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

 

Share

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

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition