Reformer vs. Religious Authoritarian
Which Modi Will We See?

In an important article in The Hindu, an Indian Christian recounts how for the first time in his life, he feels genuinely threatened in his homeland for his religious beliefs:

The new war on Christianity is counterproductive, and strategically stupid. It will not only harm the image of India globally, it puts into jeopardy the millions of Hindus living peacefully and happily in the U.S., Britain, Europe, Canada and Australia. I have already begun to read about hate graffiti sprouting up on Hindu temples in the U.S. The NRIs who funded the Modi campaign will not be pleased about the damage to India’s image just as they are beginning to be proud of the country’s emerging global position. Nor will they appreciate the backlash that might affect them sooner or later, as news spreads to churches abroad about the vandalising of Christian churches, the rape of nuns in Kolkata and Orissa, and the burning down of a Delhi church. […]

I opted, very decisively, to stay in India, in the 1970s, when most of my Hindu friends from university fled to the U.S., Canada or Australia in search of a materially better life. I stayed because I am Indian. This is my home. And I, too, as retired IPS officer Julio Ribeiro said in a recent article, feel threatened for the first time in my life, in my country.

Some have been calling Narendra Modi the “Indian Erdogan”. Like Turkey’s Erdogan, Modi represents a mix of opposition to an entrenched, secularized ‘deep state’ that involves elements of liberal reform, along with, perhaps, a religiously based identity politics with a strong authoritarian streak. It is not yet at all clear whether the same grandiosity and intolerance that has become such a danger to Turkey’s economic and political development will appear in India. But the treatment of religious minorities is an important indicator, and one of several that we will be watching.

“Whither India?” is one of the most important questions in the world today; a big part of the answer will unfold as we see how Modi the modernizing liberal and Modi the Hindutva activist manage the tensions between them.

Features Icon
show comments
© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service