By Amitabh Pal on May 29, 2014

India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, has such a dubious past that the Bush Administration prohibited him from coming to the United States.

Activists and scholars expressed deep concern when President Obama reached out to Modi, who took charge of India on Monday as head of the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“The President invited Narendra Modi to visit Washington at a mutually agreeable time to further strengthen our bilateral relationship,” the White House stated after Modi’s electoral victory in India in mid-May.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a quasi-governmental body, had recommended that Modi be kept out of the United States for facilitating a 2002 pogrom as the head of the Indian state of Gujarat that killed thousands of people, mainly Muslim. Acting on the recommendation, the Bush Administration in 2005 issued a visa ban on Modi, 

The Commission tried to put the best face on Obama's course change.

“USCIRF has a longstanding concern about the BJP’s and Narendra Modi’s association with Hindu ultranationalist groups, as well as allegations of his complicity in the Gujarat riots,” the organization’s vice chair, Katrina Lantos Swett, told The Progressive. “While USCIRF’s concerns about incoming Prime Minister Modi are ongoing, our ultimate focus is not on him but on India’s continued failure to uphold religious freedom and to adequately address situations of violence.”

Modi has his political roots in the Rashtriya Swamyasewak Sangh (RSS), a group with hair-raising antecedents. The organization is the fountainhead of Modi’s BJP.

“Like the Phalange in Lebanon, the RSS was founded in direct imitation of European fascist movements, and like its 1930s fascist models it still makes much of daily parading in khaki drill and the giving of militaristic salutes: the RSS salute differs from that of the Nazis only in the angle of the arm, which is held horizontally over the chest,” writes British journalist William Dalrymple in the New Statesman. “The RSS sees this as an attempt to create a corps of dedicated paramilitary zealots who, so the theory goes, will form the basis of a revival of a golden age of national strength and racial purity. The BJP was founded as the political wing of the RSS and most senior BJP figures have an RSS background, holding posts in both organizations.”

The assassin of none other than Mahatma Gandhi, an extremist named Nathuram Godse, had been a member of the RSS. But all this doesn’t seem to have embarrassed Modi about his closeness with the organization.

“I got the inspiration to live for the nation from the RSS,” Modi stated recently. “I learned to live for others, and not for myself. I owe it all to the RSS.”

Indeed, the RSS backed Modi strongly in the hope that he will scuttle investigations against members of the RSS and like-minded organizations linked to the killings of more than 100 people.

During his campaign for prime minister, Modi sent mixed messages.

“It is instructive that not once in his campaign did Modi reach out to the minorities to assuage any misgivings they may have had about him as a prime minister,” editorialized Economic and Political Weekly, a leading Indian journal. “There is therefore good reason to worry about the future of a pluralistic India under a Modi government that will enjoy a commanding majority in Parliament but without a single Muslim member of Parliament in its ranks.”

Modi has another prominent side: a pro-business worldview. His supposed achievements on the economic front in Gujarat persuaded a large portion of the electorate to vote for him, especially in the face of an Indian economy in the doldrums.

Trinity College Professor Vijay Prashad notes Modi's committment to privatization and globalization. “The cozy relationship between the Modi government in Gujarat and big business will now be scaled up to the national level," Prashad told The Progressive.

At the same time, Prashad has deep concerns about Modi and his party’s social platform.

“The BJP is going to push a decidedly majoritarian agenda cast as ‘equal rights,’ ” he says. “They have already begun this. The social justice parties will have to fight back, and so in the process rebuild their base. Anything less will be catastrophic.”

U.S.-based groups are watching Modi with trepidation.

“Human rights, religious freedom and equality before the law are guaranteed by the Constitution of India,” Ahsan Khan, president of the Indian American Muslim Council, tells The Progressive. “Our goal will be to safeguard these rights for every citizen of India. We will work with the Indian Diaspora, Indian institutions as well as institutions in the United States to put up a united defense of these universal values.”

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Comments

Many of 2002 and subsequent criminal cases, including Godhra train burning incidence, subsequent riots, Akshardham attack, Haren Pandya murder, Tulsi Prajapati fake encounter etc are yet to attain closure. International community could help in mounting pressure on the state and central governments to solve these cases to logical conclusion and provide justice to the vicitms and under-trials.
You have no idea about RSS. If you think you know about it by reading few articles, shame on you. Do you a proper research, you will know how it has produced many patriots in India.
Irresponsible journalism and a very one-sided view and interpretations of events. Has the author done the research himself or taken the views from other media outlets? Has he actually visited any RSS meeting and heard the 'zealots' talk? Its unfortunate that these heavily one sided views are expressed by journalists to readers who might not have any idea of the facts and the ground reality and hence take the article at face value. It is also very irresponsible for the author to have written such a violent article, especially considering that he has written a book on non-violence. Yes, it is a violent article.... please re-read the article while being aware of your feelings, do you feel good or peaceful while reading it? Or do you feel agitated or upset? Do you feel angry with either the author or the persons / organizations he has portrayed? What can you gather about the author, does he seem like a peaceful person? Mr. Pal, you have authored a book on non-violence and Islam, which is commendable. Request you to please follow your own suggestions, and be unprejudiced, patient and peaceful in your articles as well.

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A plea to United States citizens to work for peace

An Indian journalist globally renowned as an advocate for the poor, Palagummi Sainath detailed the detrimental...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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