Friday, March 4, 2016

The Indian Trump

Like all proud Indo-Trinbagonaians, my interest in mother India mostly revolves around Shah Rukh Khan movies, T20 cricket, and Priyanka Chopra. But I notice that there are startling similarities between current Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and prospective US Presidential candidate Donald Trump.

For example Trump wants to “Make America great again”, while Modi promised India that “good days are ahead”. Trump loves putting his name on gaudy buildings. While Modi loves spelling out his name on gaudy pin stripe suits. Trump wants to stop all Muslim immigration to the US. While, in 2002, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi stoked anti-Muslim rhetoric that led to a bloody massacre.  Trump and Modi are such perfect ideological soul mates; they should both be dancing around a tree singing ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’.

But while the world is fixated on the orange haze of dimwittedness that is the Trump presidential campaign; they are ignoring the area of darkness that is enveloping Modi’s India. It seems “good days are ahead” was a slogan only applicable to those Indians who adopted Modi’s and his Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) brand of right wing Hindu nationalism.  For everyone else it’s more like “good beatings and jailing are ahead”.

Take for example the recent beating and jailing of university student activist Kanhaiya Kumar. Kumar was arrested after he and other students held a rally against the 2013 hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri separatist who took part in a terrorist attack on India’s Parliament in 2001, which left 14 people dead. This might shock Trinbagonians, after all we’re only used to students protesting when they can’t get into a nightclub. And even then we just ignore them.

The Delhi police however arrested Kumar on a trumped up charge of Sedition, and jailed him. But not before a mob of BJP party lawyers, chanting nationalist slogans like “traitors leave India” viciously beat him up outside the courtroom. India’s sedition laws date back to British rule, where it was used to keep India’s Independence leaders, like Jawaharlal Nehru in line.  The irony that Kumar and his fellow protestors are students of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University-also the site of the controversial rally-is lost on the baying nationalist mob.

Modi of course, treated this incident, like all others like it, the way Donald Trump did upon hearing the KKK was endorsing him for President. Meaning he completely ignored it, thereby giving it tacit approval. Kumar’s detention is just one example of the authoritarianism that is being fueled by Modi’s Hindu Nationalists and which is sweeping India.

According to Amnesty International (AI) “over 3200 people were being held in January on Administrative detention on executive orders without charge or trial.”  AI also condemned the Modi government’s harassment of civil society groups and journalists as well as its failure to protect Muslims and lower castes from violence. There have also been high profile murders of outspoken intellectuals like M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, and Narendra Dabholkar. All three men were atheists who promoted reason and rationalism, and all received death threats from Hindu nationalists.  Last October, 50 year old laborer Mohammed Akhlaq was pulled from his bed by an angry mob who accused his family of eating beef; (aka being Muslim), and beaten to death with bricks. More beef eating lynching mobs are popping up across what is constitutionally a secular country.

Like all nationalists, Modi has been keen on writing school textbooks that teach national pride – or as rational people call it - brainwashing children. Some Indian school textbooks now teach junk like the events in the Mahabharata were real, and that stem cell research was invented in India. A ludacris claim, because as afro-centrists in T&T know, everything was invented in Egypt first. 

Of course for Modi and the BJP, none of this has anything to do with them. The fact that the BJP has long championed ‘Hindutva’- the belief that Hinduism alone should be the basis for Indian culture and nationhood - is just a coincidence. Like the way NAZI sympathizers today insist the Holocaust never happened, while simultaneously distributing flyers saying ‘Death to Jews!’ 

Modi’s vision of a Hindu theocracy is not what India’s Independence leaders fought for. They envisioned a free, plural, secular society-like that of the USA. Americans love to go to India to ‘find themselves’. Perhaps Indians need to do the opposite-and go to the USA to rediscover the values their own nation was built on. Of course If Trump becomes President, it may not make a difference.

1 comment:

kurt fuentes said...

Eye opening! Great article!