Contrasting Rhetoric – Modi’s US Congress Address vs. India’s Democratic Reality

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During his address at the Congress, Prime Minister Modi sought to portray himself as the representative of the vast population of India, which numbers 1.4 billion people. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that his political approach is centered around divisive tactics which fails to resonate with many minority groups in India. Muslims, Sikhs, and other communities, who contribute significantly to India’s population, do not identify themselves with the politics of division that Modi operates on. This creates a stark contrast between his claims of representing the entire nation and the reality on the ground.

Modi extolled the beauty of democracy, emphasizing its inherent connection with the people. Paradoxically, under his leadership, the Indian government has sown deep divisions between the ruling powers and the citizens. This has resulted in a growing sense of disillusionment and disconnection, undermining the democratic fabric of the nation. Instead of fostering unity and harmony, the government’s policies and actions have fueled social, religious, and political divisions, leading to an atmosphere of tension and discord.

While paying tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, Modi attempts to align himself with the principles of non-violence, truth, and democratic secularism espoused by Gandhi. However, it is worth noting that Modi’s ideological leanings towards Hindutva, a philosophy that emphasizes Hindu nationalism, are at odds with the inclusive and pluralistic vision that Gandhi stood for. The irony lies in the fact that Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Gandhi, was a proponent of the same Hindutva ideology that Modi adheres to. This dichotomy between Modi’s tribute and his ideological stance highlights a contradiction that cannot be overlooked.

Professing to work for liberty, equality, and justice, Modi’s words do not align with the ground reality in India. The country has witnessed a worrying erosion of democratic practices, with dissenting voices being suppressed and marginalized. Freedom of speech, a fundamental pillar of democracy, is under threat, as individuals who express views contrary to the government’s narrative often face intimidation, harassment, or legal repercussions. Such curtailments of civil liberties are indicative of a democratic backslide, casting doubts on the government’s commitment to the values it claims to uphold.

Modi proudly proclaimed India as the “largest democracy” and the “mother of democracy,” yet the existing state of affairs contradicts these lofty assertions. Instances of violence against dissenters, human rights abuses, and systemic discrimination are prevalent, calling into question the government’s adherence to democratic principles. The widespread suppression of alternative voices, the targeting of religious and ethnic minorities, and the erosion of institutional checks and balances raise concerns about the true nature of Indian democracy.

Moreover, Modi’s claim that India is the future of democracy rings hollow when considering the ongoing oppression of minorities under the banner of Hindutva ideology. The systematic targeting of religious communities, particularly Muslims and Sikhs, under the guise of cultural nationalism, casts a shadow of doubt on India’s democratic trajectory. The marginalization and discrimination faced by these communities starkly contradict the inclusive vision that a true democracy should embrace.

While Modi expressed pride in India’s celebration of 75 years of freedom, democracy, and diversity, the current state of affairs in the country presents a stark contrast. The notion of diversity, which encompasses different cultures, religions, and traditions, is being undermined by the government’s pursuit of an ethno-religious Hindu state. This push for homogeneity risks erasing the rich tapestry of India’s diverse population and diluting the pluralistic essence that has been a defining characteristic of the nation.

Modi’s outlandish assertion that India is home to all faiths in the world stands in stark contrast to the reality on the ground. The pervasive religious persecution faced by Muslims, Sikhs, and other minority faiths paints a grim picture of the challenges religious communities encounter in India. Instances of violence, discriminatory policies, and social exclusion highlight the urgent need for genuine efforts to safeguard religious freedom and promote harmony among diverse religious groups.

Modi concluded his speech at the US Congress, urging collective action to stop bloodshed and human suffering, it is imperative for him to introspect and address the pressing issues within his own country. The oppression and violence against minorities, the erosion of democratic values, and the widening divisions necessitate sincere efforts to rebuild trust, foster inclusivity, and uphold the principles of democracy. Only by addressing these internal challenges can India effectively contribute to the global cause of preventing bloodshed and promoting peace and justice.

Asma Khan
Asma Khan
Author is an Islamabad-based expert in Strategic Affairs. Student of Defense and Strategic Studies, and a M.Phil. Scholar from SPIR Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan Reached at asmakhandurrani595[at]gmail.com She tweets @AsmaKhan_47

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