Narendra Modi’s time as Prime Minister of India has been watched closely by the world as escalations have heightened with Pakistan in recent years. Modi has enacted many policies and actions that are anti-Muslim while he pushes for a united Hindu-Indian identity for the country. Beyond these actions, Modi and his administration have taken actions that promote democratic erosion by attacking the media and eroding the rights of certain groups of citizens. Despite these actions, Modi still retains a quite high approval rating in India, around 78% on average, showing domestic support for his actions. Narendra Modi’s time as Prime Minister of India has been watched closely by the world as escalations have heightened with Pakistan in recent years. Modi has enacted many policies and actions that are anti-Muslim while he pushes for a united Hindu-Indian identity for the country. Beyond these actions, Modi and his administration have taken actions that promote democratic erosion by attacking the media and eroding the rights of certain groups of citizens. Despite these actions, Modi still retains a quite high approval rating in India, around 78% on average, showing domestic support for his actions.
Since Modi’s coming to power, he has sought to push a Hindu-Nationalist agenda in India. His agenda has led to policies that ostracize Muslims who live in India and have barred entry to those who wish to go to India to seek better opportunities. Due to these policies and actions, violence against Muslims has risen in cities across India; although these would be considered religious hate crimes, many of the perpetrators are not prosecuted, or the victims are not taken seriously. Despite the rise in violence, Modi and his administration decline that the increase in violence is taking place and are being spread as “misinformation,” similar to Trump’s term of “fake news.” Due to this hostility taking place, India is becoming a more polarized society, and just as indicated by Graham and Svolik, people in India, much like America, are falling into a polarized state where Modi’s government can institute policies such as his anti-terrorism policy that tears away at people’s democratic liberties. Graham and Svolik’s case study in the United States revealed that in a polarized society, many people are willing to give up their civil liberties in order for their side to overcome their opposition, and with this analysis, many links can be seen to be developing in India under Modi.
Perhaps the most leading cause of India becoming a more polarized state is the continued aggression and discrimination of Muslims in India. Modi’s time in office has seen the erosion of secular India and more pushes with Hinduism being tied in with being Indian. Modi introduced a new law that allows for illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan to become Indian citizens if they are from religious minorities of these countries, including all religious identities, except for Muslims. This law, now allows for greater discrimination against Muslim migrants from these countries as they can now be deported or imprisoned, however, sometimes this isn’t the worst outcome as the increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes has also been targeted against these migrants. This bill further pushes a more polarized society as Modi, and his administration seeks to erase a Muslim identity in India.
Beyond the blatant discrimination against Muslims that Modi has employed, he and his administration have also attacked democratic institutions, namely the media and the judicial system. In 2018, many senior Supreme Court Justices in India accused the Chief Justice Dipak Misra of abusing his position of power in order to benefit the Modi administration. Misra was accused of assigning cases against the normal norms and rules to see more beneficial resolutions go through to support Modi’s policies. The four justices who brought this to the media’s attention stated: “The four of us are convinced that unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country.” Although Modi hasn’t taken action against the courts such as what has taken place in Poland, with him not addressing this issue and essentially turning a blind eye to something that benefits him, he is not upholding democratic norms which as shown by Levitsky and Ziblatt in How Democracies Die, the erasure of norms can have a large lasting detrimental effect on democratic practices in a country. Furthermore, Modi and his government have been found to have close ties with many figures in the media, helping to shape Modi-friendly narratives. Furthermore, members of Modi’s administration have utilized slander and hate speech laws in order to silence journalists who criticize the Modi government. These attacks on institutions of democracy further polarize India as supporters of Modi support these actions, and by doing this, are heightening the tensions with the opposition, as seen by the recent protests by university students and activists.
The recent outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has only increased the polarization in the country as the pandemic has been taken advantage of both by Modi’s administration and its supporters. After a group of Muslim missionaries accelerated the spread of the virus in New Delhi, a rapid rise of anti-Muslim sentiment spread throughout India, extending the already anti-Muslim ideology that has been spreading rapidly under Modi’s time in office. Modi’s administration has also taken advantage of the pandemic by attempting to censor the media by requiring media sources to first present their coverage of the pandemic with the government first, allowing government officials to censor any coverage that they thought would diminish their image. Much of this information has been classified as false, and Modi’s supporters can take this information as “fake news” and further spread false facts. As indicated by Gunther, Beck, and Nisbet, “fake news” did have an effect in the 2016 election in the United States, and in India, it can be seen to be taking effect as more people fall in line with Modi’s Hindu-nationalistic ideal.
Modi’s rise to power has seen the diminishment of a secular India in favor of a unified Hindu-nationalist identity. With this has come the complete polarization of Indian society, especially in the urban centers where many Muslim migrant workers come to seek jobs but are instead persecuted and are attacked by Modi’s policies. Modi and his administration have actively performed actions that attack democratic institutions and norms in India, leading to democratic erosion that, if not curbed soon, could potentially have long-lasting effects.
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