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For silent inspiration with your camera and film, Rakesh Sharma,this one’s for you.

A powerful PM?

In the days following the electoral victory of the Modi, ran an article in an otherwise modest The Hindu, “Coming soon, a powerful PMO (Prime Minister’s Office)”. [1]The proclamation uncritical as it is and reflected surely in other media outlets at the time in various ways, makes the implicit conclusion that marvelous things can be expected from a Prime Minister leading a one-party government. The Prime Minister Modi himself chimed in agreement, declaring “The people of this country have given their verdict. This verdict says we have to make the dreams of 1.25bn people come true. I must work hard.”

With the approaching elections, it will be worthwhile to look at some of the marvelous “dreams” that have been made to come true. A number of competing achievements of Modi and the BJP immediately come to mind, both within India and in foreign relations. Surely, we have to evaluate the achievements with due weightage given to established international conventions and human rights. In other words, higher the realm of the achievement with regards to established standards and greater its impact, then higher the score of the achievement. Applying such easily understood standards to the Modi record, leads to some strange conclusions – all the leading achievements of Mr. Modi and the BJP are strongly negative ones.

Indian aggression against Pakistan

Leading the list would be the achievements that involve the UN charter to which India is a signatory, and whose establishment roughly matches the time India came into being as a modern nation as well, and its emphasis on international peace and security dovetailing with our own non-violent achievement of Independence from Britain.

On February 26, 2019, the Modi government ordered its air force to attack Pakistan as a response to a suicide terrorist attack on an Indian army convoy 12 days prior killing 40 members of the Central Reserved Police Force.

International law is very clear that barring self-defense or a UN security council approval, which India did not have, such acts of aggression are illegal. The only remaining claim of self-defense vaporizes on examination, as the Indian action was ordered 12 days after the terrorist attack and cannot stop an event that has already occurred in the past.

For independent India, this act of aggression will be a first, joining the ranks of its imperial allies US and Israel, among others, in trampling on international law leaving asideconcern for the consequences including potential nuclear war, with its cataclysmic effects for life on this planet.This tactic of using a tragedy, in this case the terrorist attack, to create a war hysteria and fear mongeringin order to win an electionalso was not surprising to those who have followed Mr. Modi’s career carefully and to those who understand the fascist organizations that operate behind the mask that is him. A topic to which we shall return later.

Environmental Record – Ganga protection for ‘public’ consumption

On one of the most important challenges today, an existential one for the human species due to Climate change, this governments record is worth recounting. Some measures like revamping the river Ganga and the Solar initiative are notably creditable, and can be judged on their merits. But the most important factor that will impact the future of the Ganges, and all human life in India that depends on it are mentioned in the report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Namely, the melting of the Himalayan Glaciers caused by increasing atmospheric CO2. It’s on this important score, that the Modi regime lacks a vision because while increasing deployment of solar energy, they have also increased investments in Coal fired plants to the tune of billions of dollars [2]. These actions combined with labeling environmental groups like the Greenpeace as a threat to “National Security” is sure a close contender for the top Modi achievement. Specifically, for a government that claims to be motivated by Hinduism – a faith that has always emphasized in its practices, the connection between humans and other beings in nature – to assault Greenpeace India at this critical juncture of human history and restrict its ability to raise funds from and operate, all while loosening the restrictions on foreign funding into Indian elections, so Mr. Modi and his “nationalists” can raise funds from Indians living in the US and abroad, speaks many volumes to hypocrisy and doublespeak. [3]

Shutting the door on Refugees – a radically new and dark chapter in Indian history

The connection between humans and the environment, brings to mind another favorite obsession of the Modi era: namely, cow protection. It’s quite a fascination, that a government whose official position on the environment is to fight for “Indiasright to carbon space” — as if we had a right to participate in destroying the environment, the past actions of wealthy countries notwithstanding – is able to rally people around the hateful idea of protecting cows by lynching human beings, ominous indications of the times of ignorance we live in. [4]

