The mischiefs of ‘Howdy Modi’

Published: September 25, 2019
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Indian Premier Narendra Modi. PHOTO: REUTERS

Indian Premier Narendra Modi. PHOTO: REUTERS

Indian Premier Narendra Modi. PHOTO: REUTERS The writer is a columnist based in Lahore and can be reached at durdananajam1@gmail.com

In a recent expression of rising Hindu nationalism — the hallmark of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rule — India has removed from the Indian Constitution Article 370 to strip Kashmir, India’s largest Muslim majority state, of its autonomous status. In another similar move, India has made stateless millions of Indians, most of them Muslims, by denying them Indian citizenship. Likewise, political activists, lawyers, students, and the offices of Greenpeace India and Amnesty International India have been vandalised to punish them for speaking against the rise of religiously motivated hate crime in India. Modi and his team raised anti-Muslim slogans during the 2019 general election without stirring a single nerve in the so-called Western democracies that once had zero tolerance for human rights violations, both in words and action. And now with “Howdy Modi” in the backdrop, the world is set to move in a direction where each state lives for its own survival without disturbing the geo-economic paradigm that binds states for personal interests.

In Houston on Sunday, September 22, 2019, the world saw the spectacle of a man once denied entry for ten years into the US because he was complacent, as the chief minister of Gujarat, in the massacre of thousands of Muslims at the hands of radical Hindus. The world was aghast. It was a big turn-off for the Western democracies. Many European countries, following UK’s lead, imposed a ban on Modi’s entry into their country. But that was back in 2002.

Seventeen years later, with the erosion of democracy’s basic element: equality under the law, the international political atmosphere is perverted with the kind of nationalism that sparks hatred, indifference, and radicalism. When Trump speaks of raising a wall at the US-Mexico border to stem immigration, and does not mind separating children from their mothers on borders before they could be reunited after months — it is radicalism at its worst. When Muslims are called termites and stripped of their nationalities after living for decades in India, it is radicalism at its worst. When a curfew spanning 50 days in Kashmir makes the world’s biggest democracy’s President stand side-by-side with the architect of the worst humanitarian crisis instead of stirring its conscience, it is radicalism at its worst. The “Howdy Modi” party at the Taxes stadium is part of the tectonic shift that has made democracy an exploitative tool used for electioneering.

When Trump used the phrase closest to Modi’s heart, protecting India from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and when Modi pitched Trump as an ideal president who had made America great again, they both fed into each other egos and intolerance towards diversity. Modi went a step ahead and appealed to the Americans to re-elect Trump in the 2020 elections. It was also an appeal to the Indian diaspora in Houston to vote for Trump. According to the Pew Research Centre, analysis of the US census data shows the Indian- Americans comprise of one per cent of the US population — that makes 4 million people. They are also among the wealthiest in the US and in the previous elections had voted for the democrats fearing a backlash against immigrants lest Trump’s radicalisation was given a chance to reign.

If Trump could win over this segment he could swing other voters of variant ethnic origins to his side as well.

Both Modi and Trump, with their divisive policies, have reduced politics to a tool that degenerates human values and triumphs over the failure of what has been called constitutional liberalism.

The irony is that everyone is talking about Kashmir today. Even Trump is doing that, but no one is serious about taking the bull by its horns. India’s mischief of factionalism in Kashmir and its inhumane treatment of Muslims and Dalits do not merit as acts of radicalism because they do not fit in the new paradigm of geo-economics.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2019.

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