Home Editorial Editorial: A Portrait of Narendra Modi

Editorial: A Portrait of Narendra Modi

Under Modi, India has witnessed a persistent decline in its secularism and a boost in attacks on minorities, particularly Muslims

by Editorial

File photo. Tolga Akmen—AFP

Humayun Kabir, former ambassador of Bangladesh to the United States, has recently penned a sketch of Indian P.M. Narendra Modi. “Narendra Modi, a member of India’s Other Backward Class, defined as a socioeconomically disadvantaged caste, swept to power in 2014 by winning 336 seats together with his BJP alliance partners,” he writes. “Modi, who became well known for presiding over the 2002 anti-Muslim riots as chief minister of Gujarat, was installed as the prime minister.” Both nationally and internationally, Modi’s success is credited to his charisma and popular support arising from development. However, ideologically, his party is committed to the promotion of Hindutva, risking undermining the accommodation of other religious minorities, in particular India’s nearly 200 million Muslims. Kabir has mapped out two Islamophobic narratives in Modi’s political discourse: the erasure of Indian Muslim history in Modi’s economic development agenda and the characterization of Hinduism as having a taming effect on Islam in India.

Hindu nationalism dates back to colonial-era writings of Indians, such as author and politician V. D. Savarkar in Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? Hindu nationalists believe Hindus are the true sons of the soil because their holy lands are in India, whereas Christians and Muslim holy lands are outside the country. Many, if not most, see Indian Muslims as suspect foreigners, even though most are descendants of Hindus who converted to Islam over centuries. India, a country with religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity, has a Muslim population that accounts for nearly 15 percent of its total population, by far the largest minority group. Article 25 of the Indian constitution grants all individuals freedom of conscience, including the right to “practice, profess, and propagate religion.”

It is an accepted historic fact that Modi has long been associated with extreme Hindu nationalist policies. His policy has led to a series of acts of violence and state-level killings of Muslims across the country. The government has been implicated in promoting Hindu nationalism in a variety of ways, such as through state-supported anti-conversion laws. By February 2023, 12 of India’s 28 states will have passed anti-conversion laws. Furthermore, Hindu mob attacks have become quite common, despite the Indian Supreme Court warning they could become the new normal. A Human Rights Watch report indicates at least 44 people were killed by vigilantes between May 2015 and December 2018. Another report in February 2020 recorded major protests against the Citizenship Act of India’s constitution, which reduced eligibility for citizenship for non-Muslims from 11 years of living and working in India to six, deliberately excluding Muslims. By any standard of measurement, hard evidence projects India’s democratic values to have taken a slide over the past decade.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment