Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was welcomed by MPs at the Palam airport New Delhi, when he came back from a state visit to the United States. During the visit, he addressed more than 50,000 Indian- American communities in the presence of American President Donald Trump and other senate members in the state of Houston, Texas.
The event was popularly named “Howdy Modi.” According to the organiser, the Texas India Forum, there were around 1,000 volunteers and 650 Texas-based welcome partners involved in the arrangement of the program. The event gained such large-scale attention because of the size of the crowd; it seemed akin to the kind of crowd that would gather for the Pope’s visit to the US!
However, while addressing the crowd, PM Modi chanted ‘Everything is fine in India’ in several Indian languages. What grips me most and which is also a matter of concern is, the head of the state delivered such comment when his country and its people are in the middle of numerous hassles. The question which captivates me here is, does everything really seem fine in India?
First things first, the repetition of the phrase in several languages seemed like an act of coming to the rescue of Home Minister Amit Shah, who on the eve of Hindi Diwas, hailed Hindi as a unifying language of India and encouraged its use as an official language. Although after an attack by the opposition, he clarified his position regarding it, as it had a profound impact on the sentiments of the non-Hindi speaking population due to the historical baggage attached to the linguistics politics of independent India.
Another aspect one needs to look at is the condition of the Indian economy. According to the data released by the government, the GDP growth was 5% in the quarter of April-June for the financial year 2020, the lowest in the six years. The unemployment rate was at 6.1% among the youth. This was the larger picture; if we look at the micro part of it, there is a gradual decrease in production activity and sales in the automobile industry. Maruti Suzuki marked with a 26.7% decline in its sales of vehicles, including export.
Notwithstanding the economy, issues like mob lynching of Muslims in the name of religion and forcing victims to chant “Jai Shree Ram” (Hail Lord Ram) are also projected as ‘fine’, whereas these crimes have a serious impact on the peace of the nation, and provide room for social imbalances among communities.
Not only should we consider these examples of economic and social instability, but the issue about the abrogation of Article 370 in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Furthermore, the lockdown of people, by banning communications and internet facilities since 5th August 2019 to date has also been sidelined by the government, and especially our news channels.
The Kashmir lockdown issue seems to be of least importance to the leaders of the BJP government. According to some news reports, a few groups of people among the US gathering were protesting against the Kashmir lockdown, which was not covered by our media channels.
The other major issue is the National Register of Citizens of India; in my opinion, this is an example of hate-mongering by the government against the Muslims, the issuance of the NRC listed 19,000 people as illegal immigrants that left them stateless. Also, as the Home Minister, Amit Shah said in the rally: NRC is a must for national security. He ensured the rights of Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, and Christians refugees while not mentioning the Muslims, who are around 200 million in numbers in India and around 34.22% in the state of Assam in particular(2011 Census Data: Assam). For this, he was attacked by opposition leader Mamata Banerjee.
Regardless of all these aspects in the Indian socio-political and economy, if these brute realities are labelled as the new normal or ‘fine’ then there is a real crisis in the secular and democratic institutions of India, where the political narratives are constructed through rhetorics, and the discourse of normalcy has been created which delineates that everything is fine.