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The Guardian’s view on Modis India: the danger of exporting Hindu chauvinism | Editorial

The Guardian’s view on Modis India: the danger of exporting Hindu chauvinism |  Editorial


Ohen the US State Department recently said in court that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should be granted immunity in a trial for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, it framed its argument as a legal position and not moral. As evidence, he pointed to a rogues gallery of foreign leaders who previously enjoyed similar protection. Nestled between Zimbabweans Robert Mugabe, who allegedly murdered political rivals, and the Congos Joseph Kabilawhose security service has been accused of assaulting protesters in Washington, was Indias Narendra Modi.

Dropping Mr. Modi in such a list was no accident. This reminds us that while New Delhi rejoices in its diplomatic success in the recent G20 and COP27 summits, he may find the international environment less accommodating if Mr Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continue to stir up hatred to win the election. Washington’s move suggests that its strategic partnership with India cannot be completely isolated from domestic political issues. Mr Modis’ failure as chief minister of Gujarat to prevent the 2002 anti-Muslim riots that left hundreds dead resulted in him being denied a US visa, until he becomes Indian Prime Minister. Foggy Bottom’s message was that the ban had not been lifted, but suspended, because Mr. Modi ran a country that Washington wanted to do business with.

India is seen as a geopolitical counterweight to China and, in many ways, an indispensable player on the world stage. But Mr Bidens’ team appears to view the position as more contingent and will be less tolerant of Mr Modis’ Trump administration trying to reshape India’s democracy so that Hindus become constitutionally preeminent, with minorities reduced to citizens of second class. Last week, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom accused New Delhi of a crackdown on civil society and dissent, and violations of religious freedom. The Indian Foreign Ministry hit back at biased and inaccurate observations. Officials had better think about the direction their country is taking.

As a rising power, India’s rise depends on building bridges with others. The Middle East is a key energy provider and regional business partner supporting 9 million Indian workers. India’s security depends on Arab states that maintain an environment hostile to terrorism. So when BJP officials made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad this summer, the Gulf States lodged formal protests with New Delhi. Chastened, the Modi government has been spurred into action by suspending one party official and expelling another, while claiming it gives the utmost respect to all religions.

Bland assurances may not be enough. The intimidation of India’s 200 million Muslims lurks in plain sight. State elections in Gujarat begin on Thursday, weeks after BJP ministers approved the premature release of 11 men convicted of raping and murdering Muslim women and children during the riots. Last Friday during the election campaign, India’s home minister claimed that troublemakers had been taught a lesson in 2002. It sounded like a signal to the Hindu crowds that they could do whatever they wanted.

Worryingly, there are signs that the communal clashes seen in India are being copied elsewhere. In Leicester, many South Asian Muslims, like the city’s Hindus, have Indian roots. Yet when violence erupted between these communities in September, escalating into attacks on mosques and temples, the Indian High Commission in London condemned the violence perpetrated against the Indian community in Leicester and the vandalism of premises and symbols of [the] hindu religion. To tell the truth, there has been no condemnation of Hindu violence against Muslims. Formerly anxious to proclaim its secularism, the Indian government seems content to export its Hindu chauvinism. This should confuse everyone.




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