AUSTIN SZABO WRITES – Has India elected a dangerous man? The media failed to answer this question.
As Narendra Modi becomes leader of the world’s biggest democracy, his role in the killing of a thousand Muslims in 2002 remains murky. The 2002 Gujarat riots, a pogrom against Muslims, happened on Modi’s watch. His supporters claim he only failed to stop the riots, but a Human Rights Watch report claimed Modi’s government was involved in the massacre. If Modi was simply incompetent, and not responsible for the carnage, he did little to apologize for it. In an interview with The New York Times, Modi claimed his only regret was that he “didn’t manage the media well.”
After that disastrous The New York Times interview, Modi learned his lesson in media management, handily winning the election with little mention of his past. Those who criticized Modi, like U. R. Ananthamurthy, a famous author, were threatened and told to go to Pakistan. “Modi is morally responsible for what happened,” Ananthamurthy said. “Such an able administrator and could not control the killings? Difficult to believe.”
Aside from the massacre, the new Prime Minister has a lot to answer for. In a scathing New York Times Op-ed, Basharat Peer listed every instance of Modi’s exclusion of Muslims from Gujarat’s growth. Peer primarily lists Modi’s membership to the RSS, a Hindu nationalist organization, and the unlivable condition of Muslims in Gujarat as evidence of his indifference to Muslims. He also promised to build a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque destroyed by Hindu protesters in 1992.
Modi’s involvement with the RSS seems fatal, but those who voted for him do not seem to mind the racism the group stands for. “What we believe is that we are the most advanced race in the entire world. We will convert the whole world into the Aryan [Hindu] race: So we have decided,” said an RSS member campaigning for Modi. With such a group endorsing the new Prime Minister, many in the Muslim minority do not feel welcome in Modi’s India.
Many respond to this by claiming that Modi will “drop the Hindu right.” According to the Economist, the Modi’s BJP (Indian People’s Party) will stop calling for the construction of the Hindu temple now that they have won the election. Even if the Prime Minister drops the outrageous plan, the fact he campaigned for it at all shows his lack of empathy for those who died in 1992. If Modi’s pro-Hindu views are just opportunism, he would not only be dishonest, but he would also be betraying his lifelong support of the RSS.
With such accusations, it’s surprising how few have made a scandal of this. Only the New York Times and The Economist published extensively on the issue. The international media has spent little time on the election, and the American media has ignored it, aside from an excellent segment by John Oliver. The Indian media, meanwhile, has spent as much time talking about whether Modi is married as whether he is a murderer. Most Western warnings about Modi are dismissed.
We don’t know if Modi will be a dangerous Prime Minister for Muslims, not because the media’s questions go unanswered, but because the questions were never asked. The role of journalists is to find out all they can about those in power and to expose any injustices. Narendra Modi has been elected without any question regarding his past, something that suggests a journalistic failure.