Saturday, October 11, 2014

An open letter to all you ABCD Modi-maniacs out there --by Anu Anand Hall

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An open letter to all you ABCD Modi-maniacs out there
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(please click on the link below & read the comments posted & the
response from the writer of the blog. All very interesting)


An open letter to all you ABCD Modi-maniacs out there

http://sacredcows.typepad.com/weblog/2014/10/an-open-letter-to-all-you-abcd-modi-maniacs-out-there.html
- by Anu Anand Hall

My parents voted for Barack Obama, presumably because like so many
immigrants in America, they see the Democrats as more inclusive than
the Christian-right-dominated, overwhelmingly white Republican Party.

Yet, as nostalgic and devout Hindus who left for the US forty years
ago, my parents are also huge supporters of India’s new prime minister
Narendra Modi, a Hindu-nationalist whose epic efficiency was suddenly
and notably absent when it came to mobs butchering more than a
thousand Muslims in his home state of Gujarat in 2002.

He was banned from visiting the US for a decade due to the horrific
religious violence unleashed under his watch.

I was a cub BBC reporter at the time and door-stepped Mr. Modi in
Ahmedabad as he gathered with other senior BJP leaders to discuss
matters.

I’d just interviewed a Muslim man who’d been set on fire by a mob. He
lay in a simple concrete hut covered in second degree burns in soaring
temperatures, clearly suffering, but too afraid to get to a hospital.

Pregnant women had been disembowelled that fortnight. A senior Muslim
Congress leader had been torn to pieces in public, his multiple calls
to the police and authorities mysteriously ignored.

I showed Mr. Modi the photo of the burnt man on my boxy digital camera
– his skin had become a tight pink mask devoid of hair – and asked the
then chief minister what he would say to him.

Mr. Modi showed no emotion or concern. He simply stated that medical
care was being provided, a fact not evident in the make-shift shelters
for those who’d been violently hounded from their homes.

The site of the same Mr. Modi this week in Madison Square Garden was
quite a contrast from those ugly post-riot days. He was quite the
charmer, championing everyone and everything from toilets, to trade to
Hugh Jackman (?!?)

For me, the sight of adulating Indian-American audiences was far more
surprising and disappointing than seeing Mr. Modi basking in his
newfound global limelight.
It’s not that I don’t want him to succeed in remaking India. Anyone

who can transform this country of 1.2 billion people into a cleaner,
more educated, less corrupt and more equitable place obviously
deserves support.

But the unquestioning – and in some cases – naked religious and ethnic
loyalty shown by Indians in the US is, at best, rank hypocrisy.

How can anyone support the politics of inclusion in the US, while
excusing and even embracing a party and a leader whose power has been
built on exclusion and violence in India? How many Modi-maniacs also
supported the BJP's efforts to send bricks with the name of the
Hindu-god Ram on them to Ayodhya to build a temple on the ruins of a
demolished mosque?

And before you excuse the BJP by pointing to the sins of the
opposition Congress party, itself adept at corruption, violence and
division, let me just say that I’d be writing a not dissimilar post if
the same display of pseudo-patriotism had been trotted out for a
Congress leader.

My point is that Indian Americans ought to look beyond the fig-leaf of
their own economic and academic achievements, beyond language,
religious and caste loyalties to ask how much Mr. Modi mirrors their
own prejudices and moral short-comings?

Frankly, I think the adoration of Mr. Modi by NRIs comes from the fact
that he so perfectly mirrors their duplicity. In public, he preaches
accountability and inclusiveness while privately condoning the
re-writing of textbooks to reflect a Hindu hegemony on history. He
champions social media as a sign of his own engagement, but is
mysteriously silent on current instances of communal violence and the
imprisonment of those who criticize him.

He is, in short, so familiar to NRIs, who have thrived in America
precisely because of equal rights and a certain blindness to ethnicity
and religion... a situation which ironically gives them the right to
practice an absentee fascism when it comes to their home country.

My fellow Indian Americans, if you really do want Mr. Modi (in spite
of his dubious past) to succeed in transforming India to something
more than a global snake charmer, the land of color and stink, then
you’ll have to look into the darkest recesses of your own caste
loyalties and religious divisions.

Stop sending your kids to garba and bhangra nights and instead learn
to discuss with them Ambedkar, Arya Samaj and the guy who killed
Mahatma Gandhi. Take a class in Urdu poetry... and read about
Partition. Maybe take in a UNDP report or two on toilets and caste.

That’s India too.

Like every other tribe or nation on earth which aspires to greatness,
you’ll have to hold not only your self-appointed economic and cultural
messiah, Mr. Modi, to account. You’ll have to hold your own beliefs to
account and decide if you really do stand for transformation.

I know it was really cool to see a Desi in Madison Square Garden, the
UN and the White House, but more than waving the tricolor, cheering
floodlit Hollywood stars, or even applauding joint op-eds in the
Washington Post, the thing that might really begin to transform India
is a willingness to embrace reality.

anu anand hall

Anu Anand Hall is a reporter based in New Delhi, India. She was born
in Kashmir, but grew up in a motel in Tennessee. Her career in
journalism started at United Press International in Delhi, where she
earned one rupee per word. She broke both American and Indian taboos
when she married an Englishman, who arrived at their wedding on an
elephant.

After discovering (to her delight and dismay) that the British do not
speak American English, Anu joined the BBC World Service, hoping to
polish up her language skills. She particularly enjoyed having her
pronunciation of words such as 'aluminum', 'laboratory' and 'tomato'
corrected by her British colleagues. She's now escaped back to India
with her husband, Tarquin Hall, who apart from needing a tan, is the
successful author of the Vish Puri mysteries; and her toddler son,
Maurya, for whom she has already arranged a marriage.

When not blogging, reporting, travelling or mommy-ing, Anu escapes to
Kashmir - where she was born; and America - where she grew up, as
often as possible.
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