INDIA’S ELECTION: Gujarat Model of Development Vs. Nation’s Conscience

    The author is saddened at the turn of events in the 2014 elections. He fears the
    heterogeneity of the nation will receive a hard kick if Narendra Modi led BJP came to power.

    “It is India’s heterogeneity that has earned the admiration of the world and has received the label “mother of all civilizations”. The existence of multiple religions, cultures, languages, social groups have enabled the country to enjoy the boons of “unity in diversity” making it intriguing to the outside world as well as conducive to an egalitarian society”, says the author.

    Priyamvada Gopal, in the faculty of English at the University of Cambridge, writing in Independent stated that if Modi won the election, India would have crossed a moral Rubicon, a reference to the river Rubicon in north-eastern Italy, which means to pass a point of no return. It refers to Julius Caesar’s crossing of the river in 49 BC, which was considered an act of war, because crossing it with an army was forbidden by the Roman Senate.

    The writer appears to give a stern warning that India is at the crossroads where the electorate may soon decide whether the country that has been a functioning democracy with pluralist and inclusive agenda will remain the same or give way to installing Narendra Modi, as prime minister, thereby “crossing a blood-soaked moral Rubicon”. Many also fear that this election could fundamentally transform India to the point of no return beyond an open society, where all citizens, regardless of whether they belong to a majority or minority community, are treated equally before the law.

    While the BJP might have earned the right to pursue their agendas through the traditional process of democratic governance, do they need to radically alter the face of the nation? However, if they are to pursue the radical nature of their goals, there will be consequences, the first of which would be to divide the nation based on religion, caste and region. It is India’s heterogeneity that has earned the admiration of the world and has received the label “mother of all civilizations”. The existence of multiple religions, cultures, languages, social groups have enabled the country to enjoy the boons of “unity in diversity” making it intriguing to the outside world as well as conducive to an egalitarian society.

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    Moreover, India is known as the land of spirituality and philosophy. It was the birthplace of three world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Our great sages attained extraordinary scholarship; mastered power of meditation; and lived simple and sacrificial lives advocating punishment for the wicked and protecting the poor and weak. Fast forward to 2014 and listen to an average Indian on the street or an NRI who is on an overseas assignment. They tend to make very similarsound bytes as this Indian woman from Detroit: “Even if Narendra Modi was involved in Gujarat riots, I don’t care. His economic work wins out.

    I will vote for him.”One wonders as to what happened to our age old civilization that emphasized good over evil? As I was thinking of writing this article two images came to mind. One is that of Dr. Manmohan Singh, the current Prime Minister and the chief architect of India’s new economy. He has taken a centrally planned, inward looking, public-centered economy and reversed its direction. What he has accomplished is just phenomenal. Actually this dramatic change paints a picture of a man who is some sort of a revolutionary. If India entered the 21st century, the current Prime Minister has a lot to do with it. Take a look and see how fellow Indians perceive himnow and many of whom appear to be repeating every word ofthe western critics calling him an ‘under achiever’ or ‘a complacent leader’.

    The opposition party leaders even label him as the ‘weakest Prime Minister ever’! It is quite astounding thatmany Indians look at this brilliantman of integrity and honorwith almost disdain. On the contrary, Mr. Narendra Modi, has presided over a pogrom in Gujarat; ran an autocratic administration that instilled fear in people for the past 13 years; silenced the opposition while putting potentialrivals in their place; and ran a propaganda campaign on Gujarat model of development based on falsehoods.

    Yet, Indians appear to be in awe of this man who is being heralded as a Messiah of the nation! Are we missing something here? What happened to our value system that once promoted positive attributes in behavior and glorifiedcompassion and empathyfor fellow human beings? It is indeed a dramatic shift that is taking place in India though many are stillvery judgmental on the western materialism and its narcissist lifestyle. Modi’s campaign has been tremendously successful in creating a positive narrative and cultivatingthe mindset of the majority community. The campaign incites that the majority isincreasingly at a disadvantage in India, as minorities are raking in all the benefits and even occupying the higher echelons of power. This notion is sinking in and the Congress party, so far, has been unable to counter it.

    As someone who has visited Gujarat right after the riots, my perspectives are shaped by what I have witnessed in many refugee camps and affected villages. I was part of a NRI Sadhbhavana Mission team headed by Mr. Shrikumar Poddar to promote peace and harmony in a state torn by religious and sectarian violence in 2002. We were accompanied by Nishrin Jafri Hussain, daughter of former Congress Member of Parliament Ehsan Jaffri who was killed during the riots. Gulbarg Society, a complex of 18 bungalows and two apartment blocks once occupied by upper-middle-class Muslims in the largely Hindu neighborhood of Chamanpura, is now a cluster of door-less burned shells where at least 35 Muslims were hacked and burned to death, including Nishrin’s father Ehsan Jafri.

    In a recent New York Times report, Roopa Mody, who was a witness to this attack recalled the final minutes of the onslaught on this complex by the mob. “When the mob grew restive, attempting to knock down a wall of the compound, Mr. Jafri made a final call to Mr. Modi, the chief minister. “All he got in return were abuses,” Roopa said in an interview, reiterating what she said in deposition before the Supreme Court. “We prepared ourselves to die.Everyone says that Modi is a good leader who built roads and bridges, these roads are built on dead bodies.”

    Thane Richard, founder of the Dabba, an independent digital radio station poses this poignant question “Has India become so desperate for rapid economic growth, so blinded by the promise of prosperity, that she has forgotten basic humanity? It seems that, in the race towards higher GDP, the majority of India is willing to inject itself with steroids of bigotry or ruthlessness. Ethics be damned.”

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