Dev Virahsawmy: “The Modi ideology has already entered Mauritius and is fully supported by the government”
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Dev Virahsawmy: “The Modi ideology has already entered Mauritius and is fully supported by the government”
Following the violence in Delhi, India, last week, Weekly speaks to Dev Virahsawmy, writer and political observer. Known as anti-Modi, particularly among the supporters of Modi’s ideology, Virahsawmy gives us a straightforward, rather provocative interview, in his usual fearless, no-holds barred style. He warns against the “coming danger” of the Hindutva movement and its influence in Mauritius and the propagation of Modi’s ideology.
You have in the past expressed your worry about the way Narendra Modi’s government has positioned itself. What are your feelings now about the Delhi riots, which some people are even qualifying as a ‘pogrom’?
I will have to begin by repeating what I have already stated about Modi. He is a Hitlerite and his ideology is similar to that of Adolf Hitler. He has many friends in the world today and feels strong not only because he has been able to impose himself in India but also because he is supported by Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Benjamin Netanyahu. They all have something in common: Trump is against black Americans and Hispanics. Bolsonaro is against tribal people in Brazil. Netanyahu is against Palestinians and Modi is against Muslims, primarily. What we have to remember is that Modi is burying two important things about India. The first is that India believed in non-alignment. But Modi has aligned himself with the superpower that is the US. Secondly, India, in its constitution, declared it was a secular state without a state religion. What Modi is trying to do is make Hinduism the state religion of India.
How can you say that? He is not asking Muslims to become Hindu, is he?
He is not asking that now, but what he is doing, and will be doing, is to persecute all those who are non-Hindus. That is the policy of Modi and his vision of India is Hindutva – a Hindu state where Hinduism becomes a state religion and where everybody else is persecuted. Incidents like the mosque that was demolished are going to become something quite common in India.
We cannot blame all this on one man, can we?
It’s not just one man; it’s a system. When we talk of Hitlerism, it is associated with the far right. It’s a far-right movement throughout the world: Trump in the US, Bolsonaro in Brazil or Netanyahu in Israel. It’s not just symbolism; these systems are also linked to economic power. In India, you have a gentleman called Mukesh Ambani, who is one of the richest men in India and who, in fact, is the real leader of India. For Trump, the equivalent is Perry Hooper: Hooper plays the tune and Trump dances. You are right to point out that it’s not just one person. It’s based on a nexus of the super-rich in India and the caste system, with the ideology that India belongs only to the Hindus.
Last time you spoke about caste and said that Modi was against the low-castes, people pointed out that Modi himself is not a high-caste Hindu.
It is very important to note that he does not belong to the untouchable castes, the Dalits or the Adivasis. He belongs to the Vaish, a caste of businessmen. The Vaish in India, as in Mauritius, have made a deal with the Brahmin. What is important is that there is a combination of factors that give Modi the power he has now. What is visible is the persecution of Muslims. What we in Mauritius tend to forget is that Kashmir has become a big prison reminiscent of a concentration camp. I am not against one person but against a system which is symbolised by one leader. Behind him is a neoliberal system that wants to have total control over the wealth of India. In the process, at the same time, you see more and more farmers in India committing suicide because they have debts as they cannot get good prices for their produce. It’s a system designed to create just a handful of super-rich.
Aren’t you exaggerating when you compare what is going on in India with what happened in Germany?
I am not exaggerating; it’s the same scenario where there is a belief that one category is superior and must have all the power. Let’s not forget that in Germany too, Hitler was supported by big German capitalists, otherwise he would not have had the weapons he needed. The scenario is the same. What is Bolsonaro doing in Brazil? Decimating the Amazonian rainforest and destroying the livelihood of tribal people in Brazil. What is Netanyahu doing in Israel? Illegally occupying the land of the Palestinians. What Modi has done in Kashmir is the same thing. The method is the same, the ideology is the same and the objective is the same.
Where do you think all this violence is heading?
This is going to go on unless there is a popular movement to stop it. As long as people are divided and those who are benefitting from the system are enjoying themselves, things will only become worse. At the moment, a few voices are heard from great intellectuals like Arundhati Roy and Shashi Tharoor to denounce this, but so far, these are voices are in the wilderness. Modi will continue to do what he wants. Big money is supporting him and he has enough money at his disposal to hire an army of trolls and thugs who are beating people, raping women, burning mosques and so on.
What makes you think that they are paid to do what they are doing? Couldn’t they just be extremists swayed by propaganda?
That would be a very idealistic way of looking at it. From my personal knowledge of how politics is organised, all these dictators use money to buy people to do their dirty work.
How can you qualify Modi as a dictator? He was elected democratically, wasn’t he?
Hitler was elected democratically too. That does not mean a thing. Trump and Bolsonaro were elected too.
How would you qualify a dictator then?
As someone who believes that a handful of people should have all the rights and privileges. They will use the other people to impose their will, and behind all this is the will to grow richer and richer. A handful of people in India are getting richer but the masses are not. Let me give some examples: employment in India has declined; farmers are committing suicide because they cannot pay back their debts. When we say some people are getting richer, that does not mean that India is getting richer, just some people are. But in order to protect the system that is enabling them to get richer, they have to impose their way and not allow others to challenge it. Read about all those who have challenged Modi’s power. They are all in fear and are disappearing.
