Sunday, April 20, 2014

What does the West have to do with it? An anticolonial read from the post!


So I am not an Indian if I am critical of Modi and his version  of Hindutva as a form of governance. I am told I have too long been a subject to the propaganda machinery of the West.

It must be all the years of US brainwashing and all the US media I have consumed.

My familiarity with India, my Indian roots, and my connections with these roots I so deeply cherish easily become subjects of questioning when I express my anxieties about the discursive space in India that is increasingly becoming constrained by the Hindutva camp. 

The West is framed as being in opposition to the imaginations of a bold India that is set to launch on a bold trajectory of Modi growth, led by the bold leadership of Mr. Narendra Modi. There is limited or no room for critique. 

Critique is seen as being reflective of a desire for the West (I am assuming as opposed to some Hinduized fetish of India).

This framing of theWest versus India, although pretty powerful in its appeal to the decolonizing trope, is almost entirely based on rhetorical frames that are themselves being manufactured and cycled by strong PR and lobbying machineries themselves located in the West.

To me what is striking about these allegations of the West versus India is the simplistic but important denial of the very West-driven communication machine that is carefully orchestrating the public relations campaign of Mr. Modi. The US-based public relations and lobbying firm APCO has done similar public relations exercises for Israel, for the Sani Abacha dictatorship in Nigeria as it prepared for the execution of nine pro-democracy activists in the mid-1990s and for "corrupt Caspian regimes" such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

APCO is also the communication outfit for major players in the US financial industry in the post-financial crisis environment, with clients such as JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup Inc. The foundation of APCO is rooted in Western imagination of communication as an instrument of power and control.

APCO has been instrumental in orchestrating the "Vibrant Gujarat" events that are showcased as signs of investor confidence in the Modi governance model. With performances of investor confidence in the Modi leadership and commitments to investment in the state, the "Vibrant Gujarat" public relations campaign has been essential to the selling of Mr. Modi's image as the messiah of development, quite contrary to the actual data on development indicators that raise significant questions about the tall claims of the Gujarat development model. (http://www.vibrantgujarat.com)


The confluence of Modi and APCO is depictive of a wider collaboration of the Hindutva model of growth and development with the Western moderl of consolidating power in the hands of the nexus of local-global capitalist elite. If there is one thing that is salient about the Modi model of development, it is this: the model is as much a replica of the Western model of growth-driven development as it is a product of the communicative frames that are circulated around the model.

Much like the gap between the Western model of development that marries development to a blind faith in growth, industrialization, and consolidation of corporate power, the Modi model of development is narrowly conceived as a strategy for the consolidation of resources in the hands of the Indian elite. The development indicators of Gujarat on mortality, health, and access to basic resources debunk the growth-driven development story, and urge us to consider carefully alternative stories that sit outside the dominant Gujarat development frame circulated by the Western PR outfit APCO.

In sum, the claims of Hindutva, Indianness, and opposition to the West are convenient heuristics for the Hindu right to disseminate the deeply Western capitalist model of growth grounded in a narrowly neoliberal imagination of development. To really start interrogating the Western imaginations of development and to foster spaces for alternatives, one perhaps needs to look at the various local models of participatory governance that one witnesses across India, in opposition to the PR-machine driven model of development that is bent on selling Modi as the messiah of development.

For the Modi lovers to recognize this of course would mean that they would have to step out of the APCO generated propaganda that sells hook line and sinker a narrowly Western frame of development, albeit refashioned as some nonsensical version of Hindutva that sounds good in rhetoric but is empty in its tall claims.

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