Cometh the moment, comes Modi









By Karam C Ramrakha

Midnight, 14 August, 1947. From 12,000 kilometres away in New Delhi, Pandit Nehru’s voice defies the statics  to give us, in faraway Suva, Fiji, a faltering reception of his  memorable ”˜Freedom at Midnight’ speech:

”˜Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, then an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance”¦’.

Today, I invite you to share that speech on internet and you will be as moved as I was when I heard it as a fourteen-year-old.

India, long suppressed indeed!    A misunderstood and maligned country which Churchill decried as geography and not a nation, a country, nevertheless,  which his Great Britain subjugated and drained of its wealth to an extent where the Hindi word ‘loot” became part of Oxford dictionary.

Before that,  wave upon wave of Moslem invaders, sometimes fighting the Hindu population, and more often fighting each other on Indian soil, wreaked  death, havoc and mayhem on the populace,  some gleeful extolling in their memoirs: the thousands put to the sword in the cause of their faith.  No other country in the world has  been beset or suffered  so many wars which decimated and destroyed the ancient heritage of Mother India. Nalanda University is a glaring example.

But Bharat, that is India, as the India’s constitution describes the country, is like no other country, with such diverse regions, peoples, manners, languages and traditions.  Today, despite that, it presents to the world a shining example of democracy, decency and above all free speech.

But, India continues to be embattled and ringed by enemies, or should I call them hostile friends, notably China and Pakistan. Within, too, all is not well. It is a country, declared the late Durga Das, a veteran journalist, where elected governments and anarchy (black economy) exist and flourish side by side.

I first went to India in 1967.  In Fiji, we were urged to fear India as a country with its teeming population, poverty and pestilence. But I soon calculated it to be a country which, despite its problems, appears to run itself.

Comes the moment, comes the man. So goes the English saying.  Comes the Man called Modi, a hero and saviour  who has now burst on the scene to fulfil India’s second tryst with destiny and fulfil Pandit Nehru’s dream of the country finding, to use Nehru’s quaint phrase, ”˜utterance’.

India, today, needs more than utterance.  It is not enough that it has survived five wars with Pakistan or border war with China, or that it is infested with millions of illegals, estimated at forty million, or that it has internal security problems from within and without,  or that sadly, it is alleged to have been called a ”˜Rape Capital’.

The majority Hindu population wants one Civil Code, wants  Hindi as the primary language of all Indians, and wants all discriminatory practices abolished.  A tall ask. And a leader who has been maligned as anti-Moslem with a Hindu Maha Sabha past has to tread warily.

The Hindu may be the most maligned, most misunderstood and most denigrated creature on the earth today.    One solitary killing of a missionary still lingers, one demolition of a solitary unused edifice is endlessly repeated. But, what of Kashmir with the expulsion of Hindus from their ancient homeland.

Hindus look on Modi to secure our self-respect. Modi has his agenda but treads warily. Any upheaval within will be gleefully supported by the West with modern day Nixons and Kissingers urging a “tilt” against India.   Modi has been attacked by BBC, by New York Times.

But will Modi triumph? Will he change the face and status of India. As he stressed, most of India’s 800 million voters were born after 1947. Despite everything, India has flourished and the lot of the average Indian today is better than in 1947.

Why did Modi get his massive majority? What motivated the voter to give him that mandate?

One, the voter was tired of the hypocrisy of the elected politicians, nepotism and exploitation of caste and religious differences.

Two, the voter looked at Modi’s record of an economic miracle in Gujarat in the hope that he will translate that to each corner of India. Yes, it is Roti, Kapda and Makaan. But we must not wait for any veni, vidi, vici outcome. Modi treads warily and he knows that time could be on his side and that changes will come slowly as old habits die hard.

But as Modi tours India and the world we all hope and pray for a New Dawn in India, and that after being a beacon of democracy it will be a beacon of economic and human development.

I turn now to my native Fiji. A coup has ended and a democratic result, even with “we wuz robbed” cries from some quarters, will endure for the next five years. A raw 50-strong parliament obliged to function on Westminster lines has incredibly no member with previous parliamentary experience.

The coup leader Vorege (Frank) Bainimarama was heavily supported by the media and leading Indian businessmen. He secured 70 to 80 per cent of the Indian vote but secured less than half of his  I-taukei (indigenous) vote. He gained wide acclaim for introducing  free education, and a careful foray into parish pump politics, roads, electricity and water. For once the man in the street feels comfortable with a coup leader.

The question is whether Frank will continue to stifle civil rights, and control the media, subject detractors to military torture. Since my visits to Fiji, I found myself subjected to queries about my visit to Fiji.

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