When we allow this flavour of reporting to go unchallenged we unwittingly weaken India’s ability to negotiate with the world on our own terms. Mr. Sankrant Sanu asks why avowedly Christian leaders in the UK and US are not similarly tagged.
As a new government is taking charge in India, it is time to reflect on the terminology used about India in the Western press and also by English-language Indian journalists writing in India and abroad.
Western news outlets routinely describe Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP as “right-wing Hindu-nationalist” in practically every news report. This is problematic for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is not clear that the label “right” and “left” so easily apply to Indian politics and do not map clearly to Western political categories. Certainly no economically right-wing politician in the West would declare in their first major address after being elected that the “the new government is completely dedicated to the poor” as Modi did in his first meeting of the BJP parliamentary committee.
Nor is the label “Hindu-nationalist” entirely accurate, particularly since it is used pejoratively. British Prime Minister David Cameron, recently wrote in The Church Times, the leading Anglican newspaper, “I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.”
Now, it is worth remembering that Britian is not officially secular. It has a state religion and an official Church, the Church of England. Their head of state, the Queen, is also head of the Church. Despite Prime Minister Cameron’s clear espousal of Christianity, and its centrality, both legally and restated by him, in the conception of their nation, the Conservative party is not routinely called a Christian-nationalist party.