June 19, 2023


How Modi uses yoga to whitewash India's crimes (Azad Essa, 19 June 2023, Middle East Eye)

Delhi's insistence on owning yoga serves as a means to present India as exceptional and enlightened and provides a cover for its egregious domestic policies.

Yoga establishes Modi as a wise elder, rather than a supremacist authoritarian, and exceptionalises India in the eyes of the world.

Put another way, yoga has allowed Modi "to choreograph an image of himself, and by extension the Hindu state, as flexible (read accommodating) yet strong, peaceful yet powerful. Meanwhile, he continues to sanction genocidal violence against Muslims in India with impunity," wrote Anusha Kedhar, an assistant professor at the University of California.

Yoga, then, has become the perfect vehicle to mask violence in India, and, more insidiously, lean into orientalist and Islamophobic tropes about Muslims.

Yoga has become the perfect vehicle to mask violence in India and, more insidiously, lean into orientalist and Islamophobic tropes about Muslims

"Constructing Muslims as barbaric, violent, and dangerous allows Hindu nationalists to justify aggressively protecting the Hindu faith and culture by any means necessary, including violent and extrajudicial ones. At the same time, it allows Hindus to imagine themselves as tolerant in comparison to the 'rigid', and the 'fanatic Muslim'," added Kedhar.

Modi is a lifelong member of the RSS, a Hindu paramilitary group in India, that has, since 1925, aimed to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra or a Hindu State. For his complicity in the anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in 2002, in which up to 2,000 people, mostly Muslim, were killed, the State Department banned him from entering the US between 2005-2014.

The ban was lifted under Barack Obama's administration once Modi became prime minister in 2014.

Under Modi, anti-Muslim rhetoric and conspiracy theories have deepened, lynchings of Muslims have occurred with the tacit support of the state. Meanwhile, anti-conversion laws have been passed on the state level, while Delhi introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act  (CAA) in 2019, which, in conjunction with the National Register of Citizens, had cataclysmic consequences for the rights of Muslims in the country.

As documented by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), religious rights have been severely impaired in India, with the commission recommending that India be categorised as a "country of particular concern" for the fourth year running.

Posted by at June 19, 2023 7:19 PM