Thursday, August 04, 2016

Modi's silence on cow vigilantes "shameful", Anandiben's resignation a sign of "turmoil" in Gujarat BJP: NYT

By Our Representative
In a major indication of setback to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's effort to sell Gujarat model abroad as his "vision" for India, influential American daily “The New York Times” (NYT) has described the Prime Minister's silence on Gujarat's cow vigilantes as “shameful”, affecting his “political compass.”
The scathing editorial (August 3) by the NYT's powerful editoral board, titled “Modi and India's Dalits” says that the resignation of Modi’s “handpicked successor”, Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel last Monday is “a sign of the BJP’s concern that the turmoil in Gujarat will harm the party in state elections next year and national elections in 2019.”
It underlines, “That could very well happen if Modi does not break his shameful silence on cow vigilantes, and reset his political compass on a course of economic opportunity, dignity and justice.”
The editorial comes close on the heels of questions being raised at the Gujarat government's high-profile Vibrant Gujarat roadshows, taking place in major world cities, about “rising social unrest” (click HERE). A biennial world business summit, Vibrant Gujarat is scheduled for January 11-12, 2017.
Pointing towards Dalits' unprecedented protest on Sunday in Ahmedabad against “cow-protection vigilantes” who had attacked four Dalit youths in Una on July 11, the editorial says, it “has brought to a head the contradiction between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of economic opportunity for all and a politics of division driven by right-wing Hindu ideology.”
“The protest was called after four Dalits skinning a dead cow — a scorned task relegated to the long-oppressed group”, NYT says, recalling how the gang “stripped the Dalits to the waist, chained them to a car, and beat them for hours while the police and others looked on.”
“The cow, sacred to Hindus, has become a lightning rod for the Hindu right under Modi’s BJP government”, the top daily says, adding, “Modi himself has exploited the cow slaughter issue at rallies.”
It recalls how BJP president, Amit Shah, has "boasted” that “wherever there is a BJP government, there is a ban on beef”, suggesting this view emboldened BJP MP declaring on Sunday, “I extend my full support to all those who take it upon themselves to teach those few Dalits a valuable lesson.”
Calling all this “lawless vigilantism”, the daily suggests this is not an isolated event: “Last September, a Muslim man whose family was suspected of eating beef was killed by a mob. In March, two cattle traders were lynched in the state of Jharkhand.”
Things have reached a point, says the daily, that “Dalits have refused to handle dead animals, whose rotting carcasses are piling up, until they are given assurances that they will not be attacked and that their longstanding oppression will be addressed.”
It comments, “Though aspirations and educational levels have risen among Dalits, they still face terrible prejudice”, recalling how early this year Rohith Vemula “a Dalit PhD student committed suicide after caste-based hounding.”
The daily does not think that the problem is confined to the “lower caste” Dalits. It says, “In 2014, Modi, who ran Gujarat for over 12 years, won India’s national election by a landslide on a promise to transform all of India on the Gujarat model of economic development.” However, “protests last September by middle-class Patels, angered by a lack of jobs, indicated that even those who should be doing well in Gujarat are struggling.”

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