An open letter from an NRI to PM Narendra Modi

India placed its hopes in you when you raised the slogan of "sabhka sath, sabhka vikas". And real long term vikas can't really happen without domestic freedoms, peace and harmony.

Written by Ujjal Dosanjh | Updated: January 18, 2016 10:10 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 13th ASEAN-India Summit in Kuala Lumpur. (Source: PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 13th ASEAN-India Summit in Kuala Lumpur. (Source: PTI)

Dear Prime Minister,

India is a large country bustling with life, bursting with human energy of over 1.2 billion throbbing hearts. As their Prime Minister you are a busy man. I know it is extremely unusual for the Prime Minister of a large democracy like India to be able to read many letters or to answer them. I know you wouldn’t have the time to read my letter either. On the off chance that someone from your large PMO, cabinet or members of Parliament might bring it your notice I am taking the liberty of writing to you publicly by way of this open letter.

Let me state I was born and raised in India and therefore the ties that bind me to the country are interminable; and as a non-resident Indian I have no partisan attachment to any Indian political party. From time to time I have been an equal opportunity admirer or critic of the major political parties of India as the issues have demanded.

Many NRIs watched the last federal election in India with great interest; and when you were elected with an impressive majority of MPs many cheered, for the largest democratic spectacle on earth had after many long years elected a majority government. Like most of the NRIs I too watched your election and government with hope and expectation for my mother land.

You made India’s economic development the centerpiece of your campaign. I couldn’t have agreed more. The economic development of India is a mammoth task that will consume several coming decades. I wish you and India luck in this great anti poverty endeavour.

I have always thought caste and corruption to be inextricably linked to the endemic poverty in India; and therefore obstacles to real economic progress and social justice. Communalism as violence, hate and discrimination in the name of caste, religion, language, region or ethnicity has always existed in the background, coming to the fore from time to time. The current environment of suppression of free speech, threatening and killing of thinkers and intellectuals, burning and maiming of dalits, frequent hateful utterances against Indian Muslims and the lynching of persons for allegedly eating what the attackers may not eat: all of it compels me to add that along with caste and corruption communalism too is a real obstacle to economic progress in India.

Peace on its borders and even more importantly the peace within its borders is a sin qua non of economic, intellectual and artistic development in a country. With the continuing Pakistani belligerence one can argue peace on our borders has been somewhat intermittent and elusive. But a large and entrenched democracy like India need not obsess itself with a country like Pakistan. India is a country of the world and in that big world Pakistan is but one small player.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the crowd during election rally in hajipur on Sunday, Oct 25, 2015. Express photo by Prashant Ravi Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the crowd during an election rally earlier this year. Express Photo/Prashant Ravi

What India needs to focus on more is the internal peace, social harmony, interfaith amity and civil liberties of Indians. Internal, harmony, peace and freedoms are a precondition to any significant economic development. The country needs to be vigilant against corruption, intellectual and religious intolerance, caste discrimination and violence. India needs to vigorously protect the civil liberties of its citizens regardless of their caste, creed or economic status.

The continuing violence against dalits, the killing of the poor in the demolition of their shanties in Delhi, the silencing of dissident scholars and intellectuals by killing them, killing of Indians for eating what other Indians may not eat and the rapes in Delhi of five minor females every two days in the last three years make it obvious that the domestic turbulence in India poses a clear and present danger to its economic development and social progress. While it is clear that economic development is desperately needed and many Indians still have great difficulty in earning for themselves and their families a fair and reasonable Roti, Kapda and Makaan, let us not forget men and women do not live by bread alone.

The citizens of India like those of any other country need domestic peace, equality and freedom to pursue their livelihood, practice their faiths, engage in their academic, intellectual and artistic pursuits. In the current atmosphere of communalist rhetoric, threats against intellectuals, violence against Dalits and intimidation of minorities, it is difficult to claim that your government has been able to provide the level of domestic tranquility necessary to more successfully pursue economic development.

The situation on the corruption front isn’t too encouraging either. While we witnessed scams like 2G and Coalgate galore under the UPA, your government seems to be racking up quite a record as well. Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje were never reprimanded let alone punished for misdeeds for which there were no ethical defences. The vyapam scam cries out for Prime Ministerial intervention from you who had said: Naa Khanoonga, Naa Khaney Dunga. And now, your Finance Minister seems to have gotten himself into a mess.

You are not the Prime Minister of only the members of BJP, those who voted for you or those who support you. You are the Prime Minister of whole of India and all Indians. As Prime Minister, you must vigorously make the case for accepting and celebrating the inherent Indian diversity and Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy of non violence and peace. So far the impression is that you talk less of freedoms and diversity of India at home and more while you are speaking to the NRIs abroad. Indians need to be reassured that you care deeply about all Indians, communal harmony, peace, freedoms and civil liberties in India. And they need to hear that from you while you stand with and among them on the Indian soil.

Recently, for example, they needed to hear the pain and anguish you, the PM, must have suffered upon hearing of the brutal death by chopping off limbs of dalit Bheem Tank. The Indians must have longed to hear their Prime Minister’s voice when a child died in the shanties of the poor in the Capital of India, a little ahead of a demolition drive. Dilli has always been known as the Dil of Bharat; Dilli and its dil must have cringed in the horror and the shame of it all. I know the heart of the Prime Minister in whose country the limbs of a dalit were cut off to kill him and the death of a child of the poor shanty dwellers would have ached. As Prime Minister you must have felt compelled to share your anguish with your people – the people of India. What on earth prevented you from immediately taking to the airwaves to publicly condemn the unthinkable atrocity and to say that is not the kind of India you wanted to build?

Despite the reservations many Indians had about your alleged active or just looking the other way role in the post Godhra riots, India placed its hopes in you when you raised the slogan of  “sabhka sath, sabhka vikas”. And real long term vikas can’t really happen without domestic freedoms, peace and harmony. I know it is in you, Mr. Prime Minister, to use the ramparts of the Red Fort and your seat in Lok Sabha to harness the energy of the entire nation for the massive peaceful and harmonious social and economic development India needs, deserves and is capable of. India placed its faith in you, Mr Prime Minister. You must vociferously defend and promote India’s immense, ancient and inherent diversity and robust economic, cultural, intellectual and artistic development.

Prime Minister, you must keep faith with India.

Dosanjh is former Premier of British Columbia, and former Canadian Minister of Health. Views expressed are personal.

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