By Ram Puniyani
Time is one of the most influential global newsmagazines. It recently came out with an issue with Modi on the cover (20 May 2019), with the title ‘India’s Divider in Chief’ raising the question ‘Can the world’s largest democracy survive another five years of Modi?’
Time had carried a major article at the start of the Modi era, placing him as Modi the Reformer and arguing that he was the best hope for economic reforms in India.
The article in the middle of the heated campaign for the Lok Sabha elections punched political buttons across. It was very critical of Congress President Rahul Gandhi but that did not stop him from tweeting it. However, Modi acolytes pounced on the writer Aatish Taseer. Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra stated that Taseer is a Pakistani and nothing better can be expected from a Pakistani.
This is typical of the BJP, creating and boosting the enemy image of Pakistan. Others BJP followers vandalized Taseer’s Wikipedia page adding that he was “the PR manager for the Congress”.
Taseer is no Pakistani national. His father was Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, who was shot by his bodyguard for supporting the case of Aasia Bibi, a Christian who was charged under blasphemy laws. He was killed for his liberal values. His mother is 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. Hardly. The Time cover story in 2015 on Modi was headlined, ‘Why Modi matters’. Even in the current issue, the second lead story portrays him as being a pro-reforms leader. What Taseer has written is well known. He writes of lynchings in the name of the cow, the beating of Muslims, the targeting of Dalits…marginalising Muslims on the one hand and subduing Dalits on the other.
The last five years have seen two major challenges to democracy. Complete and total centralisation of power of the government in PM Modi’s hands. The extent to which this has happened was revealed by Modi himself when he boasted as to how he had prevailed upon experts to order the Balakot strike. He claimed that the experts wanted to postpone it to bad weather, clouds and rain but that he in his wisdom told them to go ahead as the clouds in the sky would help the Indian fighter jets escape detection by Pakistan’s radars!
The point is not how ludicrous this claim is but that the Prime Minister of India can boast of taking all decisions personally. That all major decisions are indeed taken by him is well known by now. Autonomous institutions are being trampled and controlled by Modi who has his fingers in every pie.
Equally or more damaging is the division which he is sowing among different religious communities. His not reprimanding cow vigilantes, his acceptance of Cabinet colleagues who spew poison against religious minorities, who drape the dead body of a lynching accused in the tricolour, or honour the accused on bail, give clear encouragement to the criminals pursuing the Hindu nationalist agenda.
His selection of Adityanath Yogi, who is known for his foul language against Muslims in particular, as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh; his selection of the terror accused in the Malegaon blasts Pragya Thakur as a Lok Sabha candidate is in these elections all together pose a threat to democratic India.
The Indian Constitution represents the unity of India. Modi’s cabinet colleague, Anant Kumar Hegde openly says that the Indian Constitution should be changed.
The media has buckled under the pressure created by the BJP. This is well expressed by the BJP Tejaswi Surya when he said, “If you are with Modi, you are with India. If you are not with Modi, then you are strengthening anti-India forces.” Criticism of the ruling government has been classified as anti-national.
As such the ‘divider in chief’ title sits well on the persona and ideology of Narendra Modi. It is the first time that a Hindu nationalist Prime minister is ruling the country with a full majority. Earlier BJP led Governments did initiate some moves in this direction but as they were dependent on the support of ragtag combinations, they never implemented the Hindu nationalist divisiveness to this extent. The writer uses the term ‘poisonous religious nationalism’ for the current scenario prevailing here.