India no longer secular as Muslim increasingly targeted: Indian writer

1203

NEW YORK, July 2 (APP): The secular India of Mohandas
Karamchand Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru has vanished under
the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi amid growing mob
violence against Muslims, an Indian writer has said in an
article published in The Wall Street Journal.
“The Hindu nationalists arrival in Washington was a
reminder that of all the recent revolutions at the ballot
box, Mr. Modi’s was the first,” wrote author Aatish Taseer,
referring to the Indian premier’s recent visit to Washington
and talks with US President Donald Trump “complete with bear
hugs, defence deals and a welcoming tweet from the first lady.”
Taseer said, “This week, pundits noted similarities
between the two populist leaders: Both Mr. Trump and Mr.
Modi have made political careers out of anti-Muslim animus,
tapped nationalist passions, stoked the fires of intolerance
and pursued vendettas against impertinent media outlets.
“Yet these symmetries unfold in fundamentally different
contexts. America has experienced a political upheaval, but
it retains that supreme achievement of a mature democracy:
It has two credible sides, left and right; the two sides
have held, more or less; and the pendulum may swing again
before long.
“India has experienced something quite different in the
three years since Mr. Modi took power. The ‘other side’ liberal
India, secular India, the India of Nehru and Gandhi – hasn’t
merely been decimated electorally; it has ceased to exist
as a cultural and moral force. In area after area of life –
from politics to media to cinema – there is now Mr. Modi’s
India, and then a great void. The India of my childhood,
with its fond notions of Hindu-Muslim unity, has gone
under. It is as complete and comprehensive a defeat as
one can imagine.”
Taseer spoke of his recent travel to Gorakhpur, in
eastern Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, where
Modi’s choice of chief minister was Yogi Adityanath, a
Hindu priest in saffron robes and longtime parliamentarian.
“His anti-Muslim rhetoric has been so hateful – he has
told his followers that if Muslims – kill one Hindu man,
then we will kill 100 Muslim men – that he was once beyond
the pale. Today, his popularity threatens to eclipse
Mr. Modi’s,” he wrote.
The author cited instances of the changing environment
in today’s India, and said, “Mr. Modi’s India has scant
room for romantic ideas about Muslims or their place in
Indian society.”
Taseer wrote, “The remaking of India’s cultural landscape
was affecting the English media too. When I was covering the
2014 election for Open magazine, there were two – maybe three
– English-speaking journalists who openly supported Mr. Modi,
and they were pariahs for it. Three years on, the change was
staggering. Old TV hosts with bow ties and Oxbridge accents
were being weeded out; Barkha Dutt, the country’s most famous
liberal anchor, was off the air; and earlier this month, the
owners of New Delhi Television, a private broadcaster critical
of the government, were raided by a government agency.
“But the raid almost wasn’t needed: The channel, out of
step with the times, was fading. Meanwhile, a new nationalist
channel had taken to the air, making no distinction between
enemies of the government and enemies of the country. Within
weeks, Republic TV had seized a 52% market share, according
to the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India.
The most obvious consequence of India’s new anti-Muslim
atmosphere has been a spate of gruesome cow and beef-related
murders. The cow is sacred to Hindus, but the current hysteria
has been engineered. During his 2014 campaign, Mr. Modi whipped
crowds into frenzies over a supposed conspiracy by his political
foes to slaughter cows and export beef.
“Since he took power, India has seen more than 60 incidents
of cow-related mob violence, in which the overwhelming bulk of
the 23 reported fatalities were Muslim. Mr. Modi has had very
little to say about these deaths. On Wednesday, anti-lynching
protests erupted in cities nationwide, and Mr. Modi finally
bluntly condemned the violence. “We belong to a land of
nonviolence,” he said, invoking Gandhi.
But it may be too late; the Indian street is on the boil.
In the U.S., Mr. Trump faces a free press, a galvanized opposition
and a Republican Party with deepening misgivings. In India, Mr.
Modi faces only himself.”