Several groups which are inimical to India’s interests have come together to put out a huge advertisement in a leading American newspaper which is full of innuendoes and falsehoods about India with a clear aim of creating social divisions and promoting unrest.
The advertisement, which is supposedly “An Open Letter to the American People” and which is sponsored by American Muslim Institution, Association of Indian Muslims of America and some other such organisations, makes a vicious attack on India and says that Muslims, Christians and Sikhs face discrimination, frequent demolition of homes, businesses, mosques, churches and religious schools in the country. It adds that the Narendra Modi government is “attempting to illegally seize land and property set aside by Muslims for charitable purposes” and has severely restricted the “non-Hindu religious institutions to receive foreign contributions, which support care and education for underserved Indians”.
Further, this advertisement, published in the New York Times, makes the preposterous claim that “the Indian judiciary and police are filled with BJP/RSS loyalists and are doing little to nothing to stop atrocities against religious minorities.” This smacks of gross irresponsibility on the part of the newspaper which has published it. If it was an Indian newspaper, the editor and the publisher would most certainly be cooling their heels in Tihar Jail.
Obviously, the sponsors are unaware or pretend to be unaware of the various judgments of the Supreme Court and several high courts upholding the fundamental rights of citizens, as they have always done. The entire advertisement is loaded with mischief and comes through as a deliberate attempt to run down the world’s most diverse society and the largest and most vibrant democracy.
The purpose of the advertisement appears to be to spread the lie that India is governed by a single political party—the Bharatiya Janata Party—that pursues policies inimical to religious minorities. This fallacy must be exposed because it attempts to hide the federal character of the Indian Constitution and the plural nature of not just the population but governance as well. The number of political parties represented in the Lok Sabha in the 1950s was 12. It has now risen to over 40 because of the extension of social and cultural diversity to the sphere of electoral politics. The truth that is often hidden by those who carry an anti-India agenda is the fact that India has 28 states and 2 union territories which have state assemblies and chief ministers. Of them, only 12 are ruled by the BJP. The remaining 18 are governed by a kaleidoscope of parties which range from communists, Christian parties, Muslim parties and a wide range of regional parties, most of whom have nothing in common with the BJP.
The other innuendo in the advertisement is that political power is wholly in the hands of the Hindu majority and that the Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and other religious minorities are subjugated. This is a blatant lie because there are four Christian, two Buddhist and one Sikh chief minister in the country. Secondly and more importantly, the maintenance of law and order is the responsibility of the state under the Constitution. The Modi government has nothing to do with it.
The BJP, one presumes, will respond to the accusations made against it, but here is the factual position. The charge against the BJP—that it is opposed to religious minorities—must be tested on certain facts that are hidden by the anti-India propagandists. For example, of the seven non-Hindu chief ministers in India, five belong to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Also, the BJP ran a coalition government with a Muslim party in Jammu & Kashmir when it was a state and with a Sikh party in Punjab till some years ago. Incidentally, the BJP is in power on its own or as a coalition in two of the largest Buddhist states—Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim—which are headed by Buddhist chief ministers. The charge that this party discriminates against Dalits and Adivasis must also fail because of the massive electoral support that it enjoys among these communities, apart from the fact that it has been in power in two states which have the largest population of scheduled tribes. And, if all this is not enough, the candidates chosen by the BJP for the office of president since it came to power at the federal level—Ramnath Kovind and Droupadi Murmu—belong to the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities.
The strong bond between this party and these communities could never have been possible if the party had not focused on their amelioration in its political, social and economic agenda.
In any case, while the advertisement pretends to target this political party, it cannot hide the larger agenda behind its publication—to run down India and India’s unparalleled constitutional and democratic traditions. Two years ago, Freedom House, based on half-truths and untruths, claimed there is no religious freedom in India.
Interestingly, the sponsors of this advertisement appeal to Americans to contact members of the American Congress and the Biden administration and urge them to make the Indian government accountable for its actions. It certainly does not make sense to place such a burden on the US administration when it is caught up in mending what looks like an irretrievable breakdown of relations between the whites and the blacks in that country.
India is civilisationally secular and democratic. Democracy and plurality go hand in hand in the country and provide the Indian society the vibrancy that one sees within it.
Therefore, those who are spreading this poison are harming themselves. It is indeed shameful that Indian citizens who are enjoying these freedoms are promoting this vicious anti-India propaganda in the West. No true democrat who values the freedom he enjoys in India will ever resort to it. The time has come to warn the members of the minority communities who are spreading this poison that they may willy-nilly be jeopardising the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Hindu majority, which dearly cherishes India’s plurality and all the constitutional rights that ensure diversity. Therefore, in the larger interests of all the 1.4 billion citizens, one must hope and pray that the mischief of a few does not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A Surya Prakash
Former Chairman of Prasar Bharati and scholar of democracy studies