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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Priorities of the new ruling elite are very worrying

May I urge the Prime Minister to examine the priorities of his government and set a new agenda. At the top of this has to be the economy.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: December 15, 2019 10:27:26 am
PM Modi has already brought about a social revolution by ousting a ruling elite that deserved to be ousted

What a mess. And, what for? I have tried, really tried, to understand the point of the law that was passed last week. And, I have failed. I wanted this week to write something good about the first few months of Narendra Modi’s second term as Prime Minister. I have not had good things to say of late and, contrary to the opinion of the Twitter termites that support him, it is not because my son has been exiled.

Of course, I think it was wrong to exile my son from the country that has been his home for 40 years. Of course, I believe this was done out of petty vindictiveness, but this does not influence the opinions in this column. Only small-minded, venomous termites (such a lovely word) whose claim to fame is that Modi follows them would have such degraded thoughts. So the less said about them the better.

The truth is that I continue to nurture the hope that Modi will be able to transform India if he gets his priorities right. He has already brought about a social revolution by ousting a ruling elite that deserved to be ousted. As someone who belongs to the said ousted elite, I admit without hesitation that we used our education and privilege in a way that benefited us and us alone and did almost no good for the vast majority of Indians. We deserved to be replaced by a new ruling elite.

Having said this, I believe it is necessary to point out that the priorities of the new ruling elite are very worrying. With the economy in a dismal state, with prices rising, with industrial production falling, with fine Indian companies going bankrupt and unemployment at a record high, should this amended citizenship law have been a priority?

It is supposedly meant to help victims of religious persecution (excluding Muslims) in our Islamic neighbourhood. And, perhaps this is a worthy cause, but surely the needs of Indian citizens should come first. Surely Modi 2.0 should have made it his first priority to put a team of economists together to find solutions to our grim economic woes? Surely he should have immersed himself in long meetings with Indian investors to find out why they are not investing?

Instead, he has been almost absent from matters of governance. Should he not have been in Parliament for the passing of a law that has already caused massive disruption and is likely to cause much more in the future?

Ironically, it is in our eastern states that disruption has turned to violence because it is in our eastern states where there could be some justification for trying to keep out illegal Muslim immigrants.

What the Prime Minister seems not to have noticed is that the people of Assam and Tripura are as keen to keep out Hindus as well. Not just from other countries but from other Indian states. They made this clear decades ago. Sometimes with such savagery that images of the massacre in Nellie fill my head as I write these words.

In Assam, the campaign against Bangladeshi Muslims caught the eye of the RSS long ago. Ever sympathetic to causes that demean Muslims, they supported the angry protests that were led by Assamese students. Then came the Assam Accord that Rajiv Gandhi signed as prime minister and a relative calm prevailed till last week, despite the aggressive exercise to register citizens that the government carried out at awful cost.

Many among the ‘foreigners’ in detention centres in Assam are Hindu, but now that they have been granted the right to full citizenship, the people of Assam have reason to be worried that once more they will have to fight to preserve their culture, identity, language and their jobs.

The only good thing that may come out of the violence we saw last week is that perhaps Modi will now persuade his Home Minister to postpone his plans for a nationwide register of citizens. The main purpose of this exercise appears to be to target Muslim ‘infiltrators’, when there is already an atmosphere of terror spreading through the ghettoes in which our poorest Muslim communities live. Many have never had documents to prove their Indianness. Nor do Hindus and Sikhs of my generation. In those lax, louche old days when the ruling elite was less allergic to Muslims, most Indians spent their lives without documents of identity. Those who had passports were only a small handful of us privileged types who could afford to travel to foreign lands.

To return to the main point of this week’s column, may I urge the Prime Minister to examine the priorities of his government and set a new agenda. At the top of this has to be the economy. We are already in an economic crisis that could become an emergency.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

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