January 28, 2016

Modi's India - Interview with Ananya Vajpeyi

Interview excerpt:
Gideon Rose: So you've got the tensions, but not the economic dynamism.

Ananya Vajpeyi: That's right. That's right. We haven't seen the kinds of sweeping economic reforms, the kind of turnaround that he promised. It's not necessarily a better atmosphere for investors and people wanting to flock to India with their business from all over the world and so on. On the other hand, there has been an escalation in communal tensions. There's been a lot of incidents of actual violence against minorities.

Gideon Rose: Such as what? So you have incidents of violence against minorities. Are we talking about Kashmiri Muslims, are we talking broader than that, or what?

Ananya Vajpeyi: We're talking broader than that. Kashmir has been a conflict zone for the last 25, 30 years, so that's an ongoing issue. But now it seems like ordinary Muslims and ordinary Dalits and... Just could be in any part of the country, could be not necessarily an entire region or community or even a village, it could even be just individuals getting targeted by mobs, getting lynched. The most recent sort of flashpoint was this family in a place called Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, which is the largest state in India. There was some suspicion that the Muslim family, that they had beef in their refrigerator. And the head of the household, this man called Mohammad Akhlaq, was just dragged out and lynched and just murdered by a mob in front of his young children and his wife. And it was just the most sort of frightening kind of expression of a majoritarian force.

Gideon Rose: Does Modi see himself as a Hindu nationalist, or do the Hindu nationalists see him as one of them?

Ananya Vajpeyi: Well, this is the thing. When he was winning his national election last year. He represented this new kind of rising middle class and the possibility of India getting out of a rut of being ruled by the Gandhi family, and this kind of dynastic democracy issues, corruption, and so on. And that if he brought with him a broader spectrum of the Hindu right, and that some of those people were on the extreme right. He would be able to somehow manage those internal differences But increasingly that fringe has gotten more mainstream, it has become more vocal.

And at this point, there is just an outcry for him to respond to incidents like this. So the expectation is that Prime Minister Modi will rise above being a Hindu, or being the leader of the BJP, or being a Hindu nationalist, or being any kind of, representing any one particular group, and that as Prime Minister, he will say that "This is not on. You can't be lynching members of the minority community. And I distance myself from the crazies on the right who are coming out and saying things like... "