Today, India is not what it was before he won the elections

Published: February 27, 2016

The arrest raised fears over freedom of speech in the country's top universities. PHOTO: AFP

Is India paying the price for electing Narendra Modi as its prime minister? I ask this question regularly because since Modi assumed office in Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been hurtling the country from one controversy to another.

An atmosphere of fear has been created where any opposition to majoritarian politics is termed anti-national and the questioning of the government’s divisive agenda invites counter protests and blame for vitiating the atmosphere of the country. The state, therefore, has created enemies out of its own citizens by labelling them liberals, seculars, freethinkers and religious minority.

The current controversy involving New Delhi based Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is an extension of the majoritarian narrative that started with the arrival of Modi. The campus debate on capital punishment and politics in Kashmir has been blown out of proportion and students have been arrested on charges of sedition. This is an unprecedented situation, where the country is witnessing an undeclared state of emergency and any voice of dissent and non-conformism is being termed as seditious.

The JNU is a popular university in India which excels not only in academics but also in politics; a place where students – regardless of their ideological beliefs – are made politically aware of the issues affecting the world.

For the first time, we have a situation where a xenophobic mob that holds loyalty with the right-wing government is being imposed on those who question the ruling dispensation. No one is safe, be it the students, academicians or journalists – they are all on the hit-list of the lynch mob, because they don’t subscribe to how Hindu radicals perceive nationalism.

The BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have always struggled to find their mark in this kind of liberal space. Their rigid worldview does not find resonance among people who counter their ideological agenda. In order to establish its hegemony in the university campus, the BJP is trying to use the might of the state machinery to control the bastion of liberal education.

To legitimise their action, the ruling party is blaming the students for shouting anti-India slogans in the name of observing the death anniversary of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri, who was hanged in 2013 for his complicity in the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001. It’s very common for students to debate over the issue of Kashmir and capital punishment. The student wing of the BJP, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) acted as an agent provocateur leading to the president of the JNU students’ union, Kanhaiya Kumar, being arrested on charges of sedition along with two students who have been detained on the same charges.

The JNU campus has debated over the issues of Guru, capital punishment and the Kashmir dispute for many years, but why has it become ‘seditious’ this time?

Why did the state intervene in such a heavy handed manner? Why should the Indian government monitor debates at universities?

It is bizarre to accuse students of being anti-nationals.

This is not only an attack on the campus, but an extremely planned intrusion into the democratic space of India. This is a collaborated attempt to impose a narrow sectarian worldview on the campus which prides itself on its diversity.

Pakistan knows the baneful impact of ultra-nationalism and jingoism; it stifles democracy and the citizens gradually lose their basic fundamental rights. India today faces the same challenge. The country is completely polarised on the issue of nationalism.

Modi, as a prime minister, is a mute spectator of what’s happening under his very nose. Those who understand politics know that the prime minister is not helpless, but acting on a design of polarisation and is imposing a predominant Hindu majoritarian narrative on the nation.

Right from the beginning of his term, the government has been in a very confrontational mood. It banned a large majority of NGOs and their activities as a means of ‘protecting national interest’. Divisive issues like the beef ban and love jihad were brought to the forefront. When intellectuals and artists came forward to confront the country for rising intolerance, the ruling dispensation unleashed its own supporters on the liberals. In other words, anyone bringing up the issue of intolerance was maligned and hounded. An ecosystem of fear has been created and Modi has allowed his workers to spread this form of terrorism.

With that said, Modi keeps launching ‘Make in India,’ ‘Digital India’ and other programmes to portray his image as a concerned PM in terms of his country’s development, yet he deliberately remains silent on the divisive issues that are agitating the nation; just like he did during the Gujarat Riots. He blames the opposition for this mess, claiming that it’s a conspiracy to destabilise his government.

The annual reports from Amnesty International have pinpointed India for its failure to protect religious minorities and fanning sectarian conflicts. The first two years are generally the honeymoon period for any new government, but BJP has proven to be a nightmare for the masses in just 20 months.

In May 2014, Modi came with a promise of ushering in a new era of economic liberalisation and leading the country on the path of development. Despite the scepticism due to his past, many still trusted his words, thus voted for him. Today, India is not what it was before he won the elections. The promised economic turnaround is still in process. On the contrary, the economy is struggling. Therefore, the BJP is resorting to the politics of polarisation to hide its own failure on the economic front.

The political space of dissent has shrunk; democracy is under deep onslaught by right-wing Hindu groups. Moreover, India is moving towards mobocracy in the name of nationalism. The country is being assaulted on its democratic aspirations, attacked on its liberal and secular traditions; hence it’s a systemic insult to the idea of India.

It is not easy to witness the chaos that is taking over the country today.


