Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hypocrisy or Just Plain Ol' Hubris, You Betcha!

For the past few weeks, western media has been running stories on how "Hindus are driving out Christians" in India.

New York Times (never the best of sources, but widely read in that country) ran a headline screaming "Hindus Threat to Christians - Convert of Flee." Lets not forget this is a country where the presidential candidate can malign the opposition with the mere suggestion of being Muslim. And when the fury whipped up by the suggestions gets overt, and some voter declares that the opposition candidate cannot be trusted because "he is an Arab," what does the good ole American war hero respond? Not with a lecture about secularism and democracy and human rights of Arabs. McCain came back with how Obama was a "decent family man." As if Arabs cannot be decent family men! And then the clincher - "he's not!" He's not Arab? He's not Muslim? Why does this matter?

Why am I bringing this up? Well, USA is also the same country that periodically issues reports on "secularism" in India! This is also a country that makes a great song and dance about not issuing a visa to Gujarat CM, Narendra Modi, ostensibly for his Hindu Nationalist stance.

Now I am not defending Modi but the hypocrisy generated by the US is quite breath-taking. Palin's speeches are not that different from Modi, and the responses from her Bible-bashin, good ol' American followers is one that you wouldn't find even in the most illiterate village in Gujarat: calls for "kill him", "traitor", "off with his head." And all this for the opposing candidate, not some vague, nebulous enemy within. Lets put this in perspective - how about Advani whipping up the same frenzy about Sonia, with calls for killing her emanating from BJP supporters? Or how about audience jeering "kill him" for Advani at Mayawati's rallies? I can just imagine the headlines that New York Times would publish then.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the pond, BBC et al have been running similar stories. But then thats Britain for you: empire chala gaya, attitude nahin gaya! And the worst drivel comes from the second/third generation "British-Asians." (Indian press take note as they race to adore any firangi-with-Indian-name/skin).

The Guardian's Randeep Ramesh came up with this week's particular gem, and he wasn't even talking of politics, simply films (but how can you be a self-respecting western journalist without throwing caste into any and all discussions about India! Ramesh - discussing the film Omkara - declares: "Whereas 17th-century audiences in England could make sense of the Moor's existential angst, 21st-century Indians could not countenance an "untouchable" leader – a true outsider in society – preferring instead to make sure he had Brahmin blood."

Umm Mr. Ramesh, ever heard of Mayawati? Or the DMK? Or much of the UP legislative assembly? Or much of the Indian parliament (compared with the Oxbridge crowd that runs the British one). The whole point of the "half-caste" in Omkara - set in rural UP - is that he cannot call on any particular "power" base, including that of Dalit politics. In modern Indian polity, he is the ultimate outsider.

So why do I bring this up? Well, when 70% of the Muslim children in a developed country with a welfare state live in povery (UK statistics), any lectures to India (or any other country) smack of imperialist idiocy. And when presidential campaigns in the "world's greatest country" recycle fears articulated by Hollywood's greatest racist creation ("freed" slaves stuffing ballot boxes in D.W.Griffith's Birth of a Nation/McCain and Palin's smearing of ACORN), and the local media gags itself, then all finger-pointing at India becomes not only hypocritical, but even the veneer of virtue slides right off. Frankly boys, clean up your own houses first!

Meanwhile, why is it that the Indian mainstream media isn't willing to talk about this and instead continues to run completely idiotic articles about how Indian democracy can learn from the Americans?