Vinod Mubayi

The image of Narendra Modi on the ramparts of the Lal Qila, the most visible symbol of the power of the Mughal rulers of India whose reign along with that of other Muslim kings is dubbed by the Sangh Parivar as a “thousand years of slavery”, is a bizarre hypocrisy in itself. Does Modi willfully forget on August 15 each year what he and his herd keep bleating about the rest of the year so that he can strut on the ramparts of emperor Shahjehan’s iconic structure?

Don’t the more fervent Hindutva types who applaud the destruction of the Babri masjid and wish to demolish many other structures of the hated “slave era” such as the Gyan Vapi masjid and other mosques not see the rank hypocrisy in their leader prancing around on a monument that the Moghuls bequeathed to India?

On August 15, 2021 the hypocrisy was considerably amplified by Modi’s words. He asked us to remember August 14, 1947, incidentally Pakistan’s Independence Day, as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day, a day to recall the horrors that occurred during the Partition of India.

Really, Mr Modi?

Your revered ancestors, chief among them Savarkar, first proclaimed the two-nation theory before Mohamad Ali Jinnah ran with it a decade later, thus setting the stage for the blood-soaked partition of the country. Who are you to talk about horrors anyway? Have you so easily and so soon forgotten the horrors of 2002 Gujarat when you as chief minister of the state presided over the slaughter and worse of several thousand Muslims, including many women and children? Are you unable to recall how your acolyte Babu Bajrangi disemboweled a pregnant Muslim woman and threw her fetus on a fire, a horror that surpasses any atrocity committed in 1947? A horror for which this monster, sentenced to life imprisonment, served just some measly few years in jail in your great state of Gujarat before being released on bail?

As the columnist Harish Khare reminded us in The Wire of Aug 19:

This Partition Horrors Remembrance Day business is driven entirely by a domestic political calculus…an extreme cynical ploy of a desperately cynical leader. The India of the 21st century is being asked to re-open the healed wounds of the 20th century… It is difficult to comprehend what social good or historic truth can be achieved by this calculated gambit. The only political objective behind this regressive initiative can be shabby electoral calculations, cynically aimed at winning the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls next year. The BJP’s compulsive electoral managers, otherwise nicknamed as “Chanakyas”, are acutely aware that their failure to dislodge Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal has brought about a qualitative change among the BJP’s friends and allies; a failure to retain power in Uttar Pradesh would open the floodgates of doubts and divisions. On the one hand, the BJP-RSS intrigue-wallahs are in thrall of caste calculations and, on the other, they remain wedded to a political life anchored in Hindu-Muslim antagonism. Despite all the tall claims of vikas and good governance, the saffron gang cannot resist the call of tapping the undissolved animus between the two communities, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. The managers of “new India” continue to experiment with love jihad, mob lynching and a uniform civil code to keep animated the majority community’s anxieties and prejudices; these managers feel frustrated that the Muslim community has, by and large, learnt not to take the bait. The Ram Mandir no longer tickles collective sentiments on either side of the divide.”

Meanwhile, Modi’s Aug 15 Independence Day address was replete with lies that float from his mouth unchallenged because in his 7-plus years as PM he has never held a news conference where someone who knows some facts could ask questions. So, he began by boasting of the “progress” India had made on every front under his leadership of fighting the coronavirus. The whole world knows by now the India’s official covid death count of around 435,000 is a gross underestimate perhaps a factor of 10 or even more. This means that India is by far the country with the largest number of deaths from the coronavirus, far more than the US or Brazil, the next two in the list. [Incidentally, this is a prediction made by this column almost a year ago in the August 2020 issue of Insaf Bulletin when the second wave was still many months away; Modi, Trump, and Bolsonaro were dubbed the “Three Horsemen of the Covid Apocalypse” and India, on account of its large population and rickety health system was predicted to become the country with the largest number of deaths]. (http://www.insafbulletin.net/archives/4462)

On each and every aspect of combatting the coronavirus, whether in the availability of sufficient medical oxygen during the crisis, or the disastrous roll-out of vaccines, Modi continued to lie throughout his address just as his cohorts did by denying numerous eye-witness accounts of dead bodies floating in India’s “sacred” rivers unable to afford a cremation. Boasts about vaccines in particular are grotesque as barely 10% of India’s population is fully vaccinated and the goal of fully vaccinating the entire adult population by end-2021 has turned out to be another jumla on par with his promise of putting 15 lakh rupees in every Indian’s bank account by bringing back the black money illegally stored abroad in Swiss bank accounts.

The litany that Modi uttered of lies reached new heights, or depths, with the self-congratulation on all the vikas his government has done in the last 7 years. This is a particularly bald-faced and egregious untruth given the depths to which India’s economy has plunged in the last several years much of which is the result of the disastrous policies such as demonetization. Joblessness and inflation have reached new highs and every reputable economic survey has documented that India has performed the worst among all major economies since the advent of covid. For example, India ranks 94th out of 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index. No wonder Modi’s popularity has begun to tank as shown by a recent poll that revealed Modi’s popularity index has slumped from 66% to 24%.

Koushik Basu, former chief economist of the World Bank, has stated that the position of India’s poor has not been this miserable in several decades. For example, the number of absolute poor who earn less than $2 per day has more than doubled in the last year alone, from 60 million to 134 million. Even before the coronavirus struck, youth unemployment in India in 2019 was 23%, greater than that of 139 other countries, in particular our neighbors such as Bangladesh at 12% and Nepal at 5%. According to Basu, this is “the result of all attention being on politics” in the Modi era to which one can add that it is also the result of a situation where lying has become a mode of governance in the midst of a frightened and credulous media and where speaking the truth can easily lead to imprisonment on charges of sedition.

But the absolute whopper of all the lies and evasions perpetrated by the Modi regime is its complete refusal to even acknowledge the purchase of the spy software Pegasus from the Israeli NSO group despite a mountain of credible evidence that the same software has been used to hack phones belonging to politicians, journalists, activists, and even two members of the BJP. The entire monsoon session of the Parliament was wiped out as the government stubbornly refused to meet the opposition’s legitimate demand for an official statement on Pegasus. India is the sole country claiming to be a democracy that has refused to answer any questions about Pegasus unlike democracies like France that have instituted official enquiries.

What is particularly outrageous is that the government is using taxpayer money to buy software to hack the phones of some taxpayers it doesn’t like without even a modicum of public scrutiny of its actions. The matter is now in the Supreme Court where the regime’s odious mouthpiece Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made the truly absurd argument on national security grounds of the government’s absolute refusal to acknowledge anything, even the name, about Pegasus. It was claimed that terrorists would be empowered to do nefarious things if the government admitted anything at all about Pegasus. How the court will respond and whether it will countenance such absurdities remains to be seen.

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