Modi on the backfoot spewing out hatred and anti-minority venom

Narendra Modi

As India has completed its fourth phase of the national elections, it has become increasingly clear that it is in no way a walkover by the BJP towards a third term. Prime Minister Modi, who relied on his own carefully crafted image and easy-flowing rhetoric, found himself in an unchartered territory facing an electorate more skeptical of his promises and less interested in his anti-minority tirades.

Instead of focusing on either his accomplishments as head of the administration in the last ten years or the plan of action, he has stooped down low in further fomenting hatred and divisions within the country. Mr. Sam Pitroda, the father of the Telecom revolution in India, made an innocuous statement to bolster his advocacy on pluralism by comparing the looks of South Indians with those of Africans.  Anyone who knows Pitroda would say that he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. Having come from a backward caste background, he fully understands the dimensions of caste discrimination and its impact on people across the nation.

However, the real shock was not in what Pitroda had to say but how the Prime Minister picked upon it to further create a racist controversy. Modi said that ‘it was an abuse that filled him with anger’ when he heard such a statement. Having come from the southern state of Kerala, I would categorically state that I am neither angry nor insulted by being compared to Africans.  It only shows the depravity of a man who harbors such hatred and bigotry in his mind.

I was often told how south Indians are referred to in the North in certain circles as ‘Kaala Saala Madrasi’ and people from the Northeast are called ‘Chinky’ and often frowned upon. We know the stories of African students in the North who have been subjected to name-calling and dehumanizing treatment. Various matrimonies, even in respected newspapers, invite alliances based on skin color. Inside the booming beauty industry, cremes for fair skin have become the primary source of revenue. There is little doubt that a segment of the nation is obsessed with skin color, and it is that type of mindset that harbors these deep-rooted racial biases, and the recent outbursts are borne out of it.

What I described above was not an isolated incident during this campaign cycle from the Prime Minister. Mr. Modi recently called Muslims’ infiltrators’ who would take India’s wealth if the opposition gained power. Addressing voters in the state of Rajasthan, Modi claimed that the Congress party would distribute wealth to those who have more children, to infiltrators. In addition, he made an emotional appeal to women, “my mothers and sisters,” saying that his Congress opponents would take their gold and give it to Muslims.

There are two hundred million Muslims who live in India. They are an integral part of India and, in every sense, citizens of the country. A Prime Minister doesn’t serve one religious or ethnic group but all its citizens regardless of caste, creed, language, religion, or region. What we have witnessed here from a Prime Minister is nothing but a brazen and divisive rhetoric that is demeaning to the people of India while raising eyebrows abroad.  It contrasts very much with what he says on an overseas trip, which extols India as a mother of democracy and invokes the philosophy of ‘Vasudeva Kutumba.’

Mr. Modi was feeling no anger or hurt when the Manipur Police personnel drove two Kuki-Zomi Christian women, who had sought refuge in their official gypsy, to a mob of around 1000 Meiti rioters in Kangpokpi district. The women, one of whom was the wife of a Kargil war veteran, desperately asked the police to drive them to a safe location but were refused. Moreover, 450 churches were burned to the ground or destroyed in Manipur last year. According to government figures, as of February 28th, 2024, 219 people have been killed in the pogrom unleashed by the suspected Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun with the support of the BJP government in power with every Kuki-zomi was ethnically cleansed from Imphal, the capital of Manipur.

Mr. Modi was feeling no anger or hurt when suspected vigilantes approached a Muslim man, identified as Akbar, transporting two cows from Rajasthan to his village in nearby Haryana state and thrashed him to death on suspicion of smuggling the animals.  Modi’s years of campaign against the ‘pink revolution’ finally bore fruit under his majoritarian rule. It would be pretty interesting to see how one justifies cow slaughter bans when human slaughter for that cause goes unnoticed!

There is little doubt that Modi has been exploiting religious divisions and weaponizing investigative agencies to perpetuate his power. What goes unnoticed is the systematic consolidation of power by bending the courts, muzzling the media, destroying civil society, and weakening the legislature through subtle ways. The reconstruction of the Election Commission is another example of a power grab by the Modi administration with the intent to replace India’s secular democracy with a majoritarian Hindu ideology and supporting framework. Although Modi often rails against the vote bank politics, he created his own Hindu vote bank.

The question the Indian voters are facing this election cycle is whether they have had enough of these polarizing religious debates that do not contribute anything to their well-being. Analysts increasingly doubt that BJP can win a landslide election as promised. All eyes will be on the EVMs as well.  “Do not get deterred by the diversionary tactics of hateful speeches that divided society,” Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said in a message to the voters. Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party, said that the election would decide the future of democracy. “Strengthen democracy by applying the balm of your vote to the wounds inflicted on the nation’s soul in the last ten years and defeat hatred.”  We will find out on June 4th from those 969 million voters who are eligible to vote in this history-making election.

George Abraham is a political commentator

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