As a South African of Indian extraction whose grandfathers were close associates of Mahatma Gandhi and whose father was secretary of the South African Indian Congress, events in India have always been close to my heart.
The views I held were informed by a general weltanschauung that railed against injustice at home in South Africa, in far-away Palestine, in India and in the massively skewed conditions in England where I grew up and studied.
These foci of resistance, championed by India, seemed to highlight what was wrong with the world — racism, colonial injustice, the West’s complicity in these and the economic inequality that rendered the have-nots in a parlous condition, amidst relative plenty.
There has always been no country that remained a beacon (and a conundrum) for me, other than India. India won its Independence from its colonial master; it championed the cause of freedom from racial oppression in South Africa; it charted a course of non-alignment and secularism in politics and it sought to find a way to lift its own people out of dire poverty.
As time went by India, like me, found itself conflicted by the trajectory of the engine that delivered wealth and the mechanism that sought to distribute that very largesse.
The tragedy of the present is that since that tryst with destiny that Nehru referred to at the birth of the republic, of the one-fifth of humanity that India represents, over two-thirds live on less than $2 a day.
I hope that the BJP and the Modi sarkar will remedy this sorry state of affairs. I will suspend my doubt for a time but it would be disingenuous not to mention these.
I worry about the populist appeal that has provided the Modi sarkar with a carte blanche; I worry about the RSS, the Shiv Sena and other embedded agenda that could give rise to communalism; I worry about the jihadist agenda; I worry about the minorities who will have to toe the line or be branded enemies of the State; I worry about indigenous tribes whose lives will perhaps suffer accelerated dispossession by mining companies and multinationals; I worry about India’s income inequality, which has doubled in the past 20 years, South Africa is the only emerging economy with worse earnings inequality; I worry that the BJP’s policies, championing a market- and business-friendly approach could further exacerbate this inequality. In short, I worry about India.
While I don’t have any clear-cut solutions to address these concerns, I do know though that the fight against economic inequality and dispossession needs to be fought. If we do not hold strong and decisive leaders to book against a checklist of civil liberties and the rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution, we’ll all be poorer for it.
Thankfully India has a robust Press, an active judiciary and strong democratic tradition. Worries aside, I live in hope.
(Ghaleb Cachalia is a prominent South African businessman of Indian origin. The views expressed by the author are personal.)