I followed keenly India’s general elections for the first time in my life. Prior to this time, I simply waited for the emergence of the prime minister following elections there.
It was my hope that the Congress party led by the Ghandi scion won’t win. I, like many Indians I know or followed couldn’t bear another tenure of their brazen corruption which was stinking to high heavens. At some point, each new week was heralded with another shameful act of members of that family or cronies, with so much impunity while everyone including security agents and police simply looked on. Some people moderated their criticism, so they won’t be accused of racism seeing that the head of the party at some point was Rajiv Ghandi’s Italian-born widow Sonia, before her son tookover.
Most analysts assert that it was more of a rejection of the policies of the Congress Party than it was a win for Narendra Modi’s BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY, BJP. I felt he would’ve given the ruling party a run for their money, but I must have been myopic enough not to have seen a victory for him in the horizon, definitely not in the overwhelming manner he took it. I must’ve been paying too much attention to Al Jazeera’s covering of the election which focused more on the negatives associated with Modi, especially that relating to the massacre of Muslims by Hindus under his watch as chief minister of Gujarat State.
Though I think he should’ve handled the situation better, it appeared not to have impacted much in the outcome of the elections. Interestingly, the same United States which blacklisted him years back following that ugly incident was among the first nations to congratulate him on winning the elections to become India’s 15th Prime Minister. This is the man they would’ve to deal with after placing a ban on him from visiting the United States. He would now have to visit not just the land, but it’s seat of power at the White House, once the invitation (which I expect won’t be long in coming) is extended to him, especially seeing that America needs a strong ally in Asia to whittle the growing strength of China and its increasing threat to America’s interest in the region.
His invitation to Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif to attend his inauguration may be an indication of better days to come as regards Indo-Pakistani relations which suffered heavily under his predecessor. Hopefully, the Kashmiri situation will see some deescalation of tensions with Pakistan under his watch. It will also serve to reassure India’s Muslim population of an intention to steer away from the figure of Hindu nationalist which he represented for many years. India’s Muslims shouldn’t be made to feel alienated, anymore than they already feel and the way to achieve this is if he rules, or better still leads like the father of all Indians regardless of their race, religion, creed and caste.
I do not have fears for India economically. The world’s largest exporter of CEO’s cannot fail to impress. The present economic gloom is global and the current situation isn’t unusual. Tackling endemic corruption should be Modi’s top priority economically if the full potentials of the Indian economy is to be attained.
I have always loved India, since my childhood days, mainly due to many of the movies I grew up seeing on BETAMAX. I knew the popular Hindi words like “Nehi” even before I could construct words in English. I even had some of my childhood dreams in Hindi (though I didn’t understand a word of what was spoken, and my dreams weren’t subtitled) with backgrounds of Bombay before it became Mumbai. I dreamt of visiting the Taj Mahal. I have very good Indian friends who promise to make my visit to Mumbai worthwhile should I decide to visit.
Unfortunately, recent news from India has caused me to rethink my plans for an eventual visit. I believe also that many in my shoes feel the same way. Tales and news that have reached the ears from India suggesting that it’s become the RAPE capital has left a sour taste in my mouth. I was heavily saddened to hear of the female medical student that was assaulted and raped in a bus by four men after beating her male friend to a state of unconsciousness less than two years ago. Their sentencing to death after India’s rape law was repealed following massive outcry within and outside the country wasn’t enough to pacify the pain I still feel in learning of her death from the injuries she sustained. More painful was the fact that many such cases of rape remain unreported because the police wouldn’t act on the information, going as far as even blaming the victims for the attack, coupled with the fact that most of the females out of shame go on to even commit suicide.
When last week I saw on CNN, the body of two sisters hanging from a mango tree, I felt in the instance that it must’ve happened in Pakistan (after news about a woman stoned by her father and other members of her family for defying their order not to marry some other man she was in love with had made the news earlier in the day), only to tear up in learning once again that it had happened in my beloved India, and again to my chagrin, the police condoned it. My pain again wasn’t tempered in learning that some of the policemen involved in the case have been suspended and some of the suspected perpetrators arrested.
Modi has got to address this issue headlong before it becomes hydra-headed and near impossible to eradicate. He must show the political will in fighting this scourge that’s either creeping up all of a sudden or might have always been there but just become more widely reported. He must encourage activities that will engender attitudinal change amongst Indian families and males, the end of which is to place women in their rightful place of respect in the society regardless of race or caste. We are tired of hearing of tales of foreign female tourists and journalists been raped even close to temples, or of heroic tactics employed by same in jumping from the balcony of their hotel rooms just to escape been raped by the hotel manager or room service boy.
I am, and I suppose many lovers of India are irked by these stories and would wish we just stopped hearing them, not because they are covered up, but rather because the perpetrators of the heinous acts of rape and violence against women are brought to book, victims rehabilitated and programmes to change the orientation of these men and boys embarked upon vigorously with the aim to reducing the frequency of these crimes to the barest minimum, if not to totally eradicating it. It is also key that the issue of youth unemployment be tackled and development more widespread to reduce the rural-urban drift, which sees many youth coming to cities like Mumbai and Delhi to become redundant after finding that the road to stardom is narrow and not open to all, leaving them tools of evil and wickedness.
I would be glad if Modi can take this up as a personal challenge, along with all that he’s got on his plate to solve, to make and place his India, our India on the right pedestal for which it was once known and respected.