What Will Stop #Hindu #Fundamentalism From Becoming the Face of #India Under #Modi?


Now that Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of India the question many are asking is what is to keep Hindu fundamentalism from becoming the face of India.

Walter Anderson, co-author of The Brotherhood of Saffron, actually thinks Modi himself will prevent Hindu fundamentalism from becoming the face of India under his leadership!

Anderson who has been observing Modi and his right-leaning Bhartiya Janata Party for the last 27 years, says that Modi’s basic personality and way of functioning is contrary to the  right-wing model of the ultraconservative RSS outfit, even though Modi got his early training there.  He is individualistic, and puts his own ambitions and image above that of the group, which actually makes him unpopular among the RSS cadre! That’s why the RSS itself was against Modi’s Prime Ministerial projection.

Anderson believes that ‘development’ will be the catch-word that Modi would want to identify his position with if he becomes Prime Minister, and that he might keep the RSS in the wings, but he will draw out his own agenda. In fact Anderson believes that  Hindutva might actually get downplayed.

I partly agree with Andersen’s analysis. I think Modi is opportunistic, and he understands that leaning in the direction of what the mob wants actually gives a leader more power.  The 2002 Gujarat massacre of Muslims under Modi’s leadership, was his way of gaining “popularity” with the Hindu majority by feeding the hunger of communal hatred.  Conversely, what this means is that the section of India that wants a democracy that is secular and progressive is heard and seen to be louder and more popular, then that’s the voice Modi will be listening to! Moreover, Modi aspires to be a recognized leader not just of national status, but also international status, and he knows bending to communal forces will not make him popular.

His earlier statement where he said he wanted to build toilets before temples in India, probably is the road he wants to take.  My reading of Modi is that he will be keen to build his own legacy as a leader, something for the history books.  Something that the leaders before have failed at.  And  if this ego need motivates him away from Hindu fundamentalism and gets him to do, what Indian leaders have ignored for 70 odd years of independence, then good for India!  I feel his personality is much too strong and self-centric to be swayed by the right-wing whiners in his party.  He might give the RSS groups little bits to be satisfied like the elaborate Hindu ceremony at Varanasi after his win, but with his own personal agenda.  In this case his real agenda which he stated at the function, is to get the city of Varanasi and the Ganges river cleaned up, something that groups and organizations from India and outside have completely failed to do for the last 30 years!  He also seems  to be the kind of man who does what says he wants to do.

The one person who could force him in the direction of Hindu hegemony I feel is Amit Shah. I have no idea what sway Shah has on Modi! Perhaps, he’s the keeper of Modi’s deep, dark secrets from 2002 and later? But if a section of Indians are worried about the centralization of Hindu fundamentalism in the nation’s capital, I think the man to keep an eye on is not Modi but Shah.

Also unlike Andersen, I do not think that Modi would prioritize Japan over the US in India’s foreign policy.  That might have been if Modi planned to make India a ‘super-power’ in South Asia.  But he was raised in poverty, and he understands that India with its vast hungry and illiterate population, is no where near that status!  I think he might align with Asian leaders to create a more equitable economic playing field for India, and to a degree to send a certain message of self-sufficiency to big, western powers, to establish his own footing.  But I think he runs on ego, and the blocking of his entry for 10 years into the US because of his dubious human rights record from the 2002 Gujarat massacre, is probably the bruise he’ll want to fix first. There is no faster way to the superstardom that Modi aspires to, than to have the globe’s superpower acknowledge it was wrong in blocking him off! With President Obama calling him and inviting him to the US within 24 hours of his winning the elections, I think Modi probably feels  vindicated.

