PM Narendra Modi | ANI
File photo of PM Narendra Modi | ANI
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As each week goes by, India’s crackdown on Kashmir deepens. Not content with cutting phone lines and the internet, detaining top political leaders and imposing a curfew which has now lasted three weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has reportedly imprisoned thousands of Kashmiris, including businessmen and students as well as human-rights activists.

This suppression of an ethnic-religious minority has met with mass acclaim in India. One has to go as far back as Serbia under Slobodan Milosevic to recall a similarly ecstatic upsurge of vengeful nationalism.

As the Economist puts it, “India’s press and television channels are jumping up and down and cheering.” Many Indian journalists have joined social media trolls in assaulting Western outlets such as the BBC and the New York Times for reporting Kashmiris’ anger and disaffection.

Near-unanimous backing from India’s media seems to have emboldened Modi’s government. Last weekend, it prevented a delegation of opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, from visiting Kashmir.

Such impunity reveals just how extraordinarily complete Modi’s success as India’s pied-piper is, how irresistible his tunes. He and his followers draw additional encouragement from the fact that most foreign governments are too distracted by domestic challenges to pay attention to events in Kashmir, and that Pakistan’s strident campaign to isolate India diplomatically has failed.

Still, as the situation of Kashmiris deteriorates, India’s well-wishers should ask: Has Modi, while accumulating untrammelled power for himself and fellow Hindu nationalists, irreparably damaged India’s claims to be a rational and stable democracy?

Coverage of Kashmir in the international media has been uniformly critical of the Indian government, partly provoked by its demonstrably false assertions, echoed by India’s media, that things are “normal” in Kashmir. Front-page pictures of heavily armed soldiers on empty Kashmiri streets make clear the region is effectively under military occupation.

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Modi’s version — that he is advancing economic development in Kashmir — is either not in sight or looks patently deceptive as writers, academics and journalists, often from the Kashmiri diaspora, educate global audiences about their history and fate.

It might be easy to mock these critics as irrelevant and powerless. But they emerge at a crucial time, when even many hardened observers of Indian politics and economy are questioning what kind of leader Modi is.

Outside of India, neither the prime minister’s economic data nor his boasts about destroying terrorist camps deep inside Pakistan has survived close scrutiny. Indeed, the mob lynchings of Muslims under his watch have directed fresh attention to the origins of Modi’s Hindu nationalist organization in the European fascist movements of the 1920s.

In news reports and analyses, India’s prime minister is not uncommonly grouped with such demagogic politicians as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro and Rodrigo Duterte. Even Pakistan, long identified internationally as a rogue nation, has felt emboldened enough to denounce Modi’s government as “racist” and “fascist.”

Modi himself has suffered new damage to a reputation that he had diligently washed free of the taint of suspected complicity in a 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom. Ascending to power in 2014, he managed to persuade many in the West that he was focused on making India’s economy grow and creating jobs rather than stoking Hindu majoritarianism. Modi’s image as an economic modernizer suffered greatly from his decision to withdraw most currency notes from circulation in 2016. Post-Kashmir, it has become even harder to maintain.

Amid bleak news about the economy, overseas investors were pulling funds out of India before Modi launched his crackdown in Kashmir. The bigotry on display in India’s public sphere might lead more of them to wonder if they should still take for granted the country’s social cohesion, and the political and economic rationality of its leaders.

In the West, India long ago lost the prestige it had enjoyed through its association with world-historical figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, and its moral leadership of the non-western world in the decades following independence in 1947. The more recent narrative about India — that it is a distinguished multicultural democracy and economic powerhouse — is now also up for debate. This squandering of soft power cannot but have deep consequences for an aspiring global force that is very far from matching China’s hard power.

In many ways, the repression of Kashmiris is a more egregious act of self-harm than demonetization. The longer it goes on, the greater the suspicion will grow that, having failed in his central tasks, India’s pied-piper is running blind, in danger of leading his nation to a dead-end. -Bloomberg


Also read: How Narendra Modi cracked the Donald Trump code and turned the tide on Kashmir


 

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16 Comments Share Your Views

16 COMMENTS

  1. The western world has better things to do. they are busy tackling terrorism at their own doorstep. they have no time for thinking about Kashmir. and they are no fools not knowing who are instigating all these troubles. And where were the author and his cohorts when Hindus were driven out of kashmir? Is abusing Hindus has become another form of secularism?

  2. There is a lot of brutality going on in kashmir right now. Author did a great job in describing those authroities. 4th week of complete shut down. No medicines, no internet, no cell phones, no land lines, no baby food. Dialysis patients, heart patients, pregnant women ….. everybody is in really bad shape. This is a blatant act of human rights violation. 8 million people in house arrests. Shame on Indian govt. World should take a note of it. UN is just a puppet of Indian govt. UN is useless. It is not doing anything about the suffering of poor people. Hopefuly whole world and UN wake up soon

  3. This article was published by Bloomberg as well. Pankaj Mishra is part of the international media that presents selective facts; Arundhati Roy is another one who practices selective outrage. They are the ones who damage India’s image.

      • And who will tell the world about your barbarism all over the world? The situation today in kashmir is no worse than it was in the last few decades when killing and terror was a routine affair.

  4. We don’t care now because power of 1.3 billion people is enough to counter any negative propaganda against Indian state.

  5. He is correct about the negative coverage in foreign media. It’s people like him who write for that media. He has been published by the New York times several times – and, as expected, he writes in the most negative way possible. In one of his main articles, he would not even explicitly call out the Pakistani army for the Kargil perfidy. This is a deliberate process by these writers – to use words that are harsh on India and go soft when it comes to the lies and violence that emanates from Pakistan. In his writings, Godhra train burning never comes up, nor does the ethnic cleansing of Pandits. So the foreign media is biased because he is foreign media. He part of the cast of hundreds of India’s pseudo secular elites who have access to the world’s influential media and they use it to attack India. This is not new – it has been going on for decades.

  6. Mishra, what kind of image did India had before? Kindly explain? So I can compare the damage that was done…
    Don’t be an immature writer…

  7. Many articles have been written against Israel in the world media and thousands of resolutions have been passed in UN and other world bodies. Does Israel care?

  8. Here comes another delusional critic who think that some leftists shouting from their hips in the West mean that India’s reputation is weakened. It is getting stronger under Modi. Every country gives respect to India as they know we are no longer a cry baby, but we are now a country that can take care of our interests and accomplish our objectives in international politics without begging like we did before.

  9. Congress stooge, this columnist. Does the same mistake cong leaders do. At least few like Tharoor, Jairam Ramesh have realized this and trying to change at least.

  10. you can continue tp pedddle lies and distort facts about Kashmir but the truth is only a handful of terrorist sympathisers have ruined the valley. peoole have suffered for way too long under these pak sympathisers, now they are happy and relieved.

    My only question to you is , if no media person is allowed to go inside Kashmir and no channels are open for communication, how did you get absurd information?

    Please report on the agitation in POK (pak occupied kashmir) ,Balichistan, sindh

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