Is the emergent “New India” witnessing a massive erosion of reason?

Recent riots in Delhi are only one part of a larger war of narratives being played out in India and within Indian diaspora communities, writes Sandeep Singh. 

The recent communal riots that flared up in the north eastern part of the Indian capital, killing 42 people and leaving 200 people seriously injured, showed the worst of the “war of narratives” currently running in India, between Hindu nationalists and minority communities, through both traditional media and social-media platforms.

Both are reflections of the much bigger malaise that the emergent “new India” is experiencing: a massive erosion of reason, aversion to dissent and undermining of trust within state intuitions, but that is slowly creeping into other parts of society.

India’s state institutions display a stunning contempt towards India’s existing intelligentsia (educated class), who are not only being publicly ridiculed on the streets and in social media, but who are also being falsely implicated with charges of sedition.

Indeed, this is a scary situation for a country like India, where the state has appeared to play a role as an “agent of modernity,” promoting reason and logical thinking in the nation’s public life. Now, in the “new India”, under the right-wing political leadership of Nanendra Modi and his BJP party, that pretence has been thoroughly shrugged off.

The mindset of India’s new political leaders can be seen in the tasteless sloganeering of the recent Delhi elections - “desh ke gaddaron ko… goli maaro saalon ko” (Shoot the traitors) and ghar me ghus kar maarenge (Purge them in their home). These slogans, coming from the BJP, have also extended to  social media campaigns, encouraging members of the public to boycott the movies of popular Bollywood stars based on their political or communal leanings, particularly around the recently enacted Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Indian Muslims say the CAA is discriminatory, as it fast tracks citizenship for undocumented non-Muslim migrants from neighbouring nations while putting forward a more difficult and longer process for Muslims. They say it’s part of Hindutva, a hard-line Hindu ideology fostered by the BJP and the party’s Hindu nationalist agenda that has its roots in Nazi Germany.  

This is “new India”, where arguably a contempt for educated reason is threatening to destroy everything that India has achieved in the last seven decades after independence, but most importantly the dramatic economic growth of the preceding two decades which has made it the toast of the international community.

This collective erosion of reason can only be fixed from inside India, by the people of India, if it can ever be fixed, given the absence of any credible political opposition.  

Unfortunately, a segment of the Indian diaspora in New Zealand has been unable to remain immune from the campaign against “the other” [in India’s case, Muslims] that has overtaken most of the Indian state-institutions and power structures in recent times with an alarming speed. 

Instead of condemning the violence unequivocally and holding the authorities and the government of the day to account, many in the diaspora communities are indulging in an unabashed blame-game on “the other”.

Leaders within the diaspora communities are using the opportunity to “educate” others about the ongoing “war of narratives” raging so intensely within today’s “new India” to suggest that any view one may harbour against the current Hindu BJP government in New Delhi is a product of a biased media rather than a neural educated assessment.

The corollary of this approach is that they clearly condone the mindset prevailing in India’s state institutions: that to criticise means to be “anti-national”, and dishonourably jeopardize India’s global image.  

But India’s global image is not being damaged by the attitudes of its diaspora. Rather, it is the  failure of India’s leaders at home in first stoking and then not preventing the escalation of riots in Delhi – supposedly the most social advanced, cosmopolitan and secure city in the country. It is these same leaders who then transferred a respected High Court Judge who had the courage to order police to arrest the rioters and provide aid to the injured.

Leaders within India’s diaspora community should sit down calmly and think with a cool head, if this is the situation in the capital of India, under the watchful eyes of a government so boastful of expanding beyond its territorial borders, then it is worrisome for India’s global prestige.

42 people were killed and 200 critically injured in the country’s capital and not once did the country’s Prime Minister or Home Minister or anyone from the government visit the site of the violence that is barely 25 kilometres away.

The diaspora leaders who demand attention from political leaders here in New Zealand on issues that matter to the broader Indian community should also show some leadership in conveying a similar level of expectation to “new India’s” political elites.   

If that is too much to ask, they should refrain from promoting the agenda of “new India’s” ruling elites, who are radically redefining the social fabric and ideology that has defined India since partition in 1947.

All views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

- Asia Media Centre