Among the 18,500 people who behaved like cheerleaders for Narendra Modi during his theatrics last Sunday at New York's Madison Square Garden, not one person would be able to defend the controversial Indian premier in a serious debate.
The section of the Indian (read Gujarati) Diaspora that is in a trance to see their rock star is either oblivious to the ugly realities of BJP-ruled India or is feigning ignorance to the stinky communal policies of the controversial leader. Controversial because despite being exonerated by the apex court for his role in anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, Washington refused to grant him a visa.
It was on his watch as chief minister that more than 2,000 people, mainly Muslims, were killed throughout Gujarat in 2002. A Human Rights Watch report issued that year asserted that the state government and local police officials were complicit in the carnage.
Modi did not visit the camps of the Muslims hounded out by rioters or apologized for his government's failure to protect the principal minority. Instead, he described the reprisal killings of Muslims that year as a simple "reaction" to an "action." He has gone on record as saying that he felt as sad about them as would a passenger in a car that accidentally ran over a puppy. His only regret, he told a journalist, was failing to manage the media fallout. The lawsuit alleging he failed to stop anti-Muslim rioting in 2002 casts some doubt over Modi's carefully nurtured image as a modernizing reformist who can rescue India's ailing economy.
The focus of this month's visit by the Chinese premier to Gujarat was aimed at turning Ahmedabad into Shanghai. Juhapura, a southwestern neighborhood is the largest Muslim ghetto in Modi's stronghold in the city. The engines of growth offered to Modi by Xi Jinping will stall at the "border." Modi's acclaimed bus network ends a few miles before Juhapura. According to reports, the route of a planned metro rail line also stops short of the neighborhood. The same goes for the city's gas pipelines, which are operated by a company belonging to a businessman close to Modi.
That he believes in polarizing Indian society by following his divisive policies can be deduced by his deliberate silence over venom spitting by his close aides. Amit Shah, Modi's alter ego, who conducted the poll campaign, faces murder charges dating to his time serving under Modi in Gujarat. Shah was recorded telling voters in Uttar Pradesh to reject parties with Muslim candidates. He said Muslims in the area had raped, killed and humiliated Hindus and that "the time has come to avenge those insults."
Sakshi Maharaj, a BJP parliamentarian from Uttar Pradesh, recently angered the principal minority by saying that madrassas are imparting education on terrorism and that Muslim men are getting paid to convert Hindu girls. And the very recent edict by some firebrand BJP leaders to deny Muslims entry to Garba shows during the Navratri festival also went unnoticed by Modi who claims in every speech that he wants to take all Indians together toward progress. Hold your breath, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an offshoot of the BJP's parent party, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has suggested cow urine drinking test to ascertain the entrants' religion at this year's celebrations. Did anyone hear its criticism from the leader who was recently heard telling CNN that "Indian Muslims will live and die for India" when asked about Al-Qaeda's plan to set up a base in India?
Modi's promises to govern as the leader of all Indians fell on deaf ears among the 200 million Muslims in India. He has put Yogi Adityanath in charge of the BJP strategy. Adityanath's claim to fame is his "purification drives" to convert Christians to his brand of Hinduism.
If the Congress is to be believed, there is "administrative terrorism" in the government's functioning. Constitutional rights of the civil servants are being "assaulted" by circulars preventing appointments of those officers, who had served in the previous regime.
Modi has spent much of September persuading the leaders of the world's biggest economies to invest in India. But the image of India that Modi wants to portray before Indian Americans is far from reality. Although he tried his best to take the credit for India's successful Mars mission, the premier can't escape the dark reality of India — a rape epidemic.
The number of rapes reported in India from 1953 to 2011 has shot up 873 percent, according to statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau. In 2011, 24,206 rape cases were reported in India. (This increase could reflect, in part, a greater willingness by victims to come forward.)
America can do business with Modi who got 31.8 percent of the vote share, but the land of the free can't ignore the aspirations of 68.2 percent Indians who did not vote for him.
[The above article was first published by Arab News. The views expressed are of the writer's own.]