Narendra modi

Inside New India: Run and Hide, by Pankaj Mishra, reviewed

The first novel in more than 20 years from the essayist and cultural analyst Pankaj Mishra is as sharp, provocative and engagé as you’d expect. An exploration of Narendra Modi’s autocratic, Hindu-nationalist New India seen through the progress of three graduates from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, it’s also reassuringly rich in characterisation and the sheer sensory overload of modern life. Narrated by Arun Dwivedi to an initially unnamed interlocutor, the book follows his journey from poverty to modest success as a translator in Delhi, while his feckless friends Aseem and Virendra make it big in America. A desire to escape ‘the material deprivations and the moral shabbiness… determined

The rise of Indian cancel culture

In 1975, India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi suspended democracy. The so-called ‘Emergency’ was largely of her own making, giving her the power to rule by decree. Hundreds of prominent writers and journalists, not to mention opposition leaders, were bundled off to jail. Remarkably, that was all it took for the rest to fall in line. Newspapers stopped printing stories that offended their ruler’s sensibilities. Shivarama Karanth, one of the doyens of the modern Indian novel, took off to ‘compose ballets with lilting music’ in the Canarese countryside. The Illustrated Weekly of India, meanwhile, began running acrostic love letters spelling the name of the premier’s balding, bovine son. How did the

Don’t blame Britain for Modi’s plan for a ‘new India’

History has a sarcastic sense of humour, just ask Francis Fukuyama. Or eminent historians and literary ornaments of India like Ramachandra Guha, Arundhati Roy, and Shashi Tharoor, who are now mourning the loss of a secular liberal India under a Hindu majoritarian quasi-imperial centre. These four and their fellow academics are the first ones to blame India’s turn for the worse on the British empire, and all that it ‘made, shaped and quickened‘. This is somewhat ironic, given that Modi’s march to Kashmir is as rebellious and subaltern as it gets. Yet India’s post-colonial moral guardians are worried. ‘The passing of the act (which allowed Narendra Modi to overturn 70 years of status

Villains, one and all

K.S. Komireddi sets out to establish his secular credentials before he sets up his primary argument: which is that India’s secularism is in danger. In the prologue, we are introduced to the author as a young man who briefly attended a madrassah, where he made a Muslim friend, and the two celebrated the Hindu festival of Diwali together. In the coda, we peek at his bookshelf, where we find the well-thumbed works of a Muslim poet. These bookends establish Komireddi’s secular bona fides, for his name marks him as a Hindu. And yet at first Malevolent Republic seems to be an assault on everything we associate with secularism in India,

Narendra Modi is the powerful leader India craves

Looking back on Narendra Modi’s first five years in office as India’s Prime Minister, it’s hard to find good news. Record-high joblessness, a stagnating economy, and continued widespread government corruption. With any other person, this would spell electoral defeat, but not for Modi. This week, the 68 year-old leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power for a second term, outperforming his results in 2014 that led him to power and picking up more than 300 seats in the Indian Parliament. His first victory had been a complete shock. For an almost uninterrupted 60 years, the Congress Party had controlled India and its parliament with a

Justin Trudeau takes his Captain Snowflake act to India

If your week was less than fun, spare a thought for Justin Trudeau. The Canadian Prime Minister’s seven-day visit to India went down like an undercooked biriyani on the subcontinent. When he landed in New Delhi last Saturday, Trudeau was greeted on the tarmac, not by the Prime Minister or Foreign Minister but by the junior minister for agriculture and farmers’ welfare. Other world leaders, including Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, have been given a personal welcome by Narendra Modi. Prime Minister Modi, a savvy social media user, failed even to note Trudeau’s arrival on Twitter, though on the same day he found time to tweet about plans to unveil

United nations

The Indian Prime Minister has twigged something that President Trump has yet to understand. On Monday, celebrated as World Radio Day, Narendra Modi tweeted his congratulations to ‘all radio lovers and those who work for the radio industry and keep the medium active and vibrant’. Modi uses radio to reach out to those in his country who live in its most remote and inaccessible corners, giving a monthly address to the nation known as ‘Mann Ki Baat’ (or ‘To mind’). He says it’s his way of ‘sharing his thoughts’ with his citizens, and a useful way of extending the tentacles of government into those areas where television sets are uncommon,

