Indifference of the Privileged

A woman in the USA had once been asked why she was not voting for Republicans. Yes, sure, they were not very nice on the ‘women’s rights’ front, but as a citizen how could she not care about their other policies (financial, medical, etc) that were (in the asker’s opinion) much better than that of the Democrats? Implying that the woman was narrowing her person to her biological sex by not caring about these other things while voting.

What she said in reply was roughly this, “As a woman, even if they bring about development on other fronts, it will not benefit me. I will continue to be oppressed.” Basically, without equal pay, financial developments will not benefit her. Without abortion rights and open access to contraceptions, other health benefits will not largely improve the quality of her life, and will only be detrimental overall.

I recently had an argument with my mom regarding BJP and Modi. I was saying how he looks so peaceful and friendly and how he gives very correct answers at interviews (mom was nodding appreciatively) that it becomes hard to imagine how messed up he is on the inside. Which apparently offended mom and made her say with a touch of anger, “Why?! Because of his history with Muslims?!”

Yes. That is why. (Duh.) Is that insignificant?

This led to a long argumentative rant between us, and dad pitched in at odds to (predictably and annoyingly) take mom’s side. Mom finally said something that stayed with me, “Okay so maybe the Muslims suffered, but he largely improved Gujarat.”

So, this is my question. If a government improves things for some people and worsens things for some others, is that government still good?

Let me include a paragraph from Wikipedia:

According to the official figures, the (2002 Gujarat) riots resulted in the deaths of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus; 2,500 people were injured non-fatally, and 223 more were reported missing, however others estimate that up to 2000 Musims died in the violence. There were instances of rape, children being burned alive, and widespread looting and destruction of property. Chief Minister Narendra Modi has also been accused of initiating and condoning the violence as have the police and government officials who took part, as they had directed the rioters and gave lists of Muslim owned properties to the extremists.

So…does the development of Gujarat -that I have not personally looked into- still hold good?

And yes, “In 2012 Modi was cleared of complicity in the violence by a Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court” but we are all entitled to our doubts and suspicions:

The Muslim community are reported to have reacted with ‘anger and disbelief’ and Teesta Setalvad of the NGO, Citizen for Peace and Justice has said the legal fight was not yet over as they had the right to appeal.

 If I was to elect someone as the Prime Minister -that is if my parents ever get my voter card sorted out- I would hope that he would not be a “Hindu Nationalist” but a Secular Nationalist. I would hope that even if this was not a secular democracy. Which it is.

When Hindus on various social networking sites say, “So what if he is not secular? He makes real development happen,” I’m like, yes, of course, being a Hindu in a Hindu-majority country with a pro-Hindu political party very close to power gives you enough privilege to be dismissive of the ordeal of minorities.

In the light of BJP’s not-so-secular history, I don’t think that “real development” will make a lot of difference to the electors of religious minorities and I hardly think that it will improve the quality of their life by much. And when a privileged elector trivialises the ordeal of minorities, it makes me think about the intrinsic selfishness of human beings, and it truly is horrific.

The non-secular nature of pro-Hindu BJP bothers me, not because I’m an Islamophile (as my mom thinks), but because I’m a person, not merely a Hindu (by birth). I don’t want privilege if my advantage becomes someone else’s disadvantage. Because being non-secular does matter and is politically significant. Because as a bisexual brown woman I have too often been on the other end of the table. So in the instances that I have privilege, I’m going to use it to speak up against it.

If Modi does become the Prime Minister in 2014, it will act as my litmus test for the BJP. If there is no significant report of communal violence against religious minorities throughout his term in power, maybe even I will vote for him. Because only then will his schemes for “real development” be REAL development.

 Feel free to comment.


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