During his maiden state visit to the US, a country marketed as the cradle of Western democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dismissed allegations of minority persecution in India. During his maiden press conference in the US, nine years after becoming the prime minister, Modi claimed that democracy is in the DNA of India, and no one is persecuted in the country.
However, it wasn’t the Opposition that tore up Modi’s blatant lies on the ongoing minority persecution in India, rather, his federally ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its stalwarts did the job well.
The first push, however, came from former US president Barack Obama. The one who dropped thousands of bombs in several countries and killed thousands to win the Nobel Peace Prize. In an interview with CNN, Obama said that his successor, Joe Biden, should talk to Modi about the ongoing minority persecution in India, as he believes that if the situation does not change, India may fall apart. Obama warned that such a situation will not only be bad for India’s Muslim minority, but the Hindu majority will also suffer.
Ironically, in a 2019 interview with Hindi film actor Akshay Kumar, Modi said there is a strong personal bond between his friend Obama and him. When Obama commented on the allegations of minority persecution in India, his ‘close friend’ Modi didn’t comment, but the BJP, especially Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, reacted with extreme virulence.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman criticised Obama saying that it was during his tenure that the US dropped a record number of bombs on various Muslim countries of the world. When journalist Rohini Singh tweeted asking how the Assam Police will investigate a complaint lodged against Obama in the state for criticising Modi, Sarma retweeted her tweet and said that at the beginning action will be taken against the “Hussain Obamas” in the country. By using the former US president’s Islamic middle name, Sarma conveyed exactly what Modi dismissed in Washington DC.
The journalist who questioned Modi in Washington DC regarding the allegations of minority persecution in India faced vitriol for her Muslim identity from Modi fans on social media. The Islamophobic slurs hurled against her by the Indian social media mob proved this bloc’s deep hatred for Muslims. Unfortunately, Modi’s followers worked really hard to prove him wrong.
Nothing provided better optics of minority persecution in India than Modi’s home state Gujarat. Before Modi went to the US for his maiden state visit, a clash broke out between the minority Muslims and the police in Junagadh town over the government’s plan to demolish an Islamic shrine. The clash took place on June 14th, killing a bystander and wounding several civilians and policemen.
Later, on June 16th, the police publicly flogged several Muslims in front of the Islamic shrine. The impunity with which the police thrashed the Muslims, showed how the minority community lives without any civil rights in Modi’s home state. The very state where he rose to prominence by allegedly orchestrating a massive anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002, for which, ironically, he was denied a visa to the US and the West until 2014.
The incident in Junagadh evoked memories of the public flogging of Muslims by the police in the Kheda district of Gujarat in October 2022. At that time, the police told the court that it thrashed them to teach them a lesson and the court did not punish the police for taking the law into their own hands even after this confession.
While the US and Indian mainstream media remained busy heaping praises on Modi and Biden’s rapprochement and India-US relations reaching new heights, the incidents of public beatings of Muslims in Junagadh, or the ongoing attacks on Muslims in other states, are thrown into oblivion, so that somehow these embarrassing optics may not prompt unpleasant questions.
Even though the Biden administration shunned its opposition to minority persecution in India to embrace Modi and thwart the rise of China, even though Jack Sullivan, the national security advisor to the US president told the press that the US won’t lecture India on human rights issues while having them at its backyard, the US continued to support those involved in relentless propaganda against China for its alleged “persecution” of Uyghur Muslims.
The liberal activists and intellectuals who are heavily tilted towards the American model of “democracy” have also maintained a conspicuous silence over Biden’s bonhomie with Modi. They didn’t criticise the US for betraying Indian minorities. These liberals face a dangerous dilemma. On the one hand, they can’t support Modi following Biden’s footsteps, which will mean a massive erosion in their minority vote bank. On the other hand, they can’t dare to irk Washington DC, lest the latter stop their funding.
It’s not merely the liberals. Even the so-called ‘Muslim’ countries that sharply criticised the BJP’s Nupur Sharma last year when she made derogatory remarks on Prophet Muhammad have been conspicuously silent on the issue of minority persecution in India. Under no circumstances they would spoil their business dealings with India.
Therefore, it’s clear that no country in the world will go against the Modi government or stand up for India’s persecuted minorities in any way. Since the power is in the hands of the BJP, communal hatred will be used to polarise the voters, and Muslims and Christians will be affected, one by one, in a fascist way.
Thus, identity politics can’t offer a way out of this fiasco, as less than 20% of the country’s minorities together cannot defeat the 80% polarised majority vote bank. What is needed is to make demands for food, employment, education and health acceptable to all communities. Especially to teach billions of Indians who follow Hinduism to question how the much-hyped “Hindu Rashtra” will be materially beneficial to them. What benefits they would get in a “Hindu Rashtra” that they aren’t getting now?
While searching for the answers to these questions, the common people can realise from their experience that under the BJP’s rule, their economic condition has worsened while the super-rich has gained exponentially. This realisation will make them comprehend that they, as a class, have been always contributing to the enrichment of the super-rich. Only such a realisation can bring a drastic change, at least in approach, in the country’s political theatre, mobilising more people to take decisive actions against communalism and hatred.
An avid reader and a merciless political analyst. When not writing then either reading something, debating something or sipping espresso with a dash of cream. Street photographer. Tweets as @la_muckraker