I was in India when Modi won re-election, and started doing the rounds selling himself as the non-Congress prime minister. There seemed to quite a bit of support for him from the middle and upper class--family, friends, and media reports all seemed to point in that direction.
I thought maybe I was reading into all that a tad too much, given my distaste for Modi; but, that is echoed by Pankaj Mishra, too, who writes:
Just terrible that from the same land of the "Mahatma" should arise a maniacal Hindu nationalist leader with a real chance to become the country's prime minister!
Modi is not the only divisive nationalist either; it is less than two months since the Hitler-admiring Bal Thackeray died. Mishra, too, reminds us about the nexus:
There are equally significant—and worrisome—signs of a creeping populist authoritarianism in the middle-class cult of Adolf Hitler, the popularity of Mein Kampf, or the recent mourning by some of India’s best-known figures in politics, sports, and entertainment of Bal Thackeray, Mumbai’s infamous demagogue (and Hitler enthusiast).Modi's political future and, therefore, the country's future, depends on the youth. If their energy that has been channeled into the protests, after the atrocious gang-rape and death of a young woman, dissipates then that might even be better than the likes of Modi morphing that into a frustration against the status quo alone. I worry that Modi and his nationalist supporters will exploit the situation to their advantage.
It is not that the current government is any better. It is awful that Indian citizens do not seem to have any decent choice, and instead have to look for the lesser of the evils!
To top it all, the more Pakistan comes across as an unruly and wild society, the more the Hindu nationalists can sell themselves as the tough guys who can defend India. The latest developments along the India-Pakistan border will play to Modi's advantage. Even worse is the terrible deaths of more than a 100:
Bomb blasts in two Pakistani cities killed at least 115 people on Thursday and wounded more than 270, offering harrowing evidence of how the country’s myriad internal conflicts could destabilize it as elections approach.In another essay, Mishra points the fingers at the old divide-and-rule policies of the European colonizers:
Divide-and-rule European imperialists, favoring one ethnic group and persecuting or neglecting another, or drawing arbitrary lines in the sand or the grass, originally transformed social and religious differences into political antagonisms within Asian societies. Their local opponents -- mostly educated natives -- hardened religious and ethnic identities by turning them into a basis of anti-imperialist solidarity.Mishra concludes:
The battle against bigotry is far from over; Europe’s long and violent past today looms over its inevitably multicultural future.This year, Pakistan heads to the polls, and India will hold general elections in 2014. Here is to wishing for peace over the stretch!
For Asian nations beset by their own present and potential ethnic cleansers, it is even more important to remember the relative youth of sectarian nationalism on the continent -- and the long centuries when it did not exist.