Having been an active member of an India-based spiritual organization for 35 years, I have a fondness for that country. (Including its food!)
I've spent a lot of time with Indian people. I've visited India twice. Heck, I even volunteered to write a book about the karmic rationale for vegetarianism, Life is Fair, which is still being sold by the group I used to belong to, Radha Soami Satsang Beas.
But I've paid much more attention to Indian spiritual philosophies than to Indian politics.
Sure, I'm aware that Narenda Modi became the Prime Minister of India, and that he's a Hindu nationalist. That's worrisome to me, since Modi seems to bear some resemblance to our President Trump -- which isn't a compliment.
Since I'm a subscriber to The New Yorker, a terrific publication, a few days ago I got an email about stories in the upcoming issue. This one caught my eye. I've shared some excerpts from the lengthy story below.
It's disturbing reading for a variety of reasons: such as, how Muslims are being treated in Kashmir and elsewhere; how Modi and his political party are intimidating journalists; Modi's involvement in the killing of Muslims.
Of course, there are two sides to every story. But The New Yorker is known for quality writing and accurate journalism, so I'm confident that this story is quite truthful.
Download Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi’s India | The New Yorker
UPDATE: Here's a comment I left after other people have commented on this story.
So I've seen several mentions of "fake news" from commenters on this post, but no one has pointed out what, specifically, is fake or untruthful in this New Yorker story. I have zero patience for people who cry "fake news" but can't back up that claim with facts.
Show your facts, if you have them. If you don't, then stop calling this well-researched and well-written story fake news. If you like that Modi is a Hindu nationalist, that he's been involved in mass killings of Muslims, that he attacks Indian journalists, that he's doing bad things in Kashmir, that he's requiring Muslims in India to prove that they are citizens -- that's fine.
I disagree with your view, but at least you're recognizing facts. What I find most distasteful is claims of "fake news" that aren't backed up with "true news." Share links to reputable sources that rebut what the New Yorker says. Or stop with the fake news claim.
...The change in Kashmir upended more than half a century of careful politics, but the Indian press reacted with nearly uniform approval. Ever since Modi was first elected Prime Minister, in 2014, he has been recasting the story of India, from that of a secular democracy accommodating a uniquely diverse population to that of a Hindu nation that dominates its minorities, especially the country’s two hundred million Muslims. Modi and his allies have squeezed, bullied, and smothered the press into endorsing what they call the “New India.”
...Muslim-Hindu harmony was central to the vision of India’s founders, Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who laid the foundation for a secular state. India is home to all the world’s major religions; Muslims constitute about fourteen per cent of the population. As the British Empire prepared to withdraw, in 1947, Muslims were so fearful of Hindu domination that they clamored for a separate state, which became Pakistan.
The division of the subcontinent, known as Partition, inspired the largest migration in history, with tens of millions of Hindus and Muslims crossing the new borders. In the accompanying violence, as many as two million people died. Afterward, both Pakistanis and Indians harbored enduring grievances over the killings and the loss of ancestral land. Kashmir, on the border, became the site of a long-running proxy war.
...After the riots, Modi’s government did almost nothing to provide for the tens of thousands of Muslims forced from their homes; aid was supplied almost entirely by volunteers. Asked about this, Modi said, “Relief camps are actually child-making factories. Those who keep on multiplying the population should be taught a lesson.”
Although some Hindu rioters were arrested, just a few dozen were ultimately convicted. Mayaben Kodnani, a B.J.P. minister, was the only official to be punished significantly; she was convicted of murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy. When Modi’s government later came to power in Delhi, she was cleared of all charges.
In the following months, there were indications of substantial government complicity. According to independent investigations, the Hindu mobs had moved decisively, following leaders who appeared to have received explicit instructions. “These instructions were blatantly disseminated by the government, and in most cases, barring a few sterling exceptions, methodically carried out by the police and Indian Administrative Service,” concluded a citizen-led inquiry that included former Supreme Court justices and a former senior police official.
...India’s female journalists are often subjected to an especially ugly form of abuse. The threats that Ayyub received were nearly identical to those sent to Gauri Lankesh, a journalist and book publisher from the southern state of Karnataka. Like Ayyub, Lankesh had reported aggressively on Hindu nationalism and on violence against women and lower-caste people.
She had also published Ayyub’s book in Kannada, the predominant language in the state. “We were like sisters,” Ayyub told me. In September, 2017, after Lankesh endured a prolonged campaign of online attacks, two men shot her dead outside her home and fled on a motorbike.
Neha Dixit, who has done groundbreaking reporting on the B.J.P., told me that she receives death threats and sexual insults constantly: “Every day, I get three hundred notifications, with dick pics, and with conversations about how they should rape me with a steel rod or a rose thornbush or something like that.” For Dixit and other targets of these campaigns, it is especially galling that the abuse is apparently endorsed by prominent Modi allies.
Ayyub showed me a tweet about the porn video from Vaibhav Aggarwal, a media personality who often speaks on behalf of the B.J.P. It read, “U want to dance in the Rain, get all wet & not want to then have pneumonia”—a suggestion that she deserved whatever abuse she got. In June, the fake Ayyub quote about child rape was retweeted by a prominent B.J.P. member named Ashoke Pandit. The quote, which originated in English, was translated into Hindi on a Facebook page for the so-called Army of Yogi Adityanath—admirers of the B.J.P.’s Chief Minister in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
...As Modi consolidated his hold on the government, he used its power to silence mainstream outlets. In 2016, his administration began moving to crush the television news network NDTV. Since it went on the air, in 1988, the station has been one of the liveliest and most credible news channels; this spring, as votes were tallied in the general election, its Web site received 16.5 billion hits in a single day.
According to two people familiar with the situation, Modi’s administration has pulled nearly all government advertising from the network—one of its primary sources of revenue—and members of his Cabinet have pressured private companies to stop buying ads. NDTV recently laid off some four hundred employees, a quarter of its staff. The journalists who remain say that they don’t know how long they can persist. “These are dark times,” one told me.
...Modi’s government has targeted enterprising editors as well. Last year, Bobby Ghosh, the editor of the Hindustan Times, one of the country’s most respected newspapers, ran a series tracking violence against Muslims. Modi met privately with the Times’ owner, and the next day Ghosh was asked to leave. In 2016, Outlook ran a disturbing investigation by Neha Dixit, revealing that the R.S.S. had offered schooling to dozens of disadvantaged children in the state of Assam, and then sent them to be indoctrinated in Hindu-nationalist camps on the other side of the country.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Outlook’s owners—one of India’s wealthiest families, whose businesses depended on government approvals—came under pressure from Modi’s administration. “They were going to ruin their empire,” the person said. Not long after, Krishna Prasad, Outlook’s longtime editor, resigned.
...A feeling of despair has settled in among many Indians who remain committed to the secular, inclusive vision of the country’s founders. “Gandhi and Nehru were great, historic figures, but I think they were an aberration,” Prasad, the former Outlook editor, told me.
“It’s very different now. The institutions have crumbled—universities, investigative agencies, the courts, the media, the administrative agencies, public services. And I think there is no rational answer for what has happened, except that we pretended to be what we were for fifty, sixty years. But we are now reverting to what we always wanted to be, which is to pummel minorities, to push them into a corner, to show them their places, to conquer Kashmir, to ruin the media, and to make corporations servants of the state. And all of this under a heavy resurgence of Hinduism. India is becoming the country it has always wanted to be.”