With Hindu Nazis in the driving seat, India is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for its minorities, especially Muslims. Its overly ambitious plan to compete with China, however, will not materialize because of its deep structural and social problems.
The Taj Mahal in Agra is one of the world’s Seven Wonders. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal. While Hindu India has no hesitation in adopting the Taj Mahal built by a Muslim ruler as its own, as far as its 150 million Muslim citizens are concerned, they are still considered “outsiders” even after living in India for more than 1,000 years.
This is most graphically illustrated by the rise to power of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India. During the April-May election campaign, his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates openly proclaimed India as a Hindu country. For instance, Giriraj Singh, the BJP candidate for Godda district of Jharkhand, told a party rally on April 19, 2014 that those who oppose his party’s leader to become prime minister will have “no place in India” and will be sent to Pakistan after the election! Singh was made a cabinet minister on November 9.
Modi who cut his political teeth in the Hindu fascist outfit, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had presided over the pogrom of some 2,000 Muslims in February 2002 when he was chief minister of Gujarat state. He had told the police not to intervene when Hindu mobs were unleashed on innocent Muslims allegedly for their role in the Godhra train disaster in which 58 Hindu yatris (pilgrims) were killed after it caught fire. While Muslims were accused of setting fire to the train, an official inquiry in India found that the fire had started after a faulty kerosene cooker in one of the carriages tipped over and set the train ablaze.
The most horrific case was that of Ehsan Jafri, a member of parliament from the Congress Party. He was dragged out of his house by a Hindu mob, stripped naked and his ears, nose and other body parts were cut. Then he was hacked to death with swords and set on fire to die. When the mob arrived at his house, his wife said Jafri phoned Modi for help. Modi was the chief minister and is reported to have told Jafri, “Are you still alive? Don’t worry, they will take care of you!”
The Gujarat pogroms and Modi’s involvement in them so horrified the world that he was denied visa to enter the US in 2005 and 2006. Once it became clear that he would win the April–May 2014 general elections in India, Western rulers started to court him. This was evident during Modi’s visit to the UN at the end of September. He addressed the UN General Assembly on September 27 and two days later, he was a guest at the White House. In a naked display of opportunism, US President Barack Obama arranged an official dinner for him on September 29 and then invited him for a one-hour meeting the next morning. Obama went further: he accompanied Modi to visit the Martin Luther King Memorial after the meeting.
Why would the US president pander to a mass murderer whose training was at the hands of RSS, a Hindu fascist outfit that is patterned on Nazi ideology? The Hindus have made no secret of their admiration for Nazi ideology and tactics. One of RSS’s earliest leaders, Madhav Golwalkar, openly proclaimed that he took particular inspiration from the Nazi ideology. “To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging of the Semitic Race, the Jews,” wrote Golwalkar in 1938. His racist cant did not end there; Gowalkar applied the Nazi ideology of “racial purity and superiority” to religious minorities in India.
While applauding Nazi Germany’s “racial purity” doctrine, Gowalkar wrote: “Race pride at its highest has been manifested there. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures having differences going to the root to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by… The foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture… or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen’s rights.”
This is the ideology Modi has followed all his life and put into practice in Gujarat with the pogrom of Muslims. He has now brought this to Delhi, the centre of India’s power. Lest it be forgotten, Modi became a senior figure in the Gujarat chapter of the RSS and was the principal organizer of the Hindu fascist mob that descended on Ayodhya in December 1992, then led by the BJP leader L.K. Advani. It resulted in the destruction of the 16th century historic Babri Masjid. When Muslims protested, Hindu goons were let loose and in Bombay alone (in Gujarat state), more than 2,000 Muslims were mercilessly butchered, many of them burnt alive, like the pogroms 10 years later in many cities and towns across the state now under Modi’s stewardship.
So the question that must be asked is: why are Western rulers so keen to court a well-known racist and mass murderer? The simple answer is money. India is seen as a rising economic power with nearly 300 million people in the middle class. This holds an enormous potential for Western consumer goods and with India on a military spending spree — in the last three years, India has been the world’s leading importer of weapons — Western arms manufacturers are salivating at the prospects of supplying weapons of death. Modi himself has said he would like to “catch up with China” both economically as well as politically. How realistic is this dream? Some statistics would help:
Population: 1.2 billion
GDP: $1.877 trillion
GDP/capita: $1,499 (2013)
Defence spending: $38.35 billion (2014–15).
Population: 1.357 billion
GDP: $9.24 trillion
Defence spending: $145 billion (2013).