Sanjay Kumar

A New Delhi based broadcast journalist who reports on national and international affairs. He is a contributor to the Asia Pacific based magazine, The Diplomat. He tweets as @destinydefier (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Milind A

    “Is India paying the price for electing Narendra Modi as its prime minister?’

    Not at all.. Anti-Indian thugs, Lutyens Delhi cartel, hypocrites and parasites who fed on the crumbs of the Govt largesse and who had a free ride till now are paying the price for electing Modi as PM.Recommend

  • JP

    This hits the place where neo conservative Indian Nazis
    live. Right in the fascist groin. The Old Grand Bharat is dead.
    What an excellent article ! Exposing the real horrid face
    of Mother India. A sickening plunge into the Abyss. Done for.
    No climbing out, no return. Not for Bharat.
    The RSS is another name for the Indian Nazi Party.Recommend

  • Gullu, Guddu and Gomnath.

    This blog will stir up the hornet’s nest.
    The Hindu cyber warriors will descend now.
    Mr. Kumar, please, stay safe.Recommend

  • MaheshRao

    We are slowly moving to become one more Pakistan while Pakistan is trying to wriggle out of its old image.Recommend

  • wb

    The problem with North Indians is that they think Hindi speakers constitute the whole country.

    And this is especially true to Delhi which is a puny little UT of India and constitute less than a percentage of India’s population.

    Jat violence or JNU issue does not mean the entire country.

    Delhi people really need to broaden their tunnel vision and almost narcissistic ego and look at the country as a unit that constitutes 100 different languages and 29 different states.

    28 of these states are living peacefully with themselves. And an average of these 28 states is at least 10 times bigger than Delhi.Recommend

  • bigbi

    To the author:
    The political space for denigrating and humiliating hindus and glorifying islam and muslims is sinking. That is what you should be now aware of. People all over the world now know that islam has the intention of exteminating non-muslims.Recommend

  • Average Indian

    Dear Author how much were you paid by congress to write this factually incorrect article.Recommend

  • Bairooni Haath

    Well, Mr. Kumar, I left India in 1992, because I could not stand the corruption, nepotism, sycophancy and pandering to caste, religion by the successive Congress governments. Maybe it is time for you to vote with your feet too! Pakistanis seem to love your blog, why not return the love by moving there!Recommend

  • Allah Hafiz

    Now you will tell us Indians what was India than and what it is now…Lets do one thing….Start finding people like u and put them at some place…..we will give u a congress leader for ur development ……lets see…and u are telling as if these things were negligible in your biradar congressi rule…I wonder….why is everybody behind modi and BJP when even they have not ruled India for more than 10 years in its historical democracy of 70 years….Congress could have make India better and should have improved literacy rate to almost 90% than we would have had may be kind of american talks….but alas….you guys can only write…no ground knowledge at all….i think you will like it if somebody says…he will make your house like hell and will beat you like what umar khalid said…Recommend

  • Dipak Mehta

    No India is paying the price for more than 5 decades of rule by Nehru Gandhi dynasty. Their crimes against India are coming out everyday. Rahul Gandhi, a product of
    Abrahamic religions Muslims and Christiansnis worried that finally Hindus of Hindustan,are taking over the country. So Congress Party is causing the trouble with the help of LeT.Recommend

  • LS

    Mr. Sanjay Kumar, Never even bothered to read your article. Not that I support BJP or Congress, but you clearly do not support India.

    “The campus debate on capital punishment and politics in Kashmir has been blown out of proportion and students have been arrested on charges of sedition.”

    Really? You are twisting the facts here. The event was booked for “Poetry Reading”, the posters with Juditial Killing written on it were NOT plastered by BJP. Afzal Guru was hanged by UPA not BJP. Posters demeaning Religions sentiments were NOT plastered by BJP but CPI. The seditious statements were NOT made by either BJP or ABVP but by CPI members and Non-JNU members hired from outside. The JNU committee which debarred these students were NOT hired by BJP but Congress.

    If you are looking for India where playing politics over dead bodies is more important than helping the dying youth or where politics of campus meant to destabilize the country is more important than education I suggest you find yourself a country that allows you to do that.

    What ever agenda you have to destroy the nation by supporting congress and CPI is not going to work.Recommend

  • Amak4u

    Shame on Sanjay for using a foreign platform to air his views that are music to his masters. Thats why he is being paid good money to write this no doubt. People like him are the anti-nationals and traitors and not some of the poor madrassa educated Muslims brainwashed with anti-India rhetoric.Recommend

  • singh

    So Modi has banned your NGO. Money stop flowing freely. Please go to Times Now & say same thing which you written here.
    Pathetic sickular.Recommend

  • zoro

    If its proved that the students were sowing seditious thoughts …. then YES the whole of the country would be proud to be called RSS… BJP … Nationalist … and YES for your satisfaction … KILLER OF DEMOCRACY ….
    Try the same in US too … and see where you will find yourself ….
    PSEUDO’s like you are spoiling the countries name for sure …Recommend

