India is the world’s largest democracy with 1.3 billion people, and 900 million registered voters. With so many people, how do they manage to uplift such a large population? India has a representative parliamentary democracy, or in other words a proportional party instead of America’s winner takes all system. There are two major parties, the Indian National Congress (INC) party, and the opposing force, the Janata Party (BJP). A significant issue in India’s politics is the major corruption in their party system. Each party big or small is intertwined in a scandal, bribery, or often worse. A component that is a significant factor in the erosion in India is religious hate crimes. The prime minister Narendra Modi who has been criticized heavily for his lack of action, or complacency if you will about the violence between Hindus and Muslims is up for reelection.
The feud between Hindus and Muslims started an extremely long time ago, back to even before Britain colonized India. A lot of turmoil erupted in the attempt to decolonize India neighboring Pakistan peacefully. Kashmir and the riots, violent outbursts, and acts of genocide are still incredibly prevalent, and a hot button topic in Indian Politics as Hindu nationalism and far right phrase arise more now than ever in the 2019 Indian election especially now that Muslims have lost 22 seats in the house.
Today, the rise of Hindu nationalism finds its way to the big stage as globalization shifts its focus to India. The nationalist message that we see spreading throughout America is also spreading the international world, and the right-wing minister Modi like Donald Trump has made India a dangerous place for minorities, specifically India’s native Muslims and the Muslim refugee minority. Under Prime Minister Modi nationalism and violence have been on the rise, and he’s now in the hot seat once again for his stance on the issues at hand. Just like in America, we’re seeing a fear of “invasion” that is mostly the fear of finally having to compete with the world for product and exports, the need to point a finger whenever the economy takes a hit or a tragedy happens, can be any catalyst for nationalism to rise. This kind of idealism is a part of what set Donald Trump on a course to the presidency, while Prime Minister Modi with the same nationalist views, branded himself as a businessman dedicated to combatting the corruption in India, and liberalizing the economy.
The New York Times has an extremely informative article on the polarization of India, putting their democracy in jeopardy an to explain “The consensus among Indian activists and liberal political analysts is that their society, under Mr. Modi, has become more toxically divided between Hindus and Muslims, between upper and lower castes, between men and women.” This type of divide showcases the authoritarian-leaning approach that people are gearing towards to solve a lot of the problems India is facing. They want a leader who is willing to push out the minorities, and “restore” security on multiple fronts, especially for India’s farming community. “Indian politics had been aimed at the appeasement of minorities, and minorities were dominating the majority,” said Vinod Bansal, the national spokesman for Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a conservative Hindu organization that supports the B.J.P. “It was becoming difficult for Hindus to survive.”
The Nationalist rhetoric is one America has been hearing from a lot of far-right organizations, who are in fear of being “wiped out” or “going extinct.” When people feel they are backed into a corner, or feeling unsafe they are most likely to elect, or in India’s case re-elect a candidate who embodies an authoritarian leader who vows to restore the country to greatness, and gives people a group to point the finger, no matter what cause. I want to refer to an article titled: “The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism” by Steven Lewinsky and Lucan A. Way. The section about media control heavily relates to India, America, and China is applicable because recently India proposed a Chinese style plan for media censorship, the quote reads “the media are often a central point of contention in competitive authoritarian regimes. In most full-blown autocracies, the media are entirely state-owned, heavily censored, or systematically repressed, leading television and radio stations are being heavily controlled by the government (or its close allies), and significant independent newspapers and magazines are either prohibited by law (as in Cuba), or de facto eliminated (as in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan).
We won’t know until May the fate of India, but what we do know is that the striking lean towards authoritarianism and nationalism has taken a terrible toll on India’s minorities and shows the democratic erosion taking place not just in America, but across the international playing field.
April 22, 2019, | 6:00 AM, et al. “Will Modi Drive India Away from Democracy?” Washington Monthly, 24 Apr. 2019, washingtonmonthly.com/2019/04/22/will-modi-drive-india-away-from-democracy/.
Gettleman, Jeffrey, et al. “Under Modi, a Hindu Nationalist Surge Has Further Divided India.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Apr. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/04/11/world/asia/modi-india-elections.html.