Modi as PM World View“ The Future of India as a democratic country is at risk”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Silicon Valley later this month. But over 137 US-based academics and intellectuals have already filed a petition to the Silicon Valley Enterprises expressing concern about Modi and his ‘Digital India’ campaign. It is not surprising that Richard A. Falk is one of the petitioners. The professor emeritus of law at Princeton University, a highly respected academic, has always been an outspoken critic of governments and policies that violate human rights and civil liberties.
I and others have questions about Narendra Modi’s record on religious tolerance, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression. Digital India as an initiative has enormous potential to affect positive social change, but it simultaneously poses dangers for abuse. The Modi administration can make use of digitalization to target members of minority communities or those who are critical of its policies.
The fact that a policy or program is popular does not make it right or suggest the in appropriateness of constructive criticism. We have witnessed this tension between what is popular and what is right numerous times in recent history, perhaps most vividly with respect to the implementation of US foreign policy. Modi’s support appears to rest on several factors, but he and his administration have at times disturbingly invoked Hindu nationalist rhetoric to gain the enthusiastic backing of the Hindu majority, raising insecurities among minority, raising insecurities among minorities.
I will not comment too much on internal dynamics. I have come to believe that democratic institutions have been weakened under Modi’s administration. It’s true that some of these anti-democratic tendencies were evident in the behaviour of prior Indian governments, but it is also the case that the last administration brought out the Right to Information package of reforms that has greatly increased government transparency. The background of his record as Gujart CM and the experience of his first year as PM gives rise to a legitimate concern that the future of India as a democratic country is at sufficient risk. Yes, they are relevant even legally: there is currently an undecided appeal in the Gujarat judicial system that raises serious questions about whether Modi took adequate steps to control the Gujarat violence in 2002, and whether he was actively implicated in its unfolding.
Silicon Valley Enterprises has a great deal of influence and wealth, perhaps in some respect greater than that possessed by any government. Outsourcing labour is very convenient for many corporations, and not just for Silicon Valley Enterprises. So some questions we have about the Digital India initiative involve anticipated impacts on basic labour conditions in India that are presently poor and often abusive. It is important that digital India evolves in tandem with the protection and advancement of fundamental rights of all workers. On the one side, given the current agenda of security threats, all governments engage in espionage. On the other side, all states criminalize activities that target state secrets. This creates ethical and political confusion, making it difficult to distinguish heroes from villains. The US has the most extensive, sophisticated, and intrusive systems of surveillance in all of history. One of the reasons to be concerned about Digital India or digital America is that the borderline between the pursuit of reasonable levels of state security has become almost indistinguishable from the Orwellian nightmare state of permanent war and total control over people.
An extract of an interview published in outlook Sept.2015