  • Jayut Jayanandana

    Freedom of speech – so hate speech should be under freedom of speech? can you do that in Pakistan against Mullahs and radical Sslamist jihadists? what happened to the Pakistani guy who raised Indian flag on ho rooftop which he says he did it bcos of respect for Virat Kohli? He was in jail for months and might be sentenced for life ? Yes I am also a Hindu but at the same time I am against many move by BJP and Modi- as an Indian and as a largest democracy in the world- i can criticize my govt – my army as long as positive and constructive -but I will never cheer Afzal Guru for his attack in our parliament -if in China he would have been shot to death within weeks – but we respect human rights -we gave him a chance to fight with his lawyer for years -from our taxpayers’ money —
    And remind you ,at the JNU its a communist party who did it and in Calcutta its again by Communist Party (SFI-Student federation of India)– so u can see some foreign powers are trying to destabilze IndiaRecommend

  • Swaadhin

    Sir, the terms like bhagwakaran, sanghi and hindutvavadi did not fall from heaven’s, these were carefully crafted abuses out of words which evoke a deep sense of emotion among many Hindus, the credit for this goes to the Congress and the leftists like you who claim to be international citizens and hence have nothing to do with Indian nationalism, your hypocrisy shows when you refuse to take a stand against the right wing forces which come with a different colour. Where does your concern go when Taslima Nasreen and Salman Rushdie are hounded out of India.
    When your ideology is in absolute control, you wipe out your oponents as you did in the South America, Cuba, North Korea and China while not even putting up a fight in places where being an atheist would take you to gallows but this ideology is showing its true colours in the Indian democracy, a common man simply needs to keep his eyes and ears open.

    Please stop assuming your idea of India is to be the perfect one and hence need to be thrust down everyone’s throat. Your tasting your own medicine and if your not liking it, you need to blame yourselves.Recommend

  • Test Test

    This author as well as many left/congress aligned journalists keep crying wolf. JNU keeps talking about freedom of expression, however in its over 40 years history, it has not allowed any alternate viewpoint other than a leftist viewpoint. This is a hypocritical view. They have systematically ensured only one point of view is allowed i.e the left point of view. They have never sympathized with genuine issues like the massive ethnic cleansing of Pandits from Kashmir valley but would take up any other matter. They are stridently anti-hindu but would not say anything against other religions. High time these pseudo nationalists arguing for Freedom of expression are exposed for what they are i.e a bunch of hypocrites feeding off from indian tax payers money.Recommend

  • Anuj Bajpai

    Riots were happening even before 2014. Muzaffarpur and Assam both happened when Congress led UPA was in power in center and Both state govt were also from UPA. But in india most of the Media houses are supporters of congress. They only highlight the issues were victims are Muslim/Dalit. Recently in Pune a hindu man was burnt alive by three muslim men. Media didn’t give importance to this issue.This week in lucknow a general category student committed suicide and there is no coverage in mainstream media like the coverage given to Dalit student Rohit Vemula. 1 RSS man was killed in kerala, 3 BJP leaders in Bihar and no media coverage. Why?? Because congress want indians to believe that india has become intolerant towards dalit/Muslims so opposition leaders visit the places were victims are muslim or dalit. Media also give these incidents too much importance and ignore other incidents.Recommend

  • Kumar Ravish

    Only for the leftist and congress wala who enjoyed the patronage earlier Recommend

  • True Nationalist -Secularist

    India’s liberal, plural, democratic foundation is under serious challenge from some right wing religious terror groups. these groups instead of working for building nation , are busy destroying foundation by taking up issues relating to dietery habits,clothes, movies,books,education,dissent , freedom of expression, discrminating people on basis of caste/faith/gender/sexual orientation. with such backward looking ideology of these terror groups lead by sangh parivar, india’s growth story is afffected. modi will have to wriggle out this chakravyuh(maze) created by sangh parivar and take India forward , not backward.Recommend

  • Vikas Pandey

    I pity your understanding of india!!!Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was interesting……nothing wrong in ringing the alarm bell IF there actually is a fire….but then there’s nothing wrong in stamping out a fire before it bursts into flames IF there actually is a fire. The question seems to be ‘ Is there really a fire ? ‘ or is all politics.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    JP would be ashamed of you.Recommend

