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Human Rights Politics

India Reacted With Roaring Approval As Hindu Nationalist Modi Clampdown On Kashmir

As Narendra Modi, the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, had clamped down on Kashmir to near-totalitarian levels, India “reacted with roaring approval” and “even some of his political opponents were calling out support”, The Washington Post said in a report.

“All of Kashmir is ours!” a jubilant middle-aged demonstrator, draped in the saffron-coloured scarf, shouted during a New Delhi street celebration just before Parliament voted to end Kashmir’s decades of semi-autonomy.

“Modi has fulfilled another promise,” said a more quiet-spoken supporter, Sushanto Sen, a retired senior manager with an aerospace and defence company, who lives in the crowded north Indian city of Lucknow. “Kashmir is part of India, and whatever rules apply to us should apply to others too.”

To his critics, Modi is an authoritarian manipulator who wants to turn India into an avowedly Hindu nation. But to his supporters, Modi is an incorruptible ascetic unafraid to tell the truth — a man who understands what it means to be poor but, like so many of his supporters, wants India to be treated with respect by the rest of the world.

According to The Washington Post, Indian prime ministers have long been expected to be unapproachable and intellectual, but not Modi who has carefully crafted a different public image. “Even as he avoids unscripted moments — he rarely talks to reporters, and most of his appearances are in TV speeches or political rallies — he is still seen by many as an Indian everyman.”

Modi is the proud son of a tea-stall owner who became a canny politician and skilled orator and who now, Putin-like, does adventure TV shows like “Man vs Wild.” (Unlike Putin, though, Modi keeps his shirt on).

Noting that he has garnered more public support since becoming prime minister in 2014 as reflected his huge victory in this year’s general elections, the newspaper says Modi first made a name for himself as a roving organizer for RSS, a Hindu nationalist group with millions of followers that eventually gave rise to the BJP.

“Today, Modi’s Hinduism often goes unspoken but is regularly on display. While things like yoga and vegetarianism have little religious connotation in the West, their Hindu connections are clear to Indian voters — especially when practiced by a politician.”

One of Modi’s brothers said that his fascination with power reaches back to his childhood, when he first began attending meetings at the local RSS unit.

Amit Shah, his closest aide, is widely seen as the architect of the government’s Hindu agenda. Both men have long argued for the revocation of special status for Kashmir, a mountainous Muslim state of pine forests, clear streams and highly fertile lowland soil.

While Kashmir has long seen itself as a suffering stepchild of India, forced to endure the presence of hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers, many Indians — and especially the BJP — saw the region as the ungrateful recipient of those legal protections.

But why bother to take away protections that, for the most part, now mean little? Enter Modi, who said he wanted to bring Kashmir more fully into India, ending the insurgency and jump-starting development.

“A new age has begun,” he said in a nationally televised speech last week, saying the old system had created “secessionism, terrorism, nepotism and widespread corruption.”


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