Mohammed Ashraf Azim
HOUSTON reverberated with voluminous chants for the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. His newly won second term emboldened him to announce arrogantly,’everything is fine in India. ‘Yet it wasn’t. A country with 1.3 billion people has slipped from 133 in 2018 to 140 this year, in the UN happiness rankings .This is below Uganda, Zambia and Togo in Africa! India stands out as the most dangerous place in the world on violence against women. ‘More than half of its population is suffering below the poverty line.
Its minorities, especially, Christmas, Sikhs and Muslims have faced persecution at the hands of the state institutions many times in the past. The wounds of the sad happenings from the mass killings of Sikhs (1984) and the Muslims in Gujarat (2002) are still fresh. Lately, 12 million Kashmiris have seen themselves in a continuous siege and curfew, deprived of the basic needs of life and denied all human rights and freedoms! Thousands have already perished in their legitimate freedom struggle notwithstanding the UN Security Council resolutions promising them their right to choose for their future.
The purpose here is not to create a litany of charges against the largest democracy of the world. It is to point out the mammoth gaps in the claims by their leaders that everything was fine in India and bring forth the stark realities that are being shoved under the carpet.
In Houston, Modi proudly recounted the numbers relating to international investment, pouring into his country. The companies, investing there would, however, takeaway their lion’s share and leave very little for the teeming millions of India. There are provinces and regions across the country that have never seen a streak of development. The funds never get funnelled to them. Huge chunks of possible development outlays go to propping up a military super structure that never stops yearning for more. The successive Indian leaders hardly visualized a peaceful South Asia or worked for one. 1.5 billion mass of people were not the centrepiece of their political agenda ever.
The resources were not used to resolve the outstanding issues with neighbours peacefully but to beefing up the army and fomenting strifes in the neighbourhood. They fell in love with the nuclear arsenal to browbeat its neighbours. India carried out it’s first nuclear test way back in1974 while Pakistan did it in1998.The missile race ensued and has never abated since. India’s search for a spot in the developed world is not through spending more on its people but throwing billions in the space frantically scrambling missions to Mars and the Moon but faltering in the end. This is when millions live and sleep on the roadside kerbs at night.
Gandhi, once said about peace: there is no path to peace; peace is the path! India has avoided to follow the legacy of her founding father. After their unilateral action in changing the special status of Kashmir, they have ventured into new era of conflicts in the region. The South Asian peace is in limbo. There was some light at the end of the tunnel in the eight-country consultative and forward-looking cooperative platform of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) which is now in tatters, its future unclear.
The annexation of Kashmir has amply exposed the hegemonic vein of the Indian mindset. The smaller states of the region like Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives would be in a frenzied frame of their minds, seeing their bigger neighbour usurping territory, next doors. What message India and it’s leadership are trying to send over to the world? Certainly, everything is not fine there. The opposite is certainly true!
—The writer is formerly Congressional Fellow, US Congress.