  • Tenzing Norgay

    You seem to be living in a world according to you.
    With a strange idiosyncratic comment. IF you don’t
    see the fire now, you will never see it, You will be
    running down the street with your pagri and hair on
    fire, looking for the nearest ditch of water.
    ‘The political space of dissent has shrunk. Democracy
    is under a deep onslaught by right wing wing extremists
    and religious groups. The country is moving towards
    mob ocracy, in the name of patriotism and nationalism,
    and religious fanaticism.’ Ring a bell? NO not Pakistan !
    This is about secular India ! In some states local village
    and town councils have passed laws and regulations
    forbidding non Hindu religious gatherings. Meaning Christians
    cannot have church services !! [Muslims? they are abysmally
    hated, in India]. But since there are more than 200 million
    of them in India, they have to be dealt with slowly. No rush.
    And Nepalis in India? There are no such people.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    RSS is not forcing itself on public. people are coming to it on their own.
    RSS is pure and truthful and that’s what winning the hearts of people of India.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Appreciate your view point….and thanks for the response although it appears a bit strong.
    Let me explain…..I am a observer from Pakistan and take an interest ( only on this ET site ) on matters regarding India and I try to get a ‘ feel ‘ of ground realities. At present on this issue, I am undecided.Recommend

  • Trolly

    Agree completely.
    Also, other states are more civilised than Delhi, Bihar and UP. It is high time the BIMARU caught up with the rest of the country. It is unfortunate the politicians pander to these people.Recommend

  • E x p a t r i a t e

    Pakistan is not even 10% of what India is when it comes to hate crimes, racism, polarization, killing freedom of speech. Pakistan is still very tolerant and people here are still having a good life, with few exceptions. Unlike India, the terrorism here is not due to its own govt, but few non state elements, which are now almost cleaned up by the efforts of our strong armed forces.Recommend

  • LS

    Delusions? A temple, A Church, A Gurudwara are razed and destroyed every other month… There is a call on National TV to get rid of Ahmadia’s as Wajibul Qatal, Shia Mosques are bombed and Christians are burned, blasphemy laws are invoked in wanton.. 5000 Hindu girls are forcibly raped and Married only to be dumped later on…

    There are almost 50 gun totting terrorist organizations in Pakistan and state sponsored terrorism in Balochistan, Fata, Sindh and AJK.

    Very peaceful indeed.Recommend

  • E x p a t r i a t e

    I dont know which channels you watch and see temple/gurdwara/church being burnt every month? You must be an Indian and that’s why you might be watching idiotic baseless reports like these. Yes there are few incidents in the recent past, but those are very less in number, and over the years. I say, stop following your TV and Media blindly, and if you want to see the reality of Pakistan, watch some sane and authentic Pakistani news channel, because the media here is so independent that even Govt. has no control over it. The link you have provided is just a list of terrorist groups, and on the same website, have you seen the list of terrorist groups of India?

    No comparison in numbers. The terrorist groups are basically the non-state elements funded and raised by Indian Agencies (Its an open truth now and proofs and evidences are presented by Pakistan at many International Forums). India is funding and sourcing terrorist groups in Balochistan (Pak Army has almost crushed those elements and cleanup is underway). India is the illegal occupant on Kashmir, denying the resolutions of United Nations. The FATA thing is now under control, due to all the efforts of our Armed Forces, 3400 Terrorists have been killed, more than 21000 arrested, in the biggest anti-terrorist operation in decades in this region.

    You do some research before just putting up your comments here. If 5000 hindu girls were raped, not even a single TV report? Not even a single Case in Higher Courts? No media reached there in this technology Era? You are being delusional.Recommend

  • LS

    Do you need my help to google to check how many temples and Churches are destroyed? You can do that yourself. About the terrorist organizations they are not causing Havoc across the world like Al-Qaida, Taliban, LeT, JeM etc. Most of them are inward looking and Inactive and those that are active most of them are Islamic.

    Your armed forces surrender in front of those terrorists in ground fight so now they use aircraft to bomb them.. and claim that everyone who dies is a Militant. Really your bombs can distinguish precisely who is a militant and who is a civilian and only kills militants?

    Your own minister from Sindh said that… We all know what your puppet media does on orders of ISI. Your ISPR is your only source to the killings because your media is NOT ALLOWED TO REPORT on it. Your own media says that they are NOT allowed to comment on AJK, Karachi, Balochistan and Zarb-i-Azb operations.

    I am not talking about Indian TV or media.. I am talking about international Media reports… Indian Media has no time to talk about Pakistani issues. They only report what comes from news agencies…

    In these reports you would also find that “Bharchundi Sharif” has a target of converting 2000 girls to Islam every year..Recommend

  • Col Neerav Bhatnagar

    I was in college when Emergency was declared and all the leaders from opposition were put behind bars, media was censored, we lived that. Then started the khalistan demand again culprit was Indira Gandhi, there was mutiny in army as well, we lived that also. The Sikh army officers those days used to openly show doubts on India’s unity and integrity. Then started the anti reservation movement and for days young were on streets some even immolated them selves, but India lived that also. We lived through many riots and killings, we will live through this, as well. There is no fire on in India and Pl for your own vested interests do not misuse your position also to unnecessarily create one.Recommend