‘Fascist Modi’ and ‘intolerant Hindus’: The strange fiction peddled by foreign media

It is very fashionable for foreign newspapers to create such negative categories to serve their own agenda.

By Om Prakash Dwivedi

“Modi tightens his grip: An intolerant Hindu-first majoritarianism is the order of the day”, claims the Irish Times editorial published on April 11, 2024. While predicting a third sweep by the BJP in the upcoming elections, the Irish Times’s editorial otherwise reeks of prejudices and suffers from a domineering attitude as it frames India as one of the “illiberal democracies.” The editorial suggests that the victory of the Modi-led BJP would culminate in the strengthening of illiberal democracies across the world.

Apparently, the editorial is bereft of ideas and fails to see the richness of the Indian democracy, not to mention the rich plurality that the nation has always promoted and engendered. How can a strong leader become synonymous with illiberalism? Or is it the fear of the rising India that has qualified it as an illiberal nation?

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It is very fashionable for foreign newspapers to create such negative categories to serve their own agenda. In a bid to use such an accusatory tone, the media often forgets that they are not addressing any fictional story. This is the resurgence of India’s cultural revival which binds the entire nation. Neither, PM Modi’s popularity is by happenstance, nor it is rooted in the (il)liberal nepotism.

In fact, the story of Modi’s rise to power is the story of the consolidation of the nation on a scale unprecedented and its subsequent rise to global power. Let us also not forget that it took India almost 65 years post-independence to pulverize the illiberal nepotism and rampant corruption that pervaded it. It was only possible because of that tightened grip. It seems as if a certain section has become the custodian of the term ‘illiberal’, which they can apply conveniently, according to their whims and fancies, and of course their self-serving interests.

Image: Supporters at India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally (Source: X)

Talking about the upcoming election, the nation needs a ‘tightened grip’ lest it will be controlled and exploited by more than one driver, each having his/her own destination and inclination. If anything mankind’s history tells us, it is that corruption never enjoys the presence of a strict master/statesman.

The very tyranny of compulsory corruption and selective development seeks the presence of a weak head and hand and, when denied that space, the definition of liberalism and development changes. As brilliantly put forth by Bibek Debroy, “‘Developed’ has no precise definition, unless one means membership of the OECD.”  The present national fervour continues to negate such myopic viewpoints.

Image: Supporters at India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally (Source: X)

One can easily claim that post-independent India offered more opportunities for the already privileged class through which the ideological interests of the colonial masters continued to operate and dominate under the guise of secularism and liberalism. That, however, has been encumbered in the present regime, leading to many upset bellies and distorted pockets.

The same editorial claims “Modi’s embrace of Hindu nationalism in this 80 per cent Hindu nation has stoked anti-Muslim tensions and violence and seriously eroded the traditional Nehru-inspired secularism of its politics. An intolerant Hindu-first majoritarianism is the order of the day, sustained by a BJP populist welfarism that has a strong appeal among the country’s poor.” It needs to be reminded that a clarion call of development drove Modi’s journey of becoming the Indian PM in 2014. Regional heterogeneity and cultural plurality are the hallmarks of the Indian nation.  It would be naïve to see this journey as the rise of Hindu nationalism.

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Rightly, Akhilesh Mishra underlines, “Hindus of India possess incredible diversity of thought, ways of life, and political beliefs, covering the entire spectrum from extreme left to extreme right.”

Contributing Author: Om Prakash Dwivedi tweets @opdwivedi82. His interests lie in the field of postcolonial theory.

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