China’s GDP is five times that of India’s and is rising fast catching up with the US. The World Bank estimates that China would surpass America’s GDP within seven years. India has no hope of catching up with fast growing China.
There are other statistics as well that point to India’s poor performance and lack of ability to match China. India’s growth rate has remained stagnant at 5% per annum for several years; China’s has seldom fallen below 7 or 8%. While India may have sent a spacecraft to Mars, that can hardly put food on the table for one-third of the world’s poorest people who reside in India, living on less than $1.40 per day. Further, 68.8% of Indians — a massive 820 million people — earn less than $2 a day. While 97 million people in India do not have access to safe drinking water, the number of people without access to toilets is a staggering 550 million — nearly half of India’s population.
Hundreds of millions of Indians relieve themselves in the open. This can be witnessed on a train or bus ride into or out of any major city on any day. Jokes abound. There is a huge disconnect between India’s aspirations to great power status even seeking a seat at the UN Security Council and being able to provide for the most basic needs of its people.
India must be the only country in the world that has a minister for sanitation. Nothing wrong there; at least there is realization of the problem. Modi’s first Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Gopinath Munde was killed in a car crash on June 3, 2014, within a week of being sworn in. Modi immediately transferred these responsibilities to Nitin Gadkari who is also Minister of Road Transport and Highways as well as Shipping.
How is Gadkari going to upgrade India’s creaky infrastructure while worrying about people’s sanitation needs? Something has to give and people’s sanitary needs will have to wait a little longer while the country grapples with building roads and bridges. There is only so much money available to take care of these needs. Modi had hoped China will invest heavily in India now that the country has opened up for investment and allowed 49% equity for foreigners. When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited India in September, he promised a mere $20 billion in investment; India had hoped for $80 billion. The Chinese know what India is worth; more importantly, it is China’s rival that the West is pumping up to undermine the rising Asian giant.
Even while trying to pursue the contradictory policy of courting and challenging China at the same time, Modi has adopted an openly hostile policy toward Pakistan. In recent weeks, Indian belligerence has escalated with Indian occupation forces intensifying firing on Pakistani troops and civilians in Azad Kashmir across the Line of Control (LoC). Modi made a highly publicized and provocative visit to Siachen Glacier where the armies of India and Pakistan fight for frozen space.
Most observers see Modi’s belligerence and his extreme anti-Muslim animus as an attempt to consolidate his Hindu fascist constituency. Will it bear fruit? Modi has suffered his first major foreign policy setback in Afghanistan where the new Afghan government spurned India’s offer to train the Afghan Army and supply it with weapons. Instead President Ashraf Ghani has turned to China and Pakistan for help. Not only has Sartaj Aziz, Pakistani Foreign Policy Advisor to Pakistani Prime Nawaz Sharif, been to Kabul to meet Ghani, Pakistani Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif also met the Afghan president on November 8 and offered to help the Afghan army.
On November 9, Modi announced expansion of his cabinet inducting 21 new ministers. While expanding the cabinet is not the issue, those inducted into it is of concern. During the election campaign, Modi had promised to clean up the political stables and provide efficient government but the ministers in his cabinet are anything but honest or clean. The Indian non-governmental organization, the Association for Democratic Reforms, reported that the number of “tainted ministers” rose from 12 to 20 with the induction of new ministers. About 31% of the Council of Ministers have criminal charges pending against them. This includes eight new inductees into the cabinet. Charges range from theft to assault as well as rape. These are not minor matters.
India’s real problem, however, lies in the racist caste system. It is religiously sanctified apartheid and still rigidly enforced even in the 21st century. Those born into the lower caste can never hope to break out of this vicious cycle. In India’s caste pyramid, the Brahmins sit on top (Modi is from a lower caste). At the lowest rung of the pyramid are people called Dalits. They used to be called untouchables. The dirtiest jobs — sweeping roads and cleaning toilets — are reserved for them. To this day, the Dalits cannot pull water from the same well as upper caste Hindus, nor can they eat in the same plate that others use, otherwise it would become “unclean.” Marrying their children into “upper” caste families is out of the question. Lower caste women are often raped by “higher caste” men but there is seldom any punishment for the culprits. Officially, there are 24,000 rapes in India each year; the real figure is much higher since many victims do not report to the police because they are also notorious rapists and victimize the victims again.
While hundreds of millions of people in India — Dalits, Muslims, Christians and others — suffer, the Indian-doting West is only interested in chasing contracts. Such blindness has allowed the Hindu Nazis’ rise to power. India claims to be the “world’s largest democracy.” Some democracy, some progressive country!