Saturday, May 3, 2014

Folly of Fools !!

In 2009 Robert Kaplan elegantly predicted the dissonance of masses in a brilliant piece with an apt title - India's Few Face:

Was Modi trying to create another Singapore or Dubai in Gujarat, a place that would be, in a positive sense, distinct from the mother brand of India?, I asked him.

“No,” came the reply. “Singapore and Dubai are city-states. There can be many Singapores and Dubais here. We will have a Singapore in Kutch,” he said, waving his arm dismissively, “and GIFT [Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, a new high-tech city planned nearby] can be like Dubai. Gujarat as a whole will be like South Korea. Global commerce is in our blood,” he added, lifting his eyebrows for emphasis. There was a practiced theatricality about the way he talked. I could see how he moves crowds, or takes over boardrooms. I have met Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and both Bushes. At close range, Modi beats them all in charisma. Whenever he opened his mouth, he suddenly had real, mesmerizing presence.

His ambition seemed grandiose: South Korea is the world’s 13th-largest economy. Yet I could understand the comparison. Like Gujarat, South Korea is a vast peninsula open to major sea-lanes. It emerged as an industrialized, middle-class dynamo, not under democratic rule but under the benign authoritarianism of Park Chung Hee in the 1960s and ’70s. I mentioned this to Modi. He said he wasn’t interested in talking about politics, just development. Of course, politics represents freedom, and his momentary lack of interest in politics was not accidental. Modi’s entire governing style is antidemocratic, albeit quite effective, emphasizing reliance on a lean, stripped-down bureaucracy of which he has taken complete personal control, even as he has pushed his own political party to the sidelines, almost showing contempt for it.

Now in 2014, Kaplan's precognition is now turned into a "wave" with an unfiltered cognitive dissonance:

The results of several opinion polls, large and small, reliable and questionable, all point to one conclusion: a Narendra Modi wave. Of course, they could be wrong, and we all know how such polls missed the emergence of a new party on the Delhi scene. But several, indeed all, opinion polls pointed to a Modi wave in the three other states that went into elections in November-December 2013 — the large states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

I don't agree with all of Arundhati Roy's philosophies but she might be right this time - Is India on a Totalitarian Path?:

Well, who is Narendra Modi? I think he’s, you know, changing his—changing his idea of who he himself is, you know, because he started out as a kind of activist in this self-proclaimed fascist organization called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the RSS, which was founded in 1925, who the heroes of the RSS were Mussolini and Hitler. Even today, you know, their—the bible of the RSS was written by a man called Golwalkar, you know, who says the Muslims of India are like the Jews of Germany. And so, they have a very clear idea of India as a Hindu nation, very much like the Hindu version of Pakistan.

Modi started out as a worker for the RSS. He, of course, came into great prominence in 2002, when he was already the chief minister of Gujarat but had been losing local municipal elections. And this was at the time when the BJP had run this big campaign in—they had demolished the Babri Masjid, this old 14th century mosque, in 1992. But they were now saying, "We want to build a big Hindu temple in that place." And a group of pilgrims who were returning from the site where this temple was supposed to be built, the train in which they were traveling, the compartment was set on fire, and 58 Hindu pilgrims were burned. Nobody knows, even today, who set that compartment on fire and how it happened.

But, of course, it was immediately, you know, blamed on Muslims. And then there followed an unbelievable pogrom in Gujarat, where more than a thousand people were lynched, were burned alive. Women were raped. Their abdomens were slit open. Their fetuses were taken out and so on. And not only that... these were Muslims, by these Hindu mobs. And it became very clear that they had lists, they had support. The police were, you know, on side of the mobs. And, you know, 100,000 Muslims were driven from their homes. And this happened in 2002, this was 12 years ago. And subsequently, they have been—you know, the killers themselves have come on TV and boasted about their killing, come on—in sting operations. But the more they boasted, the more it became—I mean, for people who thought other people would be outraged, in fact it worked as election propaganda for Modi.


And even now, though he took off his sort of saffron turban and his red tikka and then put on a sharp suit and became the development chief minister, and yet, you know, when—recently, when he was interviewed by Reuters and asked whether he regretted what happened in 2002, he more or less said, "You know, I mean, even if I were driving a car and I drove over a puppy, I would feel bad," you know? But he very expressly has refused to take any responsibility or regret what happened.

And The fundamental trouble and delusional hope:

Of course, Modi has not won yet, and stranger things have happened in politics than a last minute upset, but nearly all signs point to the May 16 announcement that the next Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy is a man who was unequivocally complicit, if not directly responsible, for mass murder of a minority group. This outcome was unfathomable to many acutely politically attuned (albeit left leaning) Indians just two years ago. What precisely has changed to allow the rise of Narendra Modi, whose taint from 2002 was thought to be crippling? The answer is that both circumstance and individual cunning have allowed Modi to exploit a deeply frustrated Indian populace. As Zakaria admits, Modi, "has a reputation for autocratic rule and a dark Hindu-nationalist streak. But those concerns are waning in a country desperate for change."

It's stupid to be an eternal dystopian but it's wise to be cautious. I cannot think of anything better than Martin Niem√∂ller's classic poem First They Came about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis' rise to power.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

And "they came for me" stands for all inhabitant's of this beautiful blue planet. 

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