The global community, obsessed as it is with Donald Trump, needs to wake up to the real danger coming from the world’s so-called largest secular democracy. While many politicians in Canada rightly make a big fuss about Trump, they won’t raise their voices against Modi, whose followers have made inroads into public and cultural spaces like the Nazis did.
After all, India re-elected a right-wing Hindu nationalist, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with a brutal majority on May 23. His Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), known for its anti-minority stance and an agenda to transform India into a Hindu theocracy, secured 300 out of 542 seats in the parliament. This is despite five years of repression of religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians.
The very fact that he was able to increase the number of seats from the 282 his party won in the 2014 election shows that his rhetoric against inclusion and diversity has been accepted by the electorate.
Modi belongs to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), an ultranationalist organization that wants to establish a Hindu state. BJP is a political wing of the RSS, whose founding fathers idealized Hitler and believed in dealing with Muslims and Christians in the same manner that Hitler dealt with Jews. For RSS, the two communities follow foreign religions and members should be treated as second-class citizens.
Attacks on minorities
Modi is widely blamed for the anti-Muslim massacre of Gujarat in 2002. He was the chief minister of the state when Muslims were targeted by the mobs led by BJP activists following the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. More than 50 people had died in the incident, which was blamed on Islamic fundamentalists by Modi. This was followed by well-organized violence against Muslims, and many people continue to say it had the blessing of Modi, who wanted to scapegoat Muslims to win the impending assembly election.
Although Modi was never convicted for those mass murders, several Western countries, including the U.S., denied him a visa for many years, until he was elected as prime minister in 2014. Under Modi, attacks on religious minorities have grown sharply all over India. The social justice activists campaigned hard to get him defeated this time, but couldn’t succeed. Their message for a secular and inclusive India had no takers. This can also be attributed to the fact that the main opposition party, Indian National Congress, had its own baggage.
In spite of tall claims of being secular, the Congress had engineered anti-Sikh pogroms in 1984 following the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Not only was justice denied to the victims for years, but the Congress failed to show genuine remorse.
This had also benefited Modi and his party, who repeatedly brought up the issue of 1984 to counter the Congress party and its apologists, who have been seeking to replace BJP government on the slogan of secularism.
Whereas the Congress indulged in anti-Sikh massacre for short-term electoral benefits by polarizing the Hindu majority against the minority Sikh community, the BJP has a well-designed long-term program of social engineering aimed at creating a Hindu nation. They can be best described as Hindu supremacists who consider Islam and Christianity as alien faiths, while Sikhs and Buddhists are part of the Hindu fold. Their policy of assimilating Sikhs and Buddhists is also resisted by many activists from these two religious groups.
Canada needs to pay attention
Modi’s re-election needs to be taken seriously by the international community. Often people have equated Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump. Undoubtedly, there are many commonalities between the two men, who have stoked fear of minorities to win elections.
Modi, however, is in fact far more dangerous, as his party has a much bigger following and fascist tendencies. They are capable of altering the social and political landscape through penetration at all levels of governance. The signs are already before us. The kind of support Modi has received from movie stars and celebrities is unimaginable, in contrast to the criticism Trump has faced from strong voices in Hollywood.
I wish the world had paid a little more attention to this scenario and heard the cries of Muslims and Christians. It’s time that Canadians start questioning what is happening in India rather than being focused only on trade relations with that country. The day isn’t far when the RSS will grow its presence within the Indian diaspora in this part of the world. They have already done that in the U.S., and Canada isn’t immune.