Is Narendra Modi the ‘Divider number one’ in India?


Ram Puniyani

Time magazine probably is one of the most influential global news magazines. It recently came out with an issue with Modi on the cover page (20 May, 2019), with the title ‘India’s Divider in Chief’ raising the question ‘Can World’s largest democracy survive another five years of Modi?’ It also carried another major article, Modi the reformer, which argues that Modi is the best hope for economic reform in India. The main article, (India’s Divider in Chief) as the title suggested hits the nail on the head and its title aptly sums up the Modi rule. It also is critical of Rahul Gandhi on various grounds. Interestingly Rahul Gandhi re-tweeted the article from his twitter handle, while Modi acolytes pounced on the writer Aatish Taseer.

BJP’s spokesman Sambit Patra stated that Taseer is a Pakistani and nothing better can be expected from a Pakistani. This is typical of BJP, creating and boosting the enemy image of Pakistan.  Others BJP followers vandalized the Wikipedia page of Taseer and added that, he is “the PR manger for the Congress”. This addition being made to the “Career” section of the page. Taseer as such is no Pakistani national. His father was Salaman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, who was shot by his body guard for supporting Aasia Bibi, a Christian who was charged under blasphemy laws. He was killed for his liberal values. His mother is a well known Indian columnist, Tavleen Singh, while Aatish himself is an American citizen. Wish truth mattered for the ilk of Patra!

Interestingly Patra commented that Time magazine earlier has also carried anti Modi articles. Truth of the matter is that earlier write up in the magazine projected him with hope.  For example the Time cover story in 2015 on Modi was titled, ‘Why Modi matters’. (2015) Even in current issue the second lead story of the magazine portrays him as being the one with the best potential of reform. How come this renowned magazine has articulated Modi as the ‘Divider in Chief’, and put forward the question whether democracy will survive in case he comes to power again in 2019. What Taseer is presenting is no rocket science. He aptly tells us how the phenomenon like lynching in the name of cow began with beating up Muslims and in due course dalits were also targeted, the Una flogging, marginalizing Muslims on one hand and subduing dalits on the other.

Last five years have seen two major phenomenons’s which indicate that democracy is in peril. Centralization of the power of the Government in the hands of Modi is total. The extent of this was revealed by Modi himself when he boasted that he prevailed upon the expert opinion on Balakot strike. He claims that the concerned authorities and experts wanted to postpone it due to bad weather, rains etc. Modi in his profound wisdom ordered them to go ahead as clouds in the sky will help the attacking fighter aero planes to escape being detected by Pakistan’s radars! All major decisions being taken by him is well known by now. In case of demonetization for example the Cabinet and Finance ministry was in dark about it. The autonomous institutions are being trampled and controlled by Modi. Democratic institutions are gradually being undermined with him at the center of power.

Equally or more damaging is the division which he is sowing among the different religious communities. His not reprimanding the cow vigilantes, his acceptance of Cabinet colleagues who spew poison against religious minorities, who drape the dead body of lynching accused in tri color, or honor the accused on bail gives a clear encouragement to the criminals pursuing the Hindu nationalist agenda. His selection of Adityanath Yogi, who is known for his fowl language against Muslims in particular, as UP Chief Minster and putting up Pragya Thakur, the terror accused on bail due to health reasons, are a clear pronouncement that he is out to impose Hindu nationalist agenda, Hindutva, on the secular democratic India.

What represents the unity of India is the Indian Constitution. He has cabinet colleague, Anant Kumar Hegde who openly espouses that Indian Constitution should be changed. Modi’s parent organization, the RSS is flourishing with rapid speed during his regime. The Universities and other state institutions are recruiting the followers of RSS despite them not fulfilling academic requirements for the jobs. Many columnists are pointing out that Indian media has also been subdued and not critiqued Modi adequate enough. It’s partly true also. While a section of media and few writers have taken up issues against the ruling duo of Modi-Shah, large section of media has buckled under the pressure created by BJP rule. This pressure is well expressed by the rising BJP star Tejaswi Surya, who stated that “If you are with Modi, you are with India. If you are not with Modi, then you are strengthening anti-India forces.” Criticizing ruling government has been portrayed as being anti National.

As such the ‘divider in chief’ title sits well on the persona and ideology of Modi. It is the first time that a Hindu nationalist Prime minister is ruling the country with full majority. Earlier BJP led Governments did initiate some moves in this direction but as they were dependent on the support of rag tag combinations, they never implemented the Hindu nationalist divisiveness to this extent. The author uses the term ‘Poisonous religious nationalism’ for the current scenario prevailing here.

Gandhi, who was murdered by the leader of Hindu Nationalist ideology was the ‘Unifier in Chief’, and sadly the present Prime minster, while implementing his political agenda has played the role which is a total counter to what father of the nation stood far. On the counts of dividing the nation along religious lines and undermining the democracy in the country, the article is a grim reminder of the state of affairs prevailing here.