuted Hindus from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, but explicitly vow not to take a single downtrodden Muslim?”
    No where did the Mr Modi’s gov’t “vow” not to take in Muslims. They still have the right to apply as any other person (as Mr. Tarek Fatah below did).
    This Bill as my SN letter states is fast track for long suffering minorities in these intolerant Muslim countries (NO, Economist! It is NOT just Hindus) but ALSO, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Parsees/Zoroastrians! Also, Let the Muslims of these Muslim countries go to the 51 Muslim states around the world. As well, Muslims decided to split India with twos part going expressly for Muslims. Furthermore, If as the authors say, Muslims are mistreated in India who head there??? They can also head for Canada. Justin Trudeau fast-tracked Syrians a few years ago.

    Here are two revealing videos by a respected Muslim, Mr Tarek Fatah, in India and Canada – Pakistan-born but gave up this citizenship to become Indian because he views India as his motherland, as has onle negative sentiments for Pakistan. Also, he is a Canadian citizen and columnist of the Toronto Sun. He takes the very opposite stance than what is written in this Economist rag, and what makes the protesters go berserk in India.

    In the first video you will see Mr. Fatah, ( I repeat a Muslim) excoriates Indian Islamists such as those in the Jamia Millia Islamia university whom he identifies along with the Indian Left as leading the charge against the Mr. Modi’s Citizenship Bill. In the latter part Mr Fatah refers respectfully to HINDUTVA and its author, Mr. Sarvarkar.

    In this second one he addresses the Kashmir issue – very good background to the current conflict.
    https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=tarek+fatah+on+Kashmir+issue&view=detail&mid=E1461C5DDC4555AFF879E1461C5DDC4555AFF879&FORM=VIRE
    I won’t be writing more on this issue unless a matter needs clarification.

    VNM.

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On January 27, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Corrections: the “I” s/b ignored in the foll:
    ” I imagine the unfairness of the Muslims and protestors.”

    ” sevearl” s/b ‘several.

    “Who” s/b ‘why’ in the foll
    ” If as the authors say, Muslims are mistreated in India who head there???

    VNM

    • Emanuel  On January 27, 2020 at 4:53 pm

      There is a million significant events happening all over the world all the time, but all you are compelled to write about is India and Hinduism

      You could comment on the Corona virus, Kobe’s untimely passing, the impeachment trial in Washington, etc, etc. But no, it has to be the predictable. Help is available.

      • Trevor  On January 27, 2020 at 9:31 pm

        India has less oil reserves than Guyana as of today, & Canada has 170 billion barrels of dirty and sticky bitumen crude.

        We should be rejoicing that our sweet crude oil reserves are rising and that Guyanese have a time to shine and leave those ABC countries which have treated them like second class citizens.

  • Trevor  On January 27, 2020 at 9:28 pm

    Exxon’s oil discoveries have almost reached 10 billion barrels of oil, and only 5% of the total offshore blocks have been discovered so far.

    India doesn’t even have that much oil, and our sweet Guyana has a potential of hundreds of billions of barrels of sweet crude oil, and also a potential of another 100 billion barrels of heavy Orinoco crude (as the Venezuelans are claiming).

    Guyana might have more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Russia combined.

    Divide 10 billion by 5% and you get 200 billion barrels of potential offshore reserves if you do the math.

    India has 1.3 billion people and has less oil than Guyana currently. Why focus on the past?

    My friends are admitting that they can’t get jobs in the ABC countries and they are treated as how the Haitians are treated in GT; as they are not welcome. The ABC countries are becoming s-holes while Guyana has a chance to shine. By next year, our oil reserves might reach double-digits or even triple digits (hundreds of billions of barrels of oil).

    Today should be a day to reflect that Guyana might be the first country in the world to have the most oil reserves.

    What India supporters should do is sign deals with the government to sell oil in India.

    • Ken Persaud  On January 28, 2020 at 12:18 am

      Trevor, ABC countries generally referred to Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Please be specific when you use the term. The above countries were more affluent than the other South American nations in the first half of the previous century. Today the gap is closing.

      Ken

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On January 27, 2020 at 10:03 pm

    FUNDING OF THE VIOLENT ANTI-MODI GOVERNMENT PROTESTS

    Here is new information just released about the FUNDING of the violent protests in Uttar Pradesh (UP) against the Citizenship Bill (CAA). Expect more revelations in other states. What this revelation shows is that what is widely promoted as spontaneous ordinary people’s protests are really heavily financed by some outfit(s). Don’t be surprised funding could be from opposition parties/Pakistan/Gulf states.

