US President Trump’s presence at Prime Minister Modi’s rally in Houston during the latter’s US visit, underlined the ideological closeness of both the far-right, fascist politicians.
The “Howdy Modi” rally organised by the international members of the Hindutva-supremacist RSS doubled as an election campaign rally for Trump, who faces re-election in 2020. Modi referred to Trump as “candidate Trump”, and chanted a Modi-inspired Trump campaign slogan - ‘Abki Baar Trump Sarkar’ - effectively asking Indian-Americans to vote Trump in the US Presidential elections. Modi thus became the first elected leader of a country to campaign for a candidate in a foreign country’s election.
In his speech at the event, Modi ironically spoke about India’s diversity in language, faith, food – a diversity which he, his Government, and the Sangh Parivar attack at home in India! He claimed that his Government had abrogated Article 370 to ensure that “Kashmir’s people now have the same rights as the rest of India.” This claim boggles the mind, given that Kashmir is a prison, deprived of communication, mobility, politics, protest, and subjected to illegal arrests and torture.
Modi’s hypocritical claims about diversity and democracy were exposed at the event itself. The event’s organisers did not allow Indian-American comedian Hasan Minhaj to attend the rally, on the grounds that his shows have been critical of Modi. But while Minhaj was prevented from entering the hall, Minhaj’s picture was displayed inside the hall on a big screen, as one among several successful Indian-Americans! Minhaj’s image was displayed as a token of diversity while Minhaj himself was excluded on account of his criticism of Modi and the BJP. Likewise, Modi while abroad makes tokenistic mention of India’s Constitution, democracy, and diversity while attacking the same at home.
Trump’s speech at the event spoke of the concerns about “border security” that India and the US share - thus using his own xenophobic election hate-speech about a “border wall” against “illegal immigrants” to tacitly endorse the BJP’s sinister NRC project which threatens to render millions stateless in India.
In India’s the economy is in deep crisis thanks entirely to Modi’s policies – belying Modi’s claims in Houston that “All Is Well” in India. In his speeches at Houston as well as the UN General Assembly, Modi touted the supposed success of the Swachh Bharat campaign against open defecation. He was also given an award by the Gates Foundation for the supposed success of this mission. The grim reality behind the hype is that the campaign has been an excuse for mob lynching of minorities and Dalits, even as Dalit sanitation workers continue to die cleaning sewers. Just the other day, two Dalit children in Madhya Pradesh were killed by a mob on the pretext that they were defecating in the open.
Modi and the BJP, helped by a pliant Indian media, have tried to claim that Modi’s US visit and Trump’s praise for him at his rally establish Modi as a great statesman, and count as an endorsement of the Government of India’s positions on Kashmir, and on Pakistan. However, Trump also addressed a Press Conference with Pakistani PM Imran Khan, in which he called for dialogue between India and Pakistan, offered to mediate on Kashmir, and categorically refused to endorse India’s claim that Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism. In other words, he pointedly distanced himself from Modi’s and the Government of India’s narrative - on Pakistan’s links with terrorism, and on Kashmir being an “internal matter”.
In his Press Conferences with Modi and Khan respectively, Trump expressed his admiration for the sycophantic reporters of both India and Pakistan. Trump is known to have an adversarial relationship with the US journalists – who consistently do their job of questioning his policies. So his admiration for Indian and Pakistani journalists suggests that the latter are a disgrace to their profession.
Modi remained shamefully silent on the caging of Kashmir at the UNGA. But if he hoped that his silence would stop the global conversation on Kashmir, he was wrong. It was not only leaders of foreign countries (China, Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey) who raised their voices on Kashmir. Outside the UN building, there was a massive protest demonstration in solidarity with Kashmir. Likewise, at Houston and elsewhere in the US, there were spirited demonstrations in solidarity with Kashmir, which also highlighted the links between Modi’s and Trump’s politics; between the Sangh’s Hindu-supremacist far-right politics, and the white supremacist politics represented by Trump.
Modi’s US visit has not established him as a “great world leader” - it has only confirmed his place among the world’s tyrants, authoritarians and fascists.