Given our links with India, do you foresee any trouble for us as well?
For Mauritius? We are already in big trouble. I’ll tell you why. The Modi ideology has already entered Mauritius and is fully supported by the government. The prime minister is a doormat for Modi. They already consider Mauritius as Chota Bharat (Little India), so there is big India and little India and here we already have clear indications of people who are paid in order to propagate Modi’s ideology. Those who attack me when I write on l’express.mu are, for the most part, pro-Modi.
You are talking about Yatin Varma, aren’t you?
No, that one does not even deserve my consideration. I am talking about trolls on the internet, Facebook, l’express online etc. They systematically attack anybody who they feel is anti-Modi. I have experienced this. Recently, I wrote about sex taboos and their different aspects in different religions. So, one guy totally distorted what I wrote and tried to show that I had attacked India because I had said that India is to be praised for having produced the Kama Sutra and the Khajuraho Temples. He tried to say that I was attacking India, whereas I was actually praising it for having had the courage to produce these. Trolls are paid to do whatever they are doing. They will change depending on the highest bidder, but what is important to note is that they have a propaganda machine that is being used in a systematic way. But they are not only using propaganda. About 10 days ago, I was in Rose Hill and someone stopped me and started to insult me for being anti-Modi. He was all praise for Modi saying that I was just jealous and he even threatened to beat me up. I am used to that. I have always fought against people who think they can do anything because they feel they are close to power.
Where does the Modi mania come from in Mauritius?
You see the Chota Bharat ideology has been developing for some time and the major political parties have done nothing about it. On the contrary, none of them will criticise Modi because he is Hindu. I have known all these parties, the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM), the Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM), the Labour Party, the Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate (PMSD). None of these people will dare attack Modi because they know Modi’s followers in Mauritius are part of their electorate. I will take two important parties at the moment: the MSM and the Labour Party. The MSM is openly pro-Modi and believes that he is their spiritual leader, but within the Labour Party too, there is a very strong movement in favour of Modi. The majority of Hindus in Mauritius are pro-Modi. They are not aware of things happening in India. This is helping Modi’s ideology to grow.
You see, in the 1960s, the big white money supported apartheid in South Africa and also apartheid in Southern Rhodesia, that later became Zimbabwe. The big white money today is siding with Ambani because they know that having good links with India means they become richer. India has become what I would call a new imperialist that wants to use the Indian Ocean as its own property and which is already, with the help of the Mauritian government, building a military base in Agalega. They are building a huge airstrip there also to transport goods harvested in the Indian Ocean to India.
There is nothing in their declared intentions to do that.
Do you think a thief will come knocking at your door and say, “Hello, I will be coming in tonight, take care”? Nothing is known about the deal which has been made between the MSM and Modi. Nobody knows anything about it. It was made between the ex-minister mentor and Modi. In fact, Mauritius is losing its independence.
You are talking only about the bad things. India is also financing many of the projects taking shape in Mauritius. Can’t you acknowledge that at least?
If I want to get you into my pocket, I first use my pocket to buy you. In fact, behind Modi, there is big Indian money and they want to have in Mauritius a government that will support their ambition. If they have to spend some money to accomplish that, they will. Just because they are giving money does not mean we have to bow down and accept everything that’s being done. The aim now of the new imperialism, and that includes China as well, is putting money into projects and if you are not able to pay back, that becomes the property of India or China. There is a harbour in Sri Lanka and a port in Mombasa that will be completely controlled by China. India has learnt from this and is doing the same in Agalega and in Mauritius.
This is a far-fetched hypothesis, isn’t it?
You have to work from a hypothesis, but what is happening in Sri Lanka and Mombasa is not a hypothesis. What is happening in Agalega is not a hypothesis but fact.
Coming back to ideology, we now have a Hindutva movement. Did you expect this to happen?
I did expect this to happen, which is why I started with a series of articles because, as I said earlier on, most Hindus in Mauritius think Hindutva is a good thing for them, not for Mauritius. They think we should worship Modi because he is giving us money.
A movement with a name like this registered as a socio-cultural organisation is rather weird, isn’t it?
It’s in line with what I have been arguing for quite some time now. Mauritius is a secular country according to our constitution; there is no state religion and all religions are helped by the state. What does ‘Hindutva’ mean? It means that there is a superior religion. If we let Hindutva develop further, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism will be persecuted.
Oh come on! We are nowhere near that, are we?
My job is to warn you of the coming danger so that you do not say that nobody told us.
The leader of the Hindutva movement in Mauritius described Pravind Jugnauth, the prime minister, in l’express, as “the Mauritian Modi”. How do you react to that?
Somduth Dulthumun is a sycophant who always flatters those in power. He doesn’t realise that, in the eyes of intelligent people, he is demolishing his own idol of the day. People should understand that Modi is a danger for humanity and by admitting that Jugnauth is the Mauritian Modi, he is admitting that this prime minister is also a disaster for Mauritius.
Aren