    Anti-CAA Protests: ED Unearths PFI Link in UP; Rs 120 Crore Money-trail Under Lens
    [NB: a Crore = 10 million. Therefore 120 Crore is 1 billion, 200 million Rupees]

    “In a sensational revelation, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) [part of the Ministry of Revenue like the IRS in USA] on Monday has unearthed a direct link between anti-CAA protests in Uttar Pradesh and the Popular Front of India (PFI) – sending a note stating the same to the Home Ministry. Moreover, the ED has found a link between the Rs. 120 crores deposited in 73 bank accounts allegedly belonging to PFI from various sources and the anti-CAA protests held in Uttar Pradesh, as per sources. Sources further state that shortly after the deposit, maximum cash was allegedly withdrawn during anti-CAA protest days.
    “90 withdrawals were allegedly made in a day during the protests against the CAA, as per the bank documents and proof procured by the ED. Moreover, the ED claims that the money was transferred specifically before the days the protests were held in Uttar Pradesh.

    https://www.republicworld.com/india-news/law-and-order/anti-caa-protests-ed-unearths-pfi-link-in-uttar-pradesh-protests.html

    “PFI was an “incarnation” of SIMI (Students ISLAMIC Movement of India)”

    “On January 1, the UP Police had arrested about 25 members of PFI from different districts of the state, alleging their role in the violent anti-CAA protests in Lucknow.
    UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said PFI was an “incarnation” of SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), an outfit which has been banned by the Home Ministry for terrorist activities under UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967).”

    https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/india/what-is-popular-front-of-india-pfi-and-why-does-uttar-pradesh-govt-want-it-banned-4781111.html

    It is shameful that an otherwise reputable outfit like the Economist, not to mention all the media houses I listed above, inadvertently support these banned outfits by promoting their agenda.

    VNM

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On January 29, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    George Soros’ lie

    So powerful is the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (anti-CAA) forces that they convince George Soros to LIE that Mr. Modi is threatening to deprive Muslims of citizenship.

    The Bill makes NO mention of Muslims; only about giving fast-track citizenship (as Trudeau did for Syrians) to 30,000+ long suffering NON-Muslim religious minorities who escaped from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and who are currently in India for at least last 5 years.

    Look at the first 12 minutes before the debate gets heated.

    VNM

    • Emanuel  On January 29, 2020 at 3:00 pm

      Let me remind you that this is Guyanese Online, not India Online.

      Emanuel

  • Trevor  On January 29, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    I’m not going to comment on that article. I just hope that the tensions between Hindus and Muslims don’t come to Guyana or our brothers down in Suriname. It’s quite hypocritical given that the PPP aspire to become Dubai Sheikhs and oil barons of the desert.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Ravi Dev starts wearing a white robe and starts praying 5 times a day towards Mecca.

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On January 30, 2020 at 6:22 pm

    THREE UNDESIRABLES LEAD OR SUPPORT THE ANTI MODI DEMOCRATIC POLICIES.

    GEORGE SOROS
    “Messianic Fantasies”

    “It is sort of a disease when you consider yourself some kind of god, the creator of everything, but I feel comfortable about it now since I began to live it out,” (The Independent, June 3, 1993)

    “I admit that I have always harbored an exaggerated view of self-importance –to put it bluntly, I fancied myself as some kind of god or an economic reformer like Keynes or, even better, a scientist like Einstein,” (The Alchemy of Finance, George Soros)
    “You must understand he thinks he’s been anointed by God to solve insoluble problems. The proof is that he has been so successful at making so much. He therefore thinks he has a responsibility to give money away,” (Time Magazine, Sept 1, 1997)
    “If truth be known, I carried some rather potent messianic fantasies with me from childhood which I felt I had to control, otherwise I might end up in the loony bin. But when I made my way in the world I wanted to indulge myself in my fantasies to the extent that I could afford.” (George Soros 60 Minutes Interview – 12/20/98)

    THE MAN WHO BROKE THE BANK OF ENGLAND”
    “He famously shorted the British pound in 1992, wagering $10 billion on a drop in its value. In a desperate bid to keep its currency afloat, the Bank of England tried to buy up pounds as fast as Soros could dump them. However, as more and more investors followed Soros’ lead and joined his efforts, the Bank of England eventually gave up. The British pound was devalued, launching a tsunami of financial turmoil from Tokyo to Rome. WHEN IT WAS OVER, MILLIONS OF HARDWORKING BRITONS CONFRONTED THEIR DIMINISHED SAVINGS, WHILE SOROS COUNTED HIS GAINS. HE HAD PERSONALLY MADE NEARLY $2 BILLION ON THE CATASTROPHE,” (The Shadow Party, pg. 4).
    Soros has said of this event: “I had no platform, SO I DELIBERATELY [DID] THE STERLING THING TO CREATE A PLATFORM.”… (Time Magazine, Sept 1, 1997)

    In 1997, during the Asian financial crisis, the then Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir bin Mohamad, accused him of bringing down the Malaysian currency, the ringgit, through his trading activities. In Thailand he was branded an “ECONOMIC WAR CRIMINAL” WHO “SUCKS THE BLOOD FROM THE PEOPLE”.

