Govt Authoritarianism Accelerating: Mehdi Hasan on Farmer Protests
“There’s a shared DNA between what’s happening in India and what we’ve experienced in the US, under Trump,” he said.
British-American journalist and political commentator Mehdi Hasan on Friday, 5 February, picked up the baton from singer Rihanna and spoke about the farmer protests on his show, saying, “Rihanna is right, we should be talking about all this.”
Speaking on ‘The Mehdi Hasan Show’ on NBC’s Peacock streaming platform, Hasan went on to talk about how, “This goes beyond farmers’ protests”and why “Indian government’s descent into authoritarianism has accelerated in recent years.”
Dedicating a 5:20-minute long segment on the protests, Hasan not only detailed the core issues of the agitation, but also highlighted that “it is the Indian government’s response to the protests that should concern us.”
Speaking to a primarily American audience, Hasan likened the current political and social atmosphere in India to that in the US, under former president Donald Trump.
“There’s a shared DNA between what’s happening in India and what we’ve experienced in the US, under Trump,” the commentator said.
On Rihanna & Indian Celebrities’ Reactions
Rihanna’s six-word tweet on the farmers’ protest – “Why aren’t we talking about this,” shared along with the hashtag #StandWithFarmers – and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s support for the movement invited an aggressive backlash, not just from Indian social media users but also the government.
“The Indian government’s reaction or overreaction to Rihanna’s tweet didn’t really help their cause,” Hasan said on his show, adding how, unlike in the US, film stars in India have come out in support of the government.
“Unlike in the US, where Hollywood stars were front and centre in the hashtag resistance to Trump, in India, Bollywood stars have lined up behind Modi.”Mehdi Hasan on the Mehdi Hasan Show
He also went on to highlight actor Kangana Ranaut’s reply to Rihanna’s tweet, calling her “dummy”and describing the farmers as “terrorists.”
'Indian Govt’s Descent Into Authoritarianism'
Explaining that India and US have a “shared DNA” politically, Hasan went on to focus on the response to the protests as well as the clampdown on journalists, farmers and NGOs, like Amnesty International.
“Remember, Trumpism didn’t come out of a vacuum. There is a far right authoritarian movement that is globally on the march,” he said, comparing the political and social atmosphere in India to that in the US.
“Modi and his right-wing nationalist governing apart, the BJP are as much part of that if not more so as Trump and the modern GOP (Republican party). In fact, Modi himself was a lifelong volunteer for a Hindu nationalist paramilitary group called the RSS, which was inspired by the Nazis and other European fascist parties,” he added.
What Will Joe Biden Do?
“The question is, what will Joe Biden do?” asked Hasan, going on to state that American diplomacy has to be about defending freedom and upholding universal rights.
“What happens when it's a close ally like India?” he further asked, explaining that while it is easier to take a hardened stance on adversarial countries like Iran or North Korea, it is far trickier to negotiate with India, given how Biden’s predecessors Trump, as well as Barack Obama, embraced Modi (literally and diplomatically).
“I'm not calling for some anti-India foreign policy. Just a pro-democracy, pro-universal right one. Because, i'm the child of Indians. I love that country, just as i love this country,” he said.
“Because I love America and because I love India, I will always speak out against the rise of far-right authoritarianism,” Hasan added.
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