If you still believe that the leader of the world’s so-called largest democracy can deliver and change the fate of India, Aakar Patel might force you to rethink that idea.
Price of the Modi Years is a detailed and well-researched book by the former journalist and ex-head of Amnesty International India, who provides deep insights on the performance of the Indian prime minister.
Nothing can be timelier, given the completion of Narendra Modi's eight years in power this month. As many around the world look upon him with awe in spite of his divisive and regressive politics, Patel has tried to hold him to account for all the hype and misrule under his regime.
Modi was first elected as prime minister in May 2014. Many believed that he would transform India after having served as chief minister of Gujarat, which witnessed anti-Muslim pogroms on his watch in 2002. However, partly blinded by religious majoritarianism and partly due to weak political leadership in the past, voters gave him a huge mandate with high expectations.
Unsurprisingly, attacks on religious minorities, especially Muslims and political dissidents, have grown since then. After all, Modi is the leader of Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party that aspires to turn India into a dictatorship and religious theocracy.
Patel’s book goes into the facts to prove how India has not only become intolerant toward non-Hindus, but has become highly undemocratic by muzzling any voice of resistance. One of the chapters in the book is dedicated to the jailed scholars and activists who are being incarcerated on trumped-up charges, while another one challenges legal hurdles created to disrupt the smooth functioning of the right to information.
Notably, Patel himself became a target of witch hunts and smear campaigns for questioning Modi throughout his book. His name was included in the "look-out notice" to prevent him from travelling abroad to promote his book and shed light on the current toxic political environment in the country.
What might have angered Modi and his party is that Patel comes from Gujarat, the state that Modi once represented. Thus, Patel cannot be silenced easily by being branded as anti-Hindu or anti-Gujarat, as when such criticism comes from Muslim or Sikh commentators.
Patel authored Our Hindu Rashtra: What It Is, How We Got Here in the past. That book is highly critical of Hindu supremacy practised by Modi and his cohorts. On one occasion, Patel's Twitter account was blocked, the author reveals in Price of the Modi Years.
The book is like a charge-sheet against the Modi administration which has failed on every front, including development, democracy, transparency, human rights, good governance, and foreign policies. Patel writes about how the lapdog media of India has also become willing partner in the actions of Modi by either looking away or obediently toeing the line of the government in New Delhi.
If Modi has succeeded in anything, it’s the remaking of India as a conservative and illiberal nation that shamelessly treats non-Hindus as second-class citizens. This leaves hope only in the hands of the marginalized sections, such as Adivasis, Dalits, women or religious minorities fighting for survival and change.