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A Rebuttal to George Augustine’s Piece Praising Narendra Modi

This piece is a rebuttal to George Augustine’s article ‘Why Christians and Muslims should vote for Narendra Modi ‘ published on the website ‘Hindu Human Rights’ (though the term ‘human rights’, by its instrinsic nature, is, to quote the UDHR, meant for the entire “human family”, and cannot be exclusive to any set of human beings classified by religion or any other basis). Just as there are some Hindus whose narratives are biased in favour of the religious minorities (please see the reference to Romila Thapar in this article), there are also, though much fewer, Muslims and Christians biased in favour of Hindus, and George Augustine seems to be an example of the same. Here are some pointers to rebut what he stated-

1.  “None of Modi’s actions or statements has been religious enough to be considered anti-secular and the only accusation against Modi has been the killing of Muslims

This is blatantly false. Narendra Modi referred to riot-affected Muslims in relief camps as “child-producing factories” in spite of ironically being the third of his parents’ six children, verbally attacked respected bureaucrat JM Lyngdoh for his Christian faith (for which BJP leaders like Atal Behari Vajpayee and Murli Manohar Joshi condemned Modi), asserted without any basis that Ambedkar embraced Buddhism rather than Christianity/Islam owing to the foreign origins of the latter and refused to compensate for the damage caused to mosques and Sufi shrines in Gujarat by the carnage in 2002 from state funds (though he was forced to by a court order, which is why checks and balances in our constitutional setup are so important) but offered state funds to repair the Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand dameged by floods. Modi also appointed Maya Kodnani, who had given inflammatory speeches during the riots, as a minister.

Also, speaking of Modi’s alleged complicity in the riots in 2002, it must be noted that he hasn’t got a clean chit from the Supreme Court, as many of his supporters are shouting from their rooftops, but from a district court, yes, based on a non-binding report of a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), and the report has received much criticism, including from former Supreme Court judge Justice PB Sawant, who had investigated the riots earlier. Even in the Jessica Lal and Priyadarshini Mattoo cases, the accused had been acquitted by district courts but later convicted by higher courts, and even in Modi’s case, an appeal has been filed in the High Court. Furthermore, even Sajjan Kumar has been acquitted by a district court in Delhi in connection with the anti-Sikh riots in 1984; will the supporters of the BJP accept that he is innocent by that yardstick?

2. “Narendra Modi has excellent secular credentials. He is a Hindu, a member of the oldest civilisation and religion in the world that has preserved diverse other religions and religious practices and traditions and ethnic minorities through time immemorial by its inherent principles. No other religion can boast of this magnanimous credential. Adhering to the principles of the RSS and claiming to be a Hindu nationalist is enough reason to consider Modi as a secular administrator, which none of the sectarian and exclusivist religionists or Communist can claim.

While Hinduism as a religion is definitely more open and heterodox than Christianity or Islam, it is this chauvinism about tolerance among some Hindus that produces a lethal kind of intolerance, which manifested itself in the mass murders of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and of Christians in the Kandhamal district of Odisha in 2008. Besides, many Hindus had opposed reforms in the Hindu personal law during Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s prime ministerial tenure, citing what in their eyes were religious reasons, and the crimes against Dalits and honour killings of couples engaging in intra-gotra marriages or Hindus marrying Muslims show that what many Hindus do is not in the spirit of secularism (faith being a private affair), even though Hinduism as a faith is very open-ended. Even Christianity and Islam, in spite of their exclusivity in truth claims going by mainstream interpretations, preach peace and tolerance, at least of the ‘live and let live’ variety (as can be seen from verses Rom. 12:18 and 1 Tim 2:2 of the Bible and verses 2:256, 5:2, 5:8, 5:32, 6:108, 6:151, 49:13, 60:8 and 109:6 of the Quran); nonetheless, there are intolerant Muslims and Christians. Being a Hindu does not automatically translate into being secular, just as Japan being a Buddhist-majority country does not mean that it did not have militaristic, imperialist tendencies during the Second World War.

And while it is true that the RSS, on the whole, is not as diabolic as many portray it to be, and has very many moderate and humanistic people in its fold, to suggest that it is a fully secular organization is nothing short of ridiculous.

3.  “Narendra Modi has proved in Gujarat that it is possible to rule and progress in India and that too without corruption or crony capitalism.”

Two of his ministers have been convicted for a fake passport racket and illegal limestone mining respectively, while a fisheries minister accused of a scam running into thousands of millions of rupees, was shielded by Narendra Modi from prosecution, something fortunately overturned by the governor of Gujarat, similar to how the Congress tried to shield Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh case. Gujarat’s Lokayukta Act is among the weakest in the country, whereby the chief minister can block the lokayukta from acting against any minister, and yet Gujarat doesn’t have a lokayukta! As regards crony capitalism, the allocation of heavily subsidized land to the Adanis, as compared to other respectable industralists, like the Tatas, who were charged hundreds of times more, raises serious questions. Modi’s Gujarat tops the list in murders of RTI activists, the most well-known example being the murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa for which an MP for the BJP has been booked.

4. “the AAP and its overseas backers, are those who are only intent on dismantling what is left of the ancient Indian civilisation.”

What is the basis of this sweeping claim? I know many AAP members and supporters who are devout Hindus proud of ancient Indian culture. Just like no political party can claim a monopoly over secularism, certainly, no political party can claim monopoly over guardianship of the ancient Indian civilization! In fact, Kejriwal, while in Varanasi, took a dip in the Ganga and cited Lord Ram’s example of renunciation.

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