The US will be keen to embrace him.   For trade always trumps over humanrights! After all whoever is ‘King’ in India, sits on the world’s biggest pool of slave labor! 50% of the world’s poorest of the poor live in India. The other 50% live in the other 200 odd countries. And for all the big talk about MNCs creating jobs, the fact is that even after almost 20 years of MNCs in India, there is no significant contribution to job creations here. Government, state, small business, big companies, and MNCs together create ‘formal sector’ jobs for only 10% of Indians! The other 90% more or less fend for themselves. There are no minimum wages, no labor rules or laws, no penalties for overcharging, or overworking! It’s all for the taking. We don’t forget Bhopal was gassed by an American company—the Union Carbide. Where else in the world can you get away with killing and maiming thousands of people, and have the government help you in fleeing the country and avoiding trial? However, here again, I think Modi might take an approach that’s different from that of other Indian leaders.  He was raised in poverty, and a nationalistic outfit like the RSS gave him an education, and a chance at life that he wouldn’t otherwise have.  I don’t think there has been any leader in India who has experienced this.  I believe this will most probably translate into both his domestic and international policies.  He most probably will be watching out for the little people, something which already is evident I think in his reserve towards FDI.

If Modi comes to power, and should Gujarat 2002 like attacks on minorities take place, will western nations ban Modi? That answer is important, because it will to a large extent determine whether India under Modi will lean towards right-wing Hinduism.

Indian Freedom Fighters: This is Not the Free India We Dreamt Of!

Yesterday I read this article in the newspaper where men in their late 80s and 90s, who had fought for India’s freedom from British rule in the 1940s, talked about how they felt Democratic India had eventually turned out.  It was heart-breaking.

Three years ago, I had met a group of elderly men, who similarly in their youth had been a part of India’s struggle for freedom in various ways.  Many had sacrificed college to do so.  It was shameful for me as a ‘born free’ Indian to hear (more…)

Did You Know Buddha Led a Revolt for Justice and Equality?

Buddhism is the main focus of the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2013  and the Dalai Lama is one of the chief attractions this year.  So in keeping with that, I am sharing here some excerpts from the Buddhist period  in my book  Sex and Power (Sect II, pp.67-110). I know that the literary festival as indeed a lot of the global discussions on Buddhism focus on ahimsa (non-violence), with this idealistic vision of a harmonious society. [Read the 2nd excerpt from my book on how Buddhism impacted on social perceptions of women and sex here].

But in my book I look at how Buddhism actually was a powerful social revolution in India that became popular among the masses because Buddha openly and strongly challenged the caste based hierarchy and the superiority of the Brahmin and upper castes, as well as their social and economic exploitation of the lower castes and poorer people.

Buddhism changed the whole power structure of Indian society in the period from about 500 B.C. to 100 A.D. in a manner that was hugely radical. And even though most modern Buddhist practitioners talk about non-violence (more…)

Has Sonia Gandhi Single Handedly Dismantled India’s Democracy?

Who looks like the boss here: the blue turbaned man or the woman?

Let me state clearly what this article is about.  It is my protest as a citizen of India, against a certain person – Sonia Gandhi, who in my opinion, has completely destroyed the democratic process of  what otherwise was a crude and unruly democracy. 

Don’t get me wrong on this.  I voted for Sonia Gandhi in that election which brought the Congress back into power.   In fact it didn’t matter to me that she was born and raised in Italy.  It didn’t matter to me that Sonia Gandhi who has been married to the son of India’s Prime Minister since 1967, lived in the country for 15 years, had two children, but never wanted to even take Indian citizenship.   And that she got (more…)

Was India Born Just To Give The World Yoga?

In a recent newspaper interview with renowned Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman, about the restitution of Nalanda, the 5th century Buddhist University in India, the journalist comments:  “But Buddhism has practically vanished from India and emerging India may have little interest in the values you talk about.”

Thurman responds to that with:

[So] What is emerging India going to contribute to the world?  Just compete with China to make more cheap goods and take away more jobs from industrialized and unionized countries, and pollute themselves?

He had my attention there for a split second.  And then he spoilt it.  He responded in a way, that I’ve heard so many westerners respond to India, sort of in a patronizing way.  The way you talk to rowdy children, when you want to encourage them to stop doing what they are doing, and do the right thing.  (more…)

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