September 15, 2013

In India, one step forward, two steps back

The death sentences for four of the New Delhi gang rapists are a hopeful sign of accountability amid India's carefree rush to urbanization. But the more momentous news of the week revealed a major step backward for Indian society: The nationalist BJP Party named Narendra Modi as its candidate for Prime Minister in next year's national elections. With his ascension, unfortunately, India will probably not become a global good citizen anytime soon.

In India's 65 years of statehood, rarely has one man come to embody ethnic and religious hatred -- and violence -- as Modi has in his years as Chief Minister of Gujarat, the state sandwiched between Maharashtra and Pakistan. Hundreds of Muslims were butchered in 2002, in a wave of attacks egged on by Modi. 

Not only is Modi now the official flag-bearer of the BJP, but by next year he could be the leader of a major world power. If so, then this avowed hater of Muslims and of Muslim-majority Pakistan will have his finger on the button of India's nuclear arsenal, designed with but one purpose: the destruction of Pakistani cities. 

It should be remembered that when Serbia gave up Slobodan Milosevic to the International Criminal Tribunal, it was for political gains and not because Serbs were suddenly remorseful for their collective genocide against Bosnian Muslims. Serbian society still has far to go in earning a place at the civilized table, and so may India. 

The formalizing of Modi's candidacy is already a serious step away from the rule of law. His election would change the face of a country with 1.25 billion people and a decent stash of nuclear warheads waiting for a good excuse.

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