In India, the electorate has spoken again. They are quite disappointed with the state of affairs under the stewardship of Prime Minister Modi. They have sent a clear message to those in the corridors of power that when it comes to dealing with farmer’s distress, youth unemployment or rural development, issues that are foremost in their minds, the governing party, the BJP, has utterly failed.
Moreover, the people have also observed a steady stream of news on arrogance and authoritarianism that has crept into the power circles that blind-sided them from serving the people right for which they have been duly elected. To the voters, the grandiose promises and pledges of clean governance remained as elusive ever. A little bit more humility coupled with a focus on the mission would have been more effective, but they chose not to follow that path. In a real democracy, people have the last say, and that is what we have witnessed in the last state elections.
The Modi governance is synonymous with intolerance among many other attributes that may also include arrogance, bullying, a high degree of ego defense, and an inability to face criticism. In Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Emperor’s new clothes,” a monarch is depicted so blinded by his own arrogance and sense of importance that he lived in an alternate reality. It may be a stretch to say that the whole of India is mismanaged, however, there is little doubt that the BJP administration is out of touch with reality.
Out of that mindset came the rules that governed India for the last four and half years that have witnessed brazen attempts to curtail freedom of expression. Any valid criticism of the government could be construed as an anti-nationalist statement which would warrant the charges of sedition and arrest. Even social media posts came under increased scrutiny and fear gripped the readers even to say they ‘like’ dissenting FB posts.
After four years of BJP rule, lynching has become the national pastime, and the mobocracy rules the day. In this modern age, people are getting killed for their dietary habits, and at least a dozen people were killed, being accused of cattle theft or eating beef. Rational thinkers like Panasare and Kalburgi and journalist Lankesh paid the ultimate price with their own lives for taking non-conformist views. Minority worship places are under attack and their right to receive funding from foreign sources to run schools or charity organizations are increasingly curtailed.
What we are witnessing is an attack on democracy, freedom, and justice and unequal treatment of India’s citizens contrary to the vision of the founding fathers of modern India. It is also an attack on the constitution that has preserved the democratic and secular framework of India for the last 70 years. However, the last state election results were indeed a warning shot across the bow for the party in power and the constituents expressed their uneasiness with the direction of the country under BJP’s leadership.
Most of us take pride in the fact that we have come to America, the oldest democracy, from the largest democracy, that is India. As immigrants to this great land, we are entitled to equal rights and opportunities like any other citizen; we express our freedom to worship as we please as the constitution dictates and desire to build our worship centers within the community we live. We get offended too, anytime a religious symbol of ours is desecrated, justifiably so, and demand immediate punishment or any other relief.
It is indeed a puzzling question then why our Diaspora is not that keen to save the democracy in India and protect these same rights to all its citizens? As an old adage goes, why not ‘what is good for the gander is not good for the goose’? Indians are one of the biggest segments of immigrants or job seekers who may also be dubbed as ‘economic refugees’ in the world. We demand freedom and opportunities wherever we go and well received in most places, western nations in particular.
However, sadly in America, there are Indian organizations, many of them with a cultural facade, not only sympathetic to the anti-democratic and anti-pluralistic forces in India but also actively lobbying and supporting them. They advocate religious freedom for minorities in the U.S. but do not want to see the minorities in India to have the same rights. They take advantage of the minority quota system here in government and business, but advocate abolition of quota for the disadvantaged and oppressed in their motherland.
There are organizations in Washington D.C. that are busy trying to defend policies of the BJP government and silence its critics in violations of the stated policies and practices of the U.S. government. They are increasingly using the money and human resources to disseminate wrong information and dissuade the lawmakers from upholding the law. Some of these organizations are collecting millions of dollars under the guise of charity and sending that money to sectarian organizations in India that promote division and intolerance.
In nutshell, many of these organizations are carrying on with a stealth agenda that is to promote a majoritarian rule in India while favoring diversity agenda here in the U.S. They appear to be unconcerned that some of the overt political activity in the name of these cultural organizations might be in direct violation of the terms and conditions of the not-for-profit status they are registered under in various States. Another aspect of the dynamics in the public arena is the notion that like some other communities, we could buy our way through the political process using money power to achieve any narrow political objectives from some of the largely unsuspecting and often naïve political leaders in this country.
Some of the elected leaders of Indian origin in the Senate and Congress have become outspoken defenders of minority rights here in America, however, they remain silent when democracy is assaulted and minority rights are trampled in India. It is truly doubtful they ever brought up these issues to the attention of the Indian officials including the Prime Minister when they had many opportunities! It is a sad state of affairs with some of those leaders who are doing nothing more than grandstanding for their selfish motives!
It is indeed time for the Diaspora to wake up and defend democracy in India. These politicians also must practice what they preach and become cognizant of the fact that their silence in the face of great injustice should not provide aid and comfort to the enemies of freedom. Ronald Regan once said ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We did not pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same’.
(Writer is a former Chief Technology Officer of the United Nations and Vice-Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA)
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