Editorial: Showtime – Telegraph India

Critics of Mr. Modi alleged, not without reason, that his meeting with the Pope was another attempt by the PM to reap political dividends

The Editorial Board


Posted 02.11.21, 01:47 AM

Politics is rich in symbolism. But not all symbolic acts make sense. Consider Narendra Modi’s warm meeting with the Pope where the Prime Minister invited the papal leader to India. Critics of Mr. Modi have alleged, not without reason, that this was another attempt by the prime minister to reap political dividends. Perhaps the timing of the visit lays bare the true intentions. The Bharatiya Janata party is heading for an electoral battle in Goa where Catholics make up a quarter of the electorate. Mr. Modi’s party will not be able to dismiss the optical claim for another reason: Indian religious minorities, including Christians, have borne the brunt of an orchestrated attack at the hands of an ascending majority culture under the rule. monitoring of Mr. Modi. In Chhattisgarh, a state with a large Christian population, attacks on pastors using the convenient scarecrow of conversion are not uncommon. Karnataka recently commissioned an investigation into churches, fueling fears of persecution against Christians. A cynical BJP, however, has been keen to soften its conversion rhetoric in other states where it needs Christian support for political reasons. In Kerala, the party has been accused of being receptive to community concerns to wean them off from their political rivals. In northeast India, where the BJP is in power in several states, alone or as part of alliances, targeted assaults against Christians are rare. This new front opened by artificial hatred in other parts of the country has led to a dramatic drop in India’s performance on the Religious Freedom Index: the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has placed the India on the list of “countries of particular concern” for violations of religious freedoms. Significantly, among the gifts Mr. Modi received from the Pontiff was a document on human brotherhood: there can be no ambiguity about the symbolic significance of this act.

Mr Modi’s task is clear. As the elected leader of a pluralist republic, he must direct his government towards appeasing the raw nerves of Indian religious minorities and working for their material and social assimilation. The main obstacle he faces is the ideological anchoring of the sangh parivar. Ironically, Mr. Modi has a mandate to transcend narrow ideological imperatives and forge a new coalition of bonhomie among Indian denominations.