Is India moving from a secular society that respects all religion to one that is intolerant of beliefs other than Hinduism?
That notion will be the topic of discussion at the Albuquerque International Association’s meeting on Sunday at the Albuquerque Museum.
Aroop Mangalik – who served on the University of New Mexico’s Medical School faculty for more than 30 years – will be the featured speaker.
He experienced political tensions in the country before, during and after independence from Great Britain, and remains an observer of Indian politics since emigrating to the United States.
And he’s observed disturbing trends since charismatic Narendra Modi was elected prime minister in 2014.
He said Modi swept to power on a campaign against corruption in government – which he said was rampant under the National Congress Party – and a platform to bring economic prosperity.
“He has not improved the economy,” Mangalik told the Journal. “The economy in the country is still stagnated. But in the five years, he’s used his charisma and methodology to become powerful. He now controls all of the branches of government.”
He said the courts are now filled with people who support the prime minister’s agenda.
“He’s also taken control of the universities,” Mangalik said.
Modi wants India to be a Hindu country as opposed to a secular country, he said.
“He had this ideology, but didn’t express it when he was campaigning,” Mangalik said. “Once he got into power, he has shown his true colors.”
He said dissent is not acceptable since Modi came to power.
Mangalik said bigotry against the practice of other religions – mainly Islam and Christianity – is on the rise.
He also said the brand of Hinduism being pushed by Modi’s government is not the Hinduism “Americans understand in terms of Hindu philosophy … being a religion of peace.”
“This Hinduism is very bigoted, very anti-Muslim,” Mangalik said.
Elections are held every five years and Modi was recently reelected. And even though corruption also remains in Modi’s government, Mangalik expresses little hope that the prime minister will be swept out of power soon.
“The Congress Party has been decimated,” Mangalik said. The former ruling party had been led by the same family for four generations before being defeated.
Mangalik said 60% of parliament was under Modi’s party’s control.