What harms India’s stature

Written by Tavleen Singh
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Updated: April 3, 2022 4:17:10 pm


Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In conversations with Narendra Modi’s more ardent devotees, I have found that one of the things they love most about him is that he has ‘raised India’s stature’ in the eyes of the world. So, there has been much exultation in ‘bhakt’ circles about the long line of important foreign visitors that have come to Delhi in recent days and the long queue of those still waiting to come. This makes it most puzzling, that in the very moment when India suddenly seems to have become the centre of the world, the BJP allowed its youth wing to attack the home of the Chief Minister of Delhi. Leading the mob was the President of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, Tejasvi Surya, who is an MP and a rising star in Karnataka. What made the whole ugly business uglier was that BJP cheerleaders then justified this attack on social media on the dodgy grounds that since Arvind Kejriwal was once a famous protester himself, he should have no right to complain.

It was because the Aam Aadmi Party was stupid enough to charge the BJP mob with attempted murder that the incident dissolved into a silly charade. This does not take away from the worrying truth that we have become so accustomed to gratuitous violence in recent years that the attack on the home of a serving Chief Minister no longer shocks us like it should. As someone who cannot understand at all the reasons why the BJP continues to use senseless violence to burnish its credentials, I have to say that it is time for this kind of violence to stop, because until it does, India’s ‘stature’ will continue to be lower than it should be in the eyes of the world.

The BJP has just done extraordinarily well in vital state elections. I am no fan of Yogi Adityanath, but in a democracy, you cannot argue with the verdict of the people, so I applaud him for becoming the first chief minister to win two consecutive terms in Uttar Pradesh. He must have done many, many things right for voters to erase those horrible images from last summer of bodies floating in the Ganga and pyres burning day and night in cremation grounds. When I spoke to a Hindu voter about the reasons why the BJP won, he said two things. “Modi was a big factor in Yogi’s victory and Muslim women seem to have voted for the BJP because of that triple talaq business.”

If it is true that Muslim women voted for the BJP, it makes even less sense that much of the gratuitous violence that we see erupting in states ruled by the BJP is directed at Muslims. In recent weeks it is in Karnataka that we have seen the most eruptions. It is the considered view of this column that the demand by Muslim girl students to wear hijab in their classrooms was engineered by the Popular Front of India (PFI), whose Islamist character is so well known that it is puzzling that this vile organisation continues to function openly.

In any case, no sooner did those girls start demanding the right to wear the hijab than appeared upon the scene young men wearing saffron scarves the like of which seem to turn up every time there is trouble. In Karnataka they have been spotted leading a campaign to boycott Muslim shops and later demanding that Hindus boycott shops selling ‘halal’ meat. They were also at the forefront of the campaign to prevent Muslims from opening shops at Hindu religious fairs.

The result of these campaigns is that Bengaluru, once famous for being India’s Silicon Valley, is now being increasingly seen as a town filled with religious fanaticism and hate. Sadly, it must be said that since Modi became prime minister it is these traits that have come to sully India’s image. The response from Modi’s ministers and BJP spokesmen has been to attack the western media for orchestrating a campaign to damage India’s fair name. It is an indication of their provincial mindset that they appear not to have noticed that the publications they make this charge against are among the most respected in the world.

What confuses me is why a country whose ‘stature’ has risen so high in the past eight years needs to be so obsessed with what The New York Times or The Economist thinks of our prime minister? As an ex-bhakt, my advice to my former comrades is that when India feels the need to respond in high dudgeon every time an article against Modi appears in some western publication, it exhibits provincialism. The other piece of free advice I have to offer is that if there were fewer BJP workers spreading hatred and disaffection, there would be less criticism of the Prime Minister not just abroad but in India.

As the leader with the highest approval ratings in the world, why does he need around him people whose only specialty is violence? Their acts of violence harm not just Modi’s image but the image of India and it lowers the country’s ‘stature’ because it makes people forget the good changes that have happened in the past eight years. The only thing that gratuitous violence achieves is to create more gratuitous violence, and to create the impression that in India the rule of law is slowly weakening.

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd

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