Mr. Modi Comes to Washington
Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi is in DC for a state visit complete with a state dinner. This is definitely a public relations coup for the PM and India’s foreign policy apparatus. PM’s party the BJP suffered a humiliating defeat in an important state level election and is defensive about the ongoing violence in the state of Manipur. There was also a railway accident which took the lives of several hundred so this international visit comes at politically opportune time for the PM and his party. However as an Indian American this does not make me happy. In fact it is one of the rare decisions by the Biden administration that I disagree with.
Ultimately dealing with the PM of India is up to Indian voters and not US President. But this visit does confer legitimacy to the oft repeated claim by the PM’s fanatical followers or bhakts(devotees) that their PM is a respected global leader. The PM and his party will face the voters in less than a year’s time in 2024. Hosting the PM of India at this juncture is like hosting Bolsanaro for a state dinner just before the Brazilian elections.
I am a staunch Biden supporter I voted for him both in the primaries and in the general election. I also recognize that Biden is an old foreign policy hand. During his senate career he served as the chair of foreign relations committee so he gets the benefit of doubt from me. I will wait before I pass judgment about whether this helps or hurts US interests.
If the BJP can repeat its performance in the last two elections and go on to form a government on its own strength we can say without a doubt that India as we know it would be in great danger. It would be a win for an extremely ugly authoritarian ideology which derives inspiration from some of the most disastrous ideologies of the 20th century, Nazism and fascism. In its 9 years in power the current ruling dispensation has been ripping and poking the delicate seams that hold India together trying to remake it into something that it has never been in its long history, a cultural monolith. I have written about some of those attempts after Modi’s re-election here, and here. They are unlikely to succeed at the task that has been attempted without success many a time in the subcontinent’s history but they can and will continue to inflict a lot of harm putting their ideology into action.
The damage will not just be to the minorities and the weakest sections of the society riven by differences of caste, class and language but also to the dominant castes that make up the base of the BJP. By damage I mean death and destruction on a scale that will eclipse the partition of India. It may seem like hyperbole to you, it does to me even as I read back what I have just written. But we have seen this movie before and not that long ago. The party’s core ideology is that of fascism wearing a saffron garb.
India is not covered well in the US media when it is covered at all. Its politics is complex given the diversity of the nation. I have a unique perspective that many in the US media lack, I can read and am fluent in two Indian languages and follow many sources in those languages and not just the English language media. Also, I grew up in an India that was not dominated by the BJP.
Let me show you what I see. These stories are from the recent past.
Indian wrestlers being manhandled by the police for protesting against a BJP elected Loksabha member and minister in the Union cabinet for sexual assault, Brij Bhushan Singh
The ongoing ethnic violence in the northeastern state of Manipur
And then you can tell me whether my sense of alarm is unnecessary. I remain hopeful that the opposition will be able to unite and good sense will prevail upon enough numbers of people by the time the 2024 general elections roll by. I want to bear witness to what the BJP-RSS is doing in my name. And I say this because they claim to speak for all Indians, including those in the diaspora especially if they are Hindu.
Follow along on my blog and on Twitter as I take you behind the scenes and give you a perspective about India its politics, history, past. India faces one of its most important elections next year. This story is so much bigger than a mere state dinner or Modi or even the BJP. It is the battle for the soul of India and what kind of India will we see in the next 75 years.
I am compiling a list of sources and the incidents in the last 9 years that has raised my sense of alarm regarding India under BJP rule.
Thanks to Balloon Juice for front paging this post.