That hate was further amplified by institutions, now firmly lead by members owing allegiance to the RSS – an anti-national organization responsible for the murder of Gandhi and having no regard for the values in India’s constitution. Then such hate extended to the hapless Rohingya refugees, who fleeing violence and bloodshed in their homeland of Burma turned towards India. Stopped at the borders, a few of them managed to make it to New Delhi. Not for long. They were soon deported, their hopeful appeals supported by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, dismissed by a pliant Supreme Court. International condemnation that rightly followed, a first of a kind denunciation for an ancient civilization like India, should not bother us. Modi’s ICHR (Indian Council for Historical Research) had already reassured us that the Rohingya were not really “refugees” but “illegal infiltrators”. Religion, not reason, being the barometer of the new ICHRs leadership, should send shivers down the spine of anyone who remotely understands India’s history of welcoming and providing refuge to peoples fleeing misery and violence.

Tamil Nadu, secularism and the upcoming elections

To win the upcoming elections, sometimes more softer methods are used. Like in the state of Tamil Nadu, where leadership crisis in the existing Dravidian parties are being used by the BJP to align with the AIADMK in the upcoming polls. But the people of Tamil Nadu should understand what the BJP (and the opportunists aligning with them) are bringing to the table: Their politics is based on hate and fear mongering which goes against every modern political advancement that the People of Tamil Nadu have struggled for, represented so solidly by EVR Periyar’s movements for self-respect and rationality.

We don’t have to look far for evidence for BJP and RSSutter and total contempt for Periyar and the modern ideals of womens equality and free speech that he stood for. Not long after Modis election, PerumalMurugan, an author of a fictional book on women and sexuality, was threatened with violence forcing him to renounce for a while his own writing [5]. The RSS and the BJP had backed up with words and muscle this Taliban-like action.

In the 2002 violence carried out by RSS led terrorist groups, that followed the tragic Godhra train coach burning, a professor and his daughter lost their home in the attacks. Recounting his harrowing experience, he asks an interviewer: “What is all this for? Just to win an election?” [6]. Mr. Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time and unfortunately, he did win the elections that followed.

A few years ago, when I visited Ahmedabad, Gujarat, I had a chance to talk to an elderly woman whose home had also been destroyed by the mobs in 2002. Her husband had died in the camps that had been set up for the displaced, unable to get medical help for his developing cancer. She continues to fight Mr. Modi for justice through the court system despite various attempts by the perpetrators to intimidate, coerce and manipulate her to give up her struggle

Will the people of India allow Mr. Modi to turn India into another Gujarat – completely devoid of the substance of its long-fought freedom, and having no regards for its own long history of humanity, tolerance and acceptance. Allow it to be apariah nation whose armed forces are fast becoming a service operation for US imperialism with the signing and now operationalizing of the India-US Logistics Services agreement [7].

Or will we have the courage to stand with survivors like herself and for the path of decency and rational thinking. Will we try and restore a nation that is built on fundamental rights within and respects international law and humanity without. Much is at stake as you head to vote in the ongoing elections.

References:

    1. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coming-soon-a-powerful-pmo/article6023103.ece
    2. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/in-india-climate-change-ranks-behind-coal-for-development/
      and https://thewire.in/environment/modi-government-environment-policy
    3. On Greenpeace India crack down: https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/modis-crackdown-on-ngos-activists-and-civil-society-groups-threaten-greenpeace-india-operations
      On Allowing foreign funding of elections: https://www.livemint.com/news/india/ec-opposes-anonymity-involved-in-electoral-bonds-1554901750489.html
    4. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/20/mobs-killing-muslims-india-narendra-modi-bjp
    5. http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/1/perumal-murugan-indiahinduextremismbooksfreespeech.html
    6. Interview with Prof. Bandukwala and his daughter: https://vimeo.com/329142916?fbclid=IwAR0NyrdgUBjv0ctoTQDZnYaVajspX9StU_TMM02fV7hakOuZLVddrPnnmfk
    7. https://thewire.in/security/india-u-s-sign-major-military-logistics-pact

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