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With many eminent scholars, writers, academicians and scientists raising their voices against the rising intolerance in India — where scholars are assassinated, secular intellectural are targetted, minorities are murdered for their eating habits, and Hindu supremist rhetoric has become common-place — Modi's well-cultivated image abroad seems to have taken a beating.
For long, the US and UK governments had imposed a visa ban on Modi for his alleged role in the Gujarat riots of 2002 and it was only after he was given a clean chit by the highest court in the country and he became prime minister by a sweeping majority, that they changed their stance.
In the light of recent incidents, western media has carried pieces which show how Modi's "superstar" image abroad, especially among Indian borns, is perhaps in the doldrums.
Pankaj Mishra writes in the Guardian:
Modi was always an odd choice to lead India into the 21st century. Meeting him early in his career, the distinguished social psychologist Ashis Nandy assessed Modi as a “classic, clinical case” of the “authoritarian personality”, with its “mix of puritanical rigidity, narrowing of emotional life” and “fantasies of violence”. Such a figure could describe refugee camps with tens of thousands of Muslim survivors of the 2002 pogrom as “child-breeding centres”. Asked repeatedly about his culpability in the killings, Modi insisted that his only mistake was bad media management. Pressed repeatedly over a decade about such extraordinary lack of remorse, he finally said that he regretted the killings as he would a “puppy being run over by a car”.
He further writes:
Modi’s ascent through a variety of enablers, whitewashers and wealth-creators invites us to probe our own complicity as fools and knaves in increasingly everyday forms of violence and dispossession. For Modi’s ruthless economism is a commonplace phenomenon, marked everywhere by greed, sophistry and a contempt for human life and dignity – symptoms, as GN Devy, one of India’s most bracing thinkers, put it last month, of a worldwide transition into a “post-human” existence.
Aditya Chakrabortty in his opinion piece for the same publication writes:
Well, imagine any national leader – Cameron, Merkel, Obama – spending a large chunk of his or her life working for a gang of religious fascists – one that renowned academics compare to Islamic State. Chuck in a long personal history of inciting religious hostility, a track record of cosying up to big business, and a reputation for ruthlessness towards enemies. Now put this extremist in charge of a nuclear state. Worried yet?
Now that Modi is failing to turn around India, he and his generals fall back on the old trick of hunting for an enemy: Pakistan, religious minorities, pseudo-seculars. An environment now exists in which scholars who criticise Hindu idol worship receive death threats, and are then murdered. An intellectual who invites a former Pakistani minister to give a talk in Mumbai is nabbed by Hindu zealots and smeared with ink. Writers, academics and scientists return their national honours to Delhi in protest at the officially sponsored thuggishness.
An editorial in the New York Times published on Nov 9, 2015 called "A rebuke to India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi" reads:
As prime minister, he has yet to deliver big economic improvements, but in the meantime, members of his government and political party have shredded his promise of inclusion by inflaming sectarian tensions. Now, voters in the country’s third most populous state have sent Mr. Modi a message: Put an end to the hatemongering.
In the months leading up to the Bihar election, hard-liners in the B.J.P. and organizations affiliated with the party stoked India’s long-simmering sectarian tensions. The party’s lawmakers pushed for beef bans around the country ostensibly to protect the cow, which many Hindus consider holy, but really as a ploy to divide Hindus and Muslims, some of whom eat beef.
Mr. Modi has not forcefully condemned the beef-related killings, despite pleas by Muslims and other minorities. He has tolerated hateful and insensitive remarks by his ministers and by B.J.P. officials.
Tunku Varadarajan who is the Virginia Hobbs Carpenter Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution wrote in the Indian Express on Nov 9, 2015:
The conservatism that we see today is not fiscal but religious. The order we see being imposed on India is not national but Hindu. After campaigning the Amit Shah Way, Modi is now governing the Amit Shah Way. There is no calm, there is no reflection, there is no attention paid to what ails the nation. Instead, we have a Nonstop Campaign. There is scarcely a moment or opportunity when Modi thinks of the nation first, and not of his party and its saffron fellow travellers.
Harish Khare in his piece for the Tribune wrote after the outcome of Bihar assembly elections that Modi has lost both trust and moral licence, two things a prime minister cannot do without, but he gives Modi a chance at redemption:
It is still open to Mr. Modi to redeem himself. The only painful question is whether he would belatedly understand that he was not elected to an all-powerful presidency but to the office of Prime Minister. India has become too argumentative and too democratic a nation to pay homage to an emperor. Mr. Modi can still salvage his government’s efficacy and respectability if he is made to realise that a Prime Minister cannot demand or dictate conciliation and cooperation from all stakeholders in the polity. The Modi presidency is over.
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