Editor’s Letter: Two nations with a shared history that are suddenly in flux

Some readers feel we have been unduly harsh on modern India and Narendra Modi



Morning all. A regular correspondent, Mr Mehta from Croydon, wrote in on Thursday. “The world’s largest democracy has just concluded a massive election,” he began. “A population of 1.2 billion with a massive diversity of faiths, languages, ideologies and cultures in a country the size of a subcontinent successfully concluded this amazing feat. There was hardly any violence or vote-rigging and some places recorded a turnout of over 80 per cent. India is a role model to the rest of the world where there is no freedom or democracy. A word of praise from The Independent would not be out of place!”

Quite right, Mr Mehta, and I hereby refer you to our editorial on the facing page. From previous correspondence, it is clear that Mr Mehta and some other readers feel we have been unduly harsh on the carnival of democracy that is modern India – and, specifically, on its new leader, Narendra Modi.

Mr Mehta goes on to castigate “the Indian intellectuals in this country who expressed their reservations in [your] letters column” – by which he refers to a letter we published in April, signed by dozens of academics, at the instigation of Professors Chetan Bhatt and Gautam Appa of the London School of Economics. He might also have mentioned Priyamvada Gopal, a distinguished English don at King’s College, Cambridge, whose views on Modi – “reservations” would be putting it lightly – we published in our World pages.

Here’s the rub. India’s democracy is an extraordinary feat, and comes at a bad time for democracy, with China presenting a credible alternative, the Arab Spring failing to fulfil early hopes for people power, and many in the advanced West losing patience with it.

What is more, Modi might be a fine tonic for India, loosening the shackles of corruption, boosting growth from a meagre five per cent, emancipating millions of workers – rural ones especially – from poverty, and stalling the sexually transmitted democracy of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

But any man who refuses to answer questions about his involvement in the Gujarat massacre of 2002, where he was Chief Minister, and who says he thinks of Muslim suffering much as he’d think of a puppy run over by a car, is betraying the legacy of India’s founding fathers.

Great men of history such as B R Ambedkar, Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru, in whose image India was founded as a tolerant, plural, secular republic, belonged to a tradition that Modi has fought all his political life. Led by our peerless Asia correspondent in Delhi, Andrew Buncombe, we have reported these elections fairly, while analysing their implications and historical context. That governs our coverage today.

The same principles will apply to the elections closer to home taking place on Thursday. If Ukip wins, a political earthquake could be upon us. Tony Blair once said: “This is a moment to seize: the kaleidoscope has been shaken, the pieces are in flux.” That could apply to India this week – and Britain next. Have a great weekend.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £45,000 - £55,000. Wakefield

£55000 - £450000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Consultant...

PMO Analyst - London - Banking - £350 - £400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Banking - London - £350 -£400 per d...

IT Portfolio Analyst/ PMO

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Mechanical Design Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Mechanical E...

Day In a Page

Read Next
School pupils at the Bridge Learning Campus answer questions in a classroom at the school on February 24, 2010  

Better-off parents excel at playing the state-school system. It’s right to give others a chance to do so

Jane Merrick

I was a Woman Against Feminism too

Siobhan Norton
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn