By Fra Hughes – Aug 18, 2020
An interview with Feroze Mithiborwala from Mumbai, India.
Hi, Feroze can you explain in your opinion how Modi become Prime Minister of India?
Essentially Modi became the chief minister of Gujarat in 2001-2002
He was unknown at that time but, once he became the minister, he used everything in his power to remain in office.
There was a train fire in Gujarat in 2002, and, as a result, there was widespread unrest resulting in several days of disorder, and an anti-Muslim purge that lasted for 3-4 months.
Modi did nothing to discourage these violent outbursts and he became the ‘poster boy’ for the Hindu far-right.
This may have been the start of his national ambitions.
He fostered a total communal divide, and that is how he maintained power. He divided the people along Hindu-Muslim line. He tried to marginalise and isolate the Muslim community in Gujurat, and this became a pattern across the country.
Then he came to power in 2014. It was a foregone conclusion that he would be elected. The centre-left, centre-right parties had been accused of failure and corruption and Modi’s election slogan roughly translated as, ‘I will take everyone together, with betterment for all’.
At the time, this appeared to be a generally inclusive manifesto, yet it could be argued that this was pure electioneering, disguising his right-wing views with a liberal sentiment.
Less than two years into his premiership, he appeared to lose favour with his voters, as he lost some power in the state elections of 2016.
The Hindu heartland of the ‘Cow Belt’ voted against Modi in 2016, and he lost up to 70% of the country.
In 2014 he had approximately 240 seats in the Parliament but, by 2019 this was expected to fall by over 100, while he needed around 250 seats to be re-elected Prime Minister.
Modi had surrounded himself with ‘Yes’ people, who rubber-stamped his ideas, they did not have the skills to run the country. The economic downturn made his task of re-election even more difficult.
The Judiciary, the media and state organs were totally subservient and compliant to Modi.
It seems remarkable but every time Modi is in trouble there appears to be a terrorist attack.
On February 14, 2019, a suicide bomber attacked a bus full of paramilitary troopers in Kashmir.
It has been commented upon, even by senior political figures that Modi may have engineered the attack, which turned the election away from the economic crisis, and into a hyper nationalistic election.
Anyone who suggested Modi might be responsible was branded as anti-nationalist and a supporter of terrorism.
Kashmir and terrorism became the focus of the election, not the plight of the Indian people.
Modi, using Netanyahu- Israeli type tactics, then bombed a village in Pakistan, using Israeli supplied missiles, claiming to target the headquarters of those responsible for the bombing in Kashmir with a precision strike!
Kashmir is occupied by India which is in dispute with Pakistan and China as to who has jurisdiction over the state.
After this Israeli like, surgical strike, against Pakistan, it was obvious that Modi using the attack for his own political gain would win the election.
The man who was expected to lose now had 282 seats. He ran away with the election using nationalism as his trump card.
India uses electronic voting machines in its elections, which some claim is too easily manipulated, hacked or reprogrammed. They demand a return to the ballot box. It is too easy to subvert democracy using these machines.
Modi has more financial backing than all the other parties put together. He has the corporations behind him.
He is privatising all the public sector companies set up after independence.
India has a huge railway network that is being privatised.
The corporations behind Modi are buying all the public sector companies and Modi has passed new anti labour laws to help facilitate this.
When India achieved independence, Indian nationalism was inclusive of all the people.
It was an anti-imperialist nationalism . Now with Modi, we have a pseudo-religious nationalism.
It is not an inclusive nationalism, as all the minorities feel very insecure, the Seeks, the Muslims and the Christians.
There has been increasing violence , mob lynchings, hate speech perpetrated by our political leaders, which is unheard of in other parts of the world. This can be viewed on the television and on social media. It was unthinkable before, in a liberal democracy like, India.
Can you tell us Feroze what is happening in Kashmir?
Actually what we are witnessing is the Israelification, of Kashmir, and changing of the demographics.
Under Article 370 Kashmir acceded to India in 1947. Certain provisions and protections for the Kashmir people were enshrined in the Article.
In order to subvert the rights of the people of Kashmir, Narendra Modi suspended the Kashmir assembly. He moved the vote to abandon Article 370 and remove it from the Indian Constitution.
With a large majority in both houses of Parliament, it was successfully removed, and from that time Kashmir has been under lockdown for over a year.
All the major political leaders are in jail, even some of whom profess pro Indian sentiment.
There is barely any connectivity between Kashmir and the rest of India on the internet or by mobile phone.
What is happening is truly sad and I cannot believe it is happening in my country.
No one knows what is going on in Kasmir.No politician can visit.No human rights activists.No media are allowed to enter.
It is a very draconian crackdown. What we could be witnessing is a ‘Westbank’ like occupation with Indian settlements changing the demography of Kashmir.
Under Modi, India’s foreign policy is a grave cause for concern. India is now part of an anti-Chinese quadrangle of India, Australia, America and Japan who in concert surround China.
India has also interfered in the internal political affairs of neighbouring Nepal, instituting sanctions against the state.
Nepal is landlocked and all goods are delivered by road. When India stopped fuel and diesel supplies to the country, Nepal turned towards China.
Modi has also rejected overtures from Pakistan as he foments their historic differences in order to retain the Hindu vote.
Even a much-vaunted trip to Bangladesh had to be cancelled because of public anger there.
India has very few friends in Asia.
Many countries are turning to China.
With Iran, India had port access to the Mediterranean, an agreement to have railway access to markets and resources across Iran and into central Asian countries, and direct road access to Afghanistan.
Through American pressure, India has stopped buying oil and gas from Iran and pursued a very anti-Muslim, Islamohobic agenda so, Iran has said ok, bye-bye, and turned to China.
The only friends India has in the middle east are also the friends of Israel like Saudi Arabia. If you are a friend of Israel then you are also a friend of India.
As India moved closer to America it became more distant with Russia, so Russia and Pakistan now have a good alliance.
Relationships between Russia and India remain good but now China and Russia are building’ Eurasia’ through the ‘One belt one road project’.
Modi was against this vision.
In India now things have become very difficult for civil society.
In some states with very right-wing chief ministers, journalists and activists are being jailed for tweets and articles they publish or for attending protests. There have been many killings.
The same things happen in Delhi as the police are under the direction of Modi and the central government.
At one point last year the police were asked to stay in barracks for 3 days while anti-Muslim pogroms took place. The mob roamed the streets attacking Muslim property, homes and lives.
Modi has failed the people of India in so many ways including the COVID 19 pandemic.
He locked down India overnight.
This resulted in hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the big cities like Delhi and Calcutta being made homeless. They had no money for food or rent. Many were prevented from travelling home and it was civil society, not the government that stepped in with food banks and soup kitchens.
Eventually, thousands had to travel home. It was reminiscent of Independence when people left India for Pakistan and people from Pakistan left for India. Hundreds of thousands of people were on the move and on the roads.
They helped spread the virus all over India. Some families travelled up to 2.5 thousand kilometres in their bare feet, just to go home.
Even this pandemic was used to demonise Muslims, by claiming Muslim religious gatherings were super-spreaders of the virus?
In the six years of Modi’s premiership, he has not addressed one single press conference.
He is a stage-managed political leader.
He leads the first Indian Parliament, with a single-party majority not involving the Indian National Congress party with his Bharatiya Janata Party, which has 282 seats.
We are up against a demagogue.
All the institutions of the state have been subverted by this government.
All the wealth of the country has been sold out.
Our banks have been looted.
We are in a real, real difficult situation.
Featured image: Kashmir in lockdown