How Donald Trump won over Hindu nationalists

‘I am a big fan of Hindu… Big, big fan’ yelled Donald Trump during a brief appearance at a bizarre charity event in October, blending Bollywood and Americana patriotism. The ‘Humanity United Against Terror’ concert, organised by the Republican Hindu Coalition, was raising money to combat ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ that specifically targeted Hindus from Kashmir and Bangladesh. A new campaign video celebrating Diwali, in which Trump speaks several words in Hindi, echoes this same sentiment. At first glance this might seem another attempt by the Presidential candidate to rustle up support from minority groups; akin to comments such as, ‘I love Hispanics!’ while posing with a Cinco de Mayo taco bowl, or

Diary – 18 February 2016

I knew, the minute my job was first mooted, on the steps of San Francesco church in the sun-drenched, mafia-infested Sicilian town of Noto, that I would be the last editor of the (printed) Independent. This fact was reinforced at 17.21 on my first day, when the daily email from our circulation department put the figure for our paid-for circulation at 42,000. The closure of the Independent’s print edition was a long time coming but that doesn’t stop it being a painful shock. Introspection is inevitable. Was it my fault? How did I do? There are three parts to the job these days — editorial, commercial, digital — and one

Can the Tories win back the Indian vote from Labour?

Nearly 50 years ago, soon after I first came to this country, my landlady, upset I was reading the Guardian and not her favourite newspaper the Daily Telegraph, said, ‘You must not believe Labour propaganda that they gave India freedom. Churchill would have done the same had he won the 1945 election.’ Had my landlady been alive and witnessed how Narendra Modi has been received by David Cameron, culminating in yesterday’s love fest at Wembley, she would have required little convincing that her beloved party is no longer a pariah for Indians in this country. For all the talk of developing ties with India to attract investments and create jobs,

Open letter to Narendra Modi: ask David Cameron to safeguard freedom of expression in Britain

Dear Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Re: Urging Action by Indian government to Safeguard Freedom of Expression in Great Britain As a writer committed to protecting and defending freedom of expression around the world, I am extremely concerned about the growing intolerance towards critical voices who challenge orthodoxy in Britain. As your three-day state visit to the United Kingdom kicks off, I am urging you to engage with Prime Minister David Cameron both publicly and privately on this crucial issue. Please speak out on the current state of freedom of expression in Britain, urging Mr Cameron to stay true to the spirit of the democratic freedoms enshrined in British history, from the

Sorry, Shashi Tharoor, but Britain doesn’t owe India any reparations

As one of a parade of speakers debating the British empire at the Oxford Union, Shashi Tharoor cannot have expected his short speech to be viewed more than three million times. Reparations, he told his audience, ‘are a tool for you to atone for the wrongs that have been done. Let me say with the greatest possible respect: it’s a bit rich to oppress, enslave, kill, torture, maim people for 200 years and then celebrate the fact that they are democratic at the end of it.’ Tharoor, an MP in the opposition Congress party, was lauded by the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who said, ‘What he spoke there reflected

Obama’s intervention in Iraq proves that religion really is the new politics

Today we are witnessing the extraordinary – and long overdue – spectacle of an American president intervening in Iraq to protect religious minorities from ISIS death squads motivated by their own extreme religious beliefs. The minorities are Christians, whose looming extinction the West has ignored for years, and the Yazidis, members of an ancient faith rooted in Zoroastrianism that very people had heard of until the past fortnight. The butchery in Iraq and Syria – and that is exactly the right word, since ISIS have literally cut children in half – bears out my argument that ‘religion is the new politics’. Here is the Spectator cover story on that subject

Portrait of the week | 22 May 2014

Home Demand for housing posed ‘the biggest risk to financial stability’ according to Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England. House prices rose by 8 per cent in the year to the end of March, according to the Office for National Statistics, and in London the increase was 17 per cent. The annual rate of inflation rose to 1.8 per cent in April from 1.6 per cent in March, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index; it remained at 2.5 per cent as measured by the Retail Prices Index. The underlying annual profits of Marks & Spencer fell by 3.9 per cent to £623 million, putting them behind

My verdict on Newsnight’s new face? Pretty — and awful

I hope you enjoyed the new post-Paxman Newsnight last night, if you still watch the programme. It was bad on a whole new level of badness (watch it here). Presented by an Afghan-Australian woman called Yalda Hakim, of whom I had never heard. Yalda was hampered in her presentational debut by being unable to string a sentence together; nor did she have the knowledge or acuity to ask interesting questions of her guests. On one cringing occasion, the reporter William Dalrymple asked questions on her behalf (of a supporter of the triumphant Indian politician Narendra Modi, who, of course, Newsnight REALLY loathes), because she was unable to. On another occasion, during