Happy birthday, Narendraji, a former cinema star – and now a TV talk show star — sang on the occasion of the 49th birthday of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Just as Marilyn Monroe sang for President Kennedy. Narendra Modi is the most popular bachelor in India right now for the very serious reason that he is the official prime ministerial candidate of the BJP for next year’s general elections. He stands out as the politician who made Gujarat one of the most prosperous states in India notwithstanding the polemic over allegations of mishandling the 2002 riots, which followed the Godhra train fire in which 58 pilgrims were burnt alive. His supporters precisely hammer down the ears of detractors the fact that since 2002 there has been no communal riot in Gujarat or is likely to raise its head in the future.
His economic record as a self-made politician and the no-nonsense style of his governance are rallying a broad swathe of people across India. They feel that now, after nine years of Congress rule, the last-minute distribution of ration food to the poor and the wretched, demagogical policy of minority appeasement and likely perpetuation of dynastic rule, India has to be led by someone who will introduce bold reforms and boost entrepreneurial spirit – in a bid to seize all opportunities for the consolidation of the long-term prosperity that the country needs in these times of fast changes at international level.
In light of regular assaults by its north-western neighbour at border lines and sporadic incursions on Indian territory by its northern neighbour, India certainly needs to be ruled by true patriots who are rooted in its civilizational spirit and who can instill a strong sense of patriotism in the hearts of the citizens. This can only happen through a bold re-affirmation of its age-old values and Dharmic culture, without being bothered by pseudo-secularists, creating social cohesion internally and warding off external enemies. To many, Narendra Modi is the iron grip India needs.
Gang rape & death penalty
One of the collaborators of this paper wrote that he lost his innocence a second time when he heard about the atrocious December gang rape of a medical student by six men. Public outcry for death sentence has received a favourable response from the Court. It was not an attack committed for sexual satisfaction out of lust and lechery but a barbaric act of depravity and cruelty. The men were said to be under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
However, it was also a very rare case of a ‘high caste’ girl being raped by ‘low-caste’ men. Dear T. D. Fuego, you will lose your innocence a hundred times if you hear about the gang rapes of Dalit and ‘low-caste’ girls by ‘higher caste’ men in the villages who rove madly on punitive expeditions or merely out of lust. These cases usually do not get wide media coverage neither do gang rapes committed by soldiers in tribal warring zones.
Bharat does not rape, India does, according to a BJP statement issued after the December crime. Pseudo-secular journalists in the press who have an answer to everything got all worked up and erroneously interpreted it as an idealist vision of villages versus urban centres. What the statement actually implied was that the country under an artificial identity, which was concocted in the pre-Independence era by the British and the Congress to suit all sections of its population has been drifting from the core values of its civilization.
India has long been a rare place in the world where women can walk freely in the streets even after dark without being molested. It is a fact that has impressed foreign travellers for decades. It is a culture in which women, young and old, are treated with courtesy and respect. Men are not more chauvinistic or macho with oversized egos than their brothers in other countries; it seems so to anyone who has travelled enough to compare male attitudes and behaviour. Yet, there have been increasing cases of eve teasing, which is blatant harassment, and allegations of lechery in streets and public transport. Is it a matter of suppressed desires, frustration and increasing lechery?
Death penalty is not an effective deterrence. But it is a fact that the December rape crime has jolted public opinion to a deep awareness about the issue of sexual abuse and sex-related crimes beyond the borders of India in places where rapes are not even reported and worse still, victims are sent to jails while rapists get away scot-free. In Pakistan, a judge has recently ordered investigation in the gang rape of a six-year old girl which was initially overlooked by local police – and no need for four male witnesses of rape for the victim to obtain justice at court as advocated by incredible laws.
Alcohol-free states have had their own regulations on prohibiting the production and sale of alcohol, allowing production of wine and tolerating home-brewn alcohol. Over the past few years, not only swamis but also women’s organizations have been advocating the banning of alcohol in a wider number of places on account of alcohol-related crimes.
Not in their backyard!
In Mauritius, not only are we not allowed to relax as regards our economic performance, as Lord Megnath Desai put it once in this paper, but every single event becomes a subject of controversy and sparks off a rise of adrenaline if we go by the tone of angry voices in Internet comments. So now it is the John Lever visit as an artist who is vehemently defended by supporters against those who are protesting against his arrival here.
The same supporters demonstrated and raised a hurly-burly over the arrival of Enrico Macias, the French singer because of his pro-Israeli stance. And they won and imposed their will on everyone. Why could the rest of the population not be allowed the pleasure of attending the concert that was to be given by the French singer? Another group of people, artists most probably, were not allowed to transit in Mauritius on their way to another country in the region for the same reason.
According to some people over here, Sushila Rehman should feel free to use a few lines from prayers and blend them with music in a most profane manner which goes down like ‘art’ so long as the prayers come from the prayer book of other people, and those protesting against her ‘artistic’ creativity were branded as intolerant and biased. Their view that everything should be in their place and one just cannot mix up profane and sacred hymns in the name of ‘artistic freedom’ did not get approval from supporters of the singer.
Johnny Lever may be a good artist and organizers are free to invite him here. Protesters are equally free to raise objections because of the artist’s role as a proselytizer in their backyard. What if they do not subscribe to the definition of religious freedom as propagated by basically intolerant and sectarian so-called monotheist cultures which endorse proselytization as a means of conversion? If they uphold that proselytization is no more and no less than denial of the worth of other people’s religion and a revolting lack of respect for other beliefs, is there any reason why they should welcome the artist with garlands? Just think of the hallucinating speeches delivered to gullible crowds on God, the end of the world and such stuff by gurus of his like and Evangelists of all sorts. These people must be smarter than God for they try to undo God’s work of having people born in different religions! The IQ of these fellows is revealed after but a few minutes of conversation – and it’s just unbelievable!
Turkish ministers came here to open trade routes and commercial ties but no one protested against their visit back then. Yet, we are not insensitive to the plight of Armenians who are still fighting to get Turkey recognize the Armenian genocide in the early decade of the last century. We trade with Pakistan despite its government’s inability to stop ethnic cleansing of minorities.
The presidential visit to Zimbabwe aroused a flurry of protests recently. Rigged election or not, Zimbabwe needs a helping hand in setting up stable and solid institutions. Mauritians used to work there in the public sector when it was a prosperous and thriving economy. We might need Zimbabwe again in a near future. It has huge potential and is bound to join the bandwagon of African development with or without Mugabe. Do fair elections ensure justice and democracy?
We surely do not have the luxury to boycott the US or UK though we strongly condemn the policy of embargo which impoverishes and kills millions of people. Mauritius could not afford to boycott South Africa during apartheid years but actively supported ANC, which was pragmatic and wise. About two years ago, South African policemen were ordered to fire on their own people at a workers’ rally against a mining company, and the government apologized recently.
Opinion makers cannot just keep whipping up every single event into sensational news and stir up adrenaline on a permanent basis. As a people we expect and demand that they tone down and get off their moral high ground.
* Published in print edition on 20 September 2013