Book Review Modi's India

“The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth, and truth be defamed as lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world – and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end – is being destroyed. “

Hannah Arendt
Why I picked this book?

Modi’s India talks about the present, the present that we are living. How things have changed since 2014, and are these changes for good? As a democracy where is India heading to and are we on the right path? This book documents the changes in the social and political atmosphere of the country since 2014. The book provides a structured and chronological account of the changes over a period of last six years.

To understand better what has changed for common citizens and how it affects us directly and indirectly, I choose to read and find out.

The Book

Modi’s India captures the making and rise of Modi since his Gujrat years into a cult figure. It takes the readers through the initial years of his political career to his becoming the PM for second time. The story flows in a linear pattern giving the readers an understanding that Gujrat was the laboratory of Hindutva politics which is now played at the national level now. His journey from a populist CM to a populist PM consolidating Hindus first in Gujrat and then across the country. Along the process giving legitimacy to the vigilante mobs who harass Muslims and Christians with the help of the state and then using the state machinery to do it.

The book starts with giving the readers and idea about what Hindu Nationalism is and who were the pioneers of this thought. The views of RSS and Hindu Mahasabha about India even before we got independence. They envisaged it different from what Nehru, Patel, Gandhi, Abul Kalam and many others thought of India as a country. For them India belongs to Hindus, and so Muslims and Christians are outsiders and can’t be equal to Hindus. This is the inherent belief of RSS and the other organizations affiliated to RSS. A brief history of RSS and Savarkar gives an idea about their ideology.

The author tells us about how Modi “ruled” Gujrat. He was hailed as “Hindu Hriday Samrat” post the 2002 riots. From there on he became a larger-than-life hero for the Gujratis, for them he was a person of humble background who is out there to save Hindus and their “Asmita”. Modi mainly played on rhetoric more than actual work, more than governance it was about grandstanding and event management. There are many examples of it like this one where the mythical Saraswati river was revived on which a huge amount is spent.

“Five crore is the one-time expenditure the government has incurred. But what remains hidden is the electricity bill the state would have to cough up for keeping the Saraswati flowing. The water flowing in Saraswati is pumped from 80 km away at a daily cost of 3 lakh.”

The same continued when he became PM in 2014. Event management and spectacle were his main tools to keep the citizens engaged and in awe. His first term saw the non-state actors playing a role of enforcing Hindu majoritarian views. We saw a lot of vigilante groups in action like gau rakshaks, beating and killing people in the name of saving cows. Similar groups formed claiming to stop love-jihad, land-jihad to save the Hindu culture. They ran a parallel state with support from the local administration. The government did not do anything to stop them, in fact in some cases they were facilitated by the minsters, giving a legitimacy to these groups and their actions.

By the time he became PM for the second time in 2019, Modi was larger than life. Though the process of weakening and taking control of the several institutions was started with his first term as PM, but now the process took the speed. All the institutions responsible for checks and balances were taken control of and the last bastion the Supreme court also finally surrendered to the government during his second term. The author provides in detail the deinstitutionalizing of all the vital and important institutions.

Modi’s India captures how in this period there were many legislations which was passed by the government which weakened the civil society and their power to ask questions. People were incarcerated for showing dissent and asking questions, a good example is people jailed in the Bheema Koregoan case and Students Jailed under UAPA. The abrogation of Art 370, the passing of CAA and many other such instances where it was a show of complete and brute majority with no regard to democratic process.

Finally, the book let the readers know that from a democracy the state has become a vigilante state, where it runs on the whims and fancies of one leader and where there is no regard for any democratic process. Where the public space is Hinduized, and minorities are told that they are second class citizens. A state where no dissent is allowed and if you raise a voice, you are put behind bars under the draconian and regressive law UAPA. India as a country has become a ethnic democracy where majoritarianism is the rule now and secularism and religious liberalism is not only frowned upon but punished.

About the author

Christophe Jaffrelot is director of research at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS in Paris, professor of Indian politics and sociology at King’s College London, and a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His books include The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience and Business and Politics in India (co-edited with Atul Kohli and Kanta Murali). He lives in Le Chesnay, France.

Our verdict

Modi’s India is a must read for everyone who want to understand where we are as a country right now and how it has changed over a period of last 7-8 years. How we turned into an ethnic democracy and what will be the impact if it continues to be like it. Very well written and structured book to give the readers of complete sense of how we have become of what we have become as a country.

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