Unknown to many in the United States, barely covered in the U.S. news media, elections in India are treated as if they have no significance. Wrong: The results affect not only India, but also the United States.
India is the largest democracy in the world. India may have a high illiteracy rate and many other drawbacks, but better than 60 percent of its people exercise their constitutional duty to vote, while the same rate in this country is usually under 50 percent.
It’s possible that that the next prime minister of India could someone who is persona non grata in the United States, a person who has been refused an American for the past 10 years. The person who may rule the largest secular country in the world is the person whose secular credentials are tainted.
Narendra Modi, a member of Bhartiya Janta Party may lead a majority in the election due to failures by the incumbent Congress ruling party and their allies. Rampant corruption, nepotism and a growing gap between the rich elite class and middle class have combined to give rise to extremism in India.
Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat state when religious riots in 2002 claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. He and his administration were not only silent spectators, but also facilitators of that genocide. We Americans stood quiet and did little but express misgivings over the riots.
Many in the Western world did not take any action because they were given the impression that Gujarat is a model for capitalism and was prospering under Modi’s leadership. During the election campaign, the truth is coming — that there was no prosperity, but rather that the books were cooked to make Modi look and his administration look good. During his tenure, minorities, including many Christian missionaries, were targeted. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, is associated with the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), as well as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Both these parties were instrumental in demolishing the historical Babri Mosque in 1992 which triggered the worst Hindu Muslim riots in India.
During the current election, Modi promises to be secular. He wants to show the world that he will not rule with bias toward minorities but his party’s actions speak otherwise. In a country that has the second largest Muslim population in the world, his party did not find a single Christian or Muslim candidate to contest the election.
We as Americans should not influence elections in any country, but we should be ready to let the people of India know that electing anyone with the blood of many innocents on his hands can affect our trade partnership and our mutual relationship,
We should send a stern message that hate-mongers have no place in the rulership of a peaceful, secular and democratic country.
Shabbir Motorwala was born in India and currently serves on the Miami-Dade County Asian American Advisory Board.