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Indian Diaspora’s dangerous dalliance with Modi’s Hindutva agenda

28th Feb 2020
Indian Diaspora’s dangerous dalliance with Modi’s Hindutva agenda

PM Narendra Modi (Credit: Kremlin/WikiCommons)

Attention is slowly being focused on Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s relentless march towards fascism under the party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Hindutva agenda.

As the BJP’s promise of economic growth becomes more difficult to deliver, the party is resorting to more draconian anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies to appease its populist Hindu base. In addition, the drubbing delivered by the Aam Admi Party (AAP) in the recent elections in Delhi, means that the BJP has now lost four key state elections in a row. Indeed, the joke doing the rounds in many circles in India is that the BJP may soon become a “stateless” party!

These losses only add to the consternation of the BJP as it finds no way to deliver on the promised economic miracle. The clear danger is that Modi and the Hindutva combine may now resort to ever more desperate measures to maintain its power. As with Lalkrishna Advani’s Rath Yatra, which led to the illegal destruction of the Babri Masjid, such measures may result in large scale unrest and bloodshed in India. The resulting drive towards authoritarianism may also irreparably tarnish the coveted image of India as a model of global secular democracy.

Counting its main supporters in Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, Modi has been relatively immune from international scrutiny and criticism. In the UK, the tacit alliance between large sections of the Indian Diaspora and the ruling Conservative Party has also shielded Modi’s toxic Hindutva agenda from criticism. Indeed, Labour MP Debbie Abrahams was denied entry to India and deported from Delhi airport ostensibly because of her support for a resolution in the UK critical of the BJP’s anti-Kashmir policies.

However, the wheels of international scrutiny are slowly beginning to turn. There have been questions raised in the US Congress and the EU Parliament has also started to raise concerns. A debate on the issue in the EU Parliament was postponed to March so as not to rock the upcoming EU-India trade talks. Despite the best efforts of Indian diplomats, these issues are not going away. Indeed, as Modi moves towards more authoritarian measures and introduces facial recognition surveillance on a mass scale, international concern is likely to grow.

It is noticeable that during the relentless rise of the Hindutva brigade in the country, the Indian Diaspora has been resolute in its support of Modi and his neo-fascist agenda. It is well documented that the Diaspora bankrolled the BJP even when Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat. It stayed resolute in its support for Modi, despite his alleged complicity in the Gujarat massacres of Muslims in the state. Following the massacres, the British Government was advised by its diplomats to shun Modi and he was discouraged from visiting the UK. The US went further and indicated that he would be refused a visa if he tried to visit the country. The Indian Diaspora in the US, stunned by the scale of the Gujarat massacres, supported this informal ‘ban’ on any visit.

However, as Modi took over the reins of the BJP and led the party to victory against a moribund Congress Party, the lure of massive trade and defence contracts rapidly brushed aside any human rights reservations on the part of the UK and the US.

As Modi followed his first victory by an even bigger majority in the following election, Western leaders began to fawn at his feet. Large sections of the Indian Diaspora were jubilant and were instrumental in hosting the Indian Prime Minister to massive gatherings in the UK and the US. Donald Trump appeared with Narendra Modi to indicate that his past complicity in the Gujarat massacres and the relentless march towards neo-fascism in the name of his Hindutva agenda was part of the shared values the West had with India.

The Indian Diaspora in the UK has doubled down on its support by striking a tacit alliance with the Conservative Party to split the tradition Labour leanings of the UK’s ethnic minorities. They have also championed the Conservative Party’s silence over the Kashmir issue. UK citizens of Indian origin have, as a result, been, amply rewarded with a cabinet and other ministerial posts in the new Boris Johnson Administration.

In the meantime, the BJP’s march towards authoritarianism is causing concern amongst the Indian intelligentsia. Modi has resorted to intimation on institutions like the Jawaharlal Nehru University, revoked Overseas Citizenship of India status of non-resident Indians and resorted to the brutal suppression of protests by people in India. Indeed, Muslim women protesting against discriminatory citizenship laws have been branded as terrorists. Some protesters have even been charged with the old British law of sedition!

The uncritical support of large sections of the Indian Diaspora for the neo-fascist Hindutva agenda is beginning to crack as leading intellectuals bravely confront the mother country’s rulers. Protesters in India would also welcome support from the Diaspora to challenge the relentless slide towards authoritarianism. The Sikh Diaspora is already voicing its clear opposition to Modi’s agenda. The Muslim Diaspora is slowly being ashamed of its opportunism and not lending its uncritical support to Modi.

Given the supine Indian Diaspora, it is a critical test for the Conservative Party to overcome its political opportunism and short-term commercial gains and support justice and the rule of law in India. For the US, one will have to await the exit of Trump to see any change.

The Diaspora in the US may yet turn against Modi as it has done before. The price for international peace could be very high if a desperate Modi is unchecked by wise counsel from his international mentors.

Mohamed Hassan

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