Every time I lose hope about Narendra Modi’s ability to deliver real change, some Leftist ‘intellectual’ reminds me why the people of India (and this columnist) supported him in the first place. This week the reminder came from the foreign media’s favourite Indian writer Arundhati Roy. In an interview to the BBC she said things about India that are as false as the charge she earlier made that the Indian Army has a history of repression that is worse than that of the Pakistani army. Not even a Pakistani general would say this.
This time when asked if Modi had proved worse than she feared, she said yes for these reasons: Muslims had been ‘ghettoised’ since 2014 and their livelihoods destroyed. Violence in India was so ‘terrifying’ that ‘thousands marched in support of the rapists’ in Kathua. That Modi was worse than Donald Trump because in the United States institutions like the media and the judiciary were able to ‘manage’ him by fighting back while in India they had been taken over. Proof lay in Supreme Court judges holding a press conference to say that ‘democracy’ was in danger. And, her final charge was that school textbooks now had Hitler’s picture on the cover.
This last charge is too ludicrous to discuss as is the charge that ‘thousands’ marched in support of the rapists in Kathua. The others merit discussion because Ms Roy regurgitated exactly what Leftist politicians and intellectuals have said since the day Modi became the first prime minister in 30 years to be given a full mandate by the Indian people. If for no other reason than respect for democracy, this mandate should have been respected. It never was by those Indians who claim to speak for ‘the people’ but are really part of a tiny, very powerful, Leftist elite. Their doomsday predictions began even before Modi became prime minister.
When it comes to Muslims, Modi made the mistake, as I have repeated ad nauseam, of not speaking against the lynchings till it was too late. But, to say ‘ghettoisation’ happened only in the past four years is a lie. Long before cow vigilantes began their depredations there were annual ‘secular’ riots in which most victims were Muslim because law enforcement was never very secular. Muslims in towns, cities and villages across India live in ghettoes for reasons of security. This is one of India’s uglier realities.
The charge that the institutions of democracy have been destroyed since 2014 is another outright lie. The media attacks the Prime Minister and government daily. There have been rumours of threats and intimidation but the only actual instance was when Smriti Irani warned that she might cancel press cards. Her order was rescinded within hours and she lost her job. Last week Barkha Dutt put on Twitter that she was being threatened by ‘prominent BJP leaders’. I wish she would name them so that they can be publicly shamed. The habit of trying to intimidate journalists is not new. In secular times there were black lists and all kinds of methods were used to force journalists to kowtow. Those working in smaller towns were killed, and still are, when they take on powerful politicians or thugs.
Now for the judiciary. The Supreme Court judges who held a press conference to air their grievances against the Chief Justice did neither themselves nor the judiciary any good. If they had gone public to explain why justice remains inaccessible and unaffordable for the vast majority of ordinary Indians, they would deserve everyone’s respect. But, to declare that ‘democracy’ was in danger because the Chief Justice was deciding which judges should be on which benches was beyond absurd. It is his job to control the roster and they admitted this, but got a lot of friendly publicity anyway in the media which, for the most part, remains virulently anti-Modi.
Modi has made mistakes in the past four years. He has failed to take India in a new economic direction. He wasted time on demonetisation and wasted money on huge, useless Congress welfare schemes like MNREGA. And, he failed to change our ‘socialist’ political culture. The best way to do this would have been to end the sickening practice of making the Indian people pay to house their elected representatives. In more mature democracies it is usually only the president or prime minister who gets government housing. It is a shame that Modi did not bring ‘parivartan’ here. It is a shame he did not make BJP chief ministers improve the appalling standards of their schools and hospitals and a terrible shame that the process of making major administrative reforms has not begun to happen in a single BJP state.
These mistakes are never mentioned by Leftists. They know they are legacies from decades of glorious ‘secular’ rule they remember with such nostalgia.