U.S. must not give support for Modi's divisive agenda
For the political pundits who are scratching their heads trying to figure out the reasons for President Donald Trump's trip to India, the answer is simple. Prime Minister Modi had promised the largest crowd ever to greet him and he delivered on the promise. It was a straight play at Trump's ego. But there are other reasons.
Trump likes Modi. As the saying goes they are twins from different mothers. They are populists who promote supremacy of the majority group; whites in the U.S. and Hindus in India. It is possible that Trump is looking for a share of the Hindu American vote.
Modi is as popular among right-wing Hindu Americans as he is unpopular among their secular-minded counterparts and minorities. Trump may get the Modi fan base vote.
Both are anti-immigrant. Trump has his wall and Modi has his detention centers. Modi is demanding from long standing residents of the eastern state of Assam, which borders on Bangladesh, proof they are citizens of India. Thousands who could not provide proof are incarcerated in huge detention centers. Half of India's poor do not know their date of birth and an even larger proportion do not have a birth certificate. Both have a Muslim ban. A more diabolical version of Muslim ban in India, the Citizenship Amendment Act, allows immigrants of all religious group path to citizenship except Muslims. Although it flouts India's secular constitution it is now law. Unlike U.S., India's economy is tanking. Modi's right-wing Hindu Supremacist party, the BJP, came to power promising prosperity. They have dropped economy from their agenda and are busy implementing their goal to make India a nation for Hindus only. George Soros summed up the current status of affairs in India well when he said in Davos, "The biggest and most frightening setback occurred in India, where a democratically elected Narendra Modi is creating a Hindu nationalist state. (Modi is) threatening to deprive millions of Muslims of their citizenship."
He added Modi's India is at the cusp of committing genocide against its Muslim minority. Indian Muslims are being portrayed as filthy with multiple wives who reproduce like rabbits. Muslim men are said to seduce Hindu girls to convert to Islam. "Save your daughters and daughters-in-law from this alleged 'love Jihad' " is the slogan that gets Modi votes. Just as the Tutsis were called cockroaches, Muslims, in the words of India's Home Minister Amit Shah, are termites.
Having dehumanized the Indian Muslim, Modi is trying to take away their citizenship. Here they are following what the Germans did to Jews and the Burmese to the Rohingyas. The tool Modi is using is a law called the "National Register of Citizens," which was ready to be implemented all across India but has met with pushback.
One huge difference between India and the United States is the paramilitary wing of Modi's party and its ideological mentor called the RSS. This group, akin to KKK in its ideology, has membership in the millions. It has uniforms and martial arts training. It spearheaded violence in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.
India is a nation where the rope of secularism binds all its citizens; the BJP/RSS hate secularism, disparage the constitution and its main author, Dr. Ambedkar who was an erudite Dalit (untouchable) scholar. BJP abhors Gandhi's attempts at Hindu-Muslim unity. Some in BJP consider Gandhi's assassin a patriot. They celebrate Gandhi's killing by shooting bullets in to a cutout of Gandhi rigged to release fake blood.
Parts of the "India for Hindu Only" aspiration are already being implemented. The Muslim Personal Law is being chipped away, (all religious groups in India have their own personal laws), and the building of a grand temple at the site of the destroyed historic Babri mosque is under way. The country's minorities are anxious and fearful. Modi made sure Trump did not see any of this.
The Modi administration released fresh water in the Yamuna river, on whose banks the Taj Mahal stands, hoping that Trump and company would not smell the stink. I am not sure how successful this was, but Modi was also trying to mask the stench of his party's rampant bigotry and racism. The calculation Modi made is that massaging Trump's ego and the lure of large contracts U.S. defense industries may execute with India's military will allow him to implement the Hindu Supremacist agenda unhindered. The U.S. needs to use its leverage to protect "secular India" from the "Hindu Supremacist" India; I am not holding my breath.
• Javeed Akhter is a physician and freelance writer from Oak Brook.