Published: March 2, 2020 3:34:37 am
When the eyes of the world are on India’s capital, it comes as little surprise that the media in the Subcontinent has followed suit. Between US President Donald Trump’s visit and the deeply disturbing acts of large-scale communal violence that have gripped the city, a connection is being drawn — one that is far from flattering to India.
On February 27, the editorial in Dawn — in line with what was being said across much of the Pakistani media — remarked that the “images coming out of the Indian capital are truly chilling”. The newspaper draws a connection that many in the international media already have made — between the rhetoric against and political marginalisation of Indian Muslims by the ruling BJP and the violence that has unfolded in Delhi. Dawn writes: “In Prime Minister Narendra thoroughly exposed Modi’s India, the country’s much-trumpeted claims of being a secular republic have been as the storm troopers of the Sangh Parivar have rampaged through New Delhi.”
The editorial acknowledges that communal violence did not begin with the current dispensation — it cites the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the post-Babri demolition riots and Gujarat 2002 — but also argues that “this time, things are different”. Why? “…because the dispensation that rules New Delhi has amidst its ranks some virulently anti-Muslim elements, while hate material can spread like wildfire through social media.”
Two days later, Dawn expressed concern at the reported defence deals between India and the US sealed during US President Donald Trump’s visit. Some of the editorial expresses concern at the strategic implications of such a deal — points that are well taken.
But what is of interest — and substance — is the fact that New Delhi’s rhetoric, communal violence in India, the ruling dispensation’s constitutional adventurism are being used to call into question whether or not India is a responsible power: “However, while both the US and India champion their status as ‘great democracies’, as the events over the past few days have shown, those who run India today are wedded to thoroughly undemocratic principles. Not only is the Hindutva-inspired administration bent upon demonising and oppressing India’s minorities, particularly its Muslims, the fanatical elements in New Delhi have also threatened Pakistan numerous times in the recent past. Such threats have come from senior Indian military as well as civilian officials. Hence, in such a scenario, when the US chooses to empower the Indian war machine, Pakistan has very legitimate concerns. The deal will only further spur the arms race in South Asia and scuttle any chances for peace. The US should take a more responsible and balanced approach in this region, especially when two nuclear-armed states are involved.”
Hypocrites in arms
While the chagrin in Pakistan’s media can be explained away by many as stemming from a history of animosity to the idea of India, few would make the same argument for Sri Lanka. Yet, the editorial in The Island on February 27 is in some ways more of an indictment, and unmitigated expression of schadenfreude at India’s fall from its moral high-ground: “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during PM Mahinda Rajapaksa’s recent state visit to India, exhorted Sri Lanka to ensure that the rights of its minorities, especially the Tamils, were safeguarded. In an interesting turn of events replete with irony, close on the heels of Modi’s much-publicised exhortation, ethnic violence erupted, in New Delhi; the riots which have left about 30 dead are being described by the media as a chilling reminder of the 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim violence”.
The thrust of the editorial is that both Modi and Trump — and New Delhi and Washington — have criticised Sri Lanka for the alleged atrocities and human rights violations against the country’s Tamils. Now, the paper argues, the rank hypocrisy of both countries stands revealed, the unstated corollary to which is that it makes the easier to revile: “The irony of US President Donald Trump being in New Delhi, hugging Modi, when racial violence broke out, in New Delhi, may not have been lost on the discerning public. The US and India are two of the self-righteous nations that have joined forces to pillory Sri Lanka, in Geneva, over alleged human rights violations. Curiously, neither the US State Department, which is a self-proclaimed defender of human rights, the world over, nor the New Delhi-based American Embassy issued a statement, censuring the Modi administration for its failure to prevent ethnic violence. There have been reports that some rogue elements within the ranks of the Indian police encouraged the perpetrators of violence, the way their Sri Lankan counterparts did during the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom.”
The editorial ends on a direct note: “When Trump and Modi undertake to defend human rights, in other countries, one sees them as two recalcitrant patients posing off as physicians.”
(Curated by Aakash Joshi)
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