    ANTI-SEMITISM

    In a 1998 interview with Steve Kroft, Soros was asked if he felt guilty about confiscating property from Jews as a teenager. He responded, “No.”
    “I don’t deny the Jews their right to a national existence – but I don’t want to be part of it. ”That experience notwithstanding, Soros has chosen to exclude Israel and Jewish causes, by and large, from his massive philanthropy …. He continued, “My mother was quite anti-Semitic, and ashamed of being Jewish. Given the culture in which one lived, being Jewish was a clear-cut stigma, disadvantage, a handicap-and, therefore, there was always the desire to transcend it, to escape it.”
    Source: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SOROS by CONNIE BRUC, The New Yorker, January 23, 1995,)
    Born in Hungary in 1930, Mr. Soros began life as George Schwartz. His father, Tivadar, was from humble origins; his mother, Erzebet, from money. Both were Jews, but nonobservant (she eventually converted to Catholicism).
    https://www.liveleak.com/view?i=58f_1289451491

    THEN, MORE RECENTLY, SOROS WAS CONVICTED OF INSIDER AND LOST APPEAL.
    “Soros was convicted of insider trading in 2002 involving shares of Societe Generale he bought in 1988. A Paris court found that he had knowledge that the French bank might be a possible takeover target and ordered Soros to repay the 2.2 million euros ($2.9 million) he made from the share purchase. It was later reduced to €940,000 on appeal, the WSJ reported.”
    https://www.businessinsider.com/george-soros-insider-trading-conviction-2011-10

    SHASHI THAROOR
    (This is the chap whose SN’s article I rebutted in a letter – See above}
    A career diplomat for 25 years, Mr Tharoor served as undersecretary general at the United Nations for communications and public information.
    Indian MP and former UN diplomat Shashi Tharoor has been charged with aiding his wife’s suicide in 2014.
    [His wife] Sunanda Pushkar’s unexplained death was initially treated as suicide but police later said she had been murdered, without naming a suspect.
    Police in Delhi have now charged Mr Tharoor with abetment to suicide and cruelty to his spouse.
    The first post-mortem report after her death suggested she may have died of a drug overdose – reports said Ms Pushkar had been on medication.
    Subsequent reports since then spoke of “poisoning”, “mysterious injection marks” and according to one report, a “deep bite” on her palm.
    The couple became embroiled in controversy over a series of Twitter messages before Ms Pushkar’s death that appeared to reveal Mr Tharoor was having an affair with a Pakistani journalist.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-44109415

    SUZANNA ARUNDHATI ROY
    A Charge has been brought against this much-loved by BBC, CBC and other Western media for inciting student at Delhi university to undermine the collection of data for National Population Register (NPR) in India by giving false info such as using names of criminals, etc to replace their proper names, as well as giving trivial/false residential information.

    New Delhi: Author-activist Arundhati Roy on Wednesday claimed that the National Population Register (NPR) will serve as a database for the NRC and asked people to oppose the former by furnishing wrong names and addresses.

    Addressing a protest gathering at Delhi University, she also claimed that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was targeted against the Muslims of the country.

    Union Home Minister Amit Shah has already said there was no link between the NPR and the NRC an ..
    [Before the Modi gov’t came to power] The data for National Population Register (NPR) was collected in 2010 along with the house-listing phase of Census of India 2011. The data was updated in 2015 by conducting door-to-door survey. (Excerpts from Economic Times)

    https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/congress-bjp-slam-arundhati-roy-over-her-remarks-on-npr-1631654-2019-12-26

    As well, note that since in the 1800’s colonial days, the British did similar censuses. But, now Ms Roy sees it as an anti-Muslim policy. Her whole strategy in Indian life is to create wedges between the government and the people, Furthermore, she is (India’s enemy) Pakistan’s supporter as in the Kashmir issue, Similarly, she supports Maoists/Naxalites insurgency in East India. She also calls for NOT allowing the Modi government to carryout its 4-yr rule.

    These are just three high profile people spreading sedition and supporting insurgencies across India. Now, they have convinced Soros to pour close to a billion $$$ to undermine Indian democracy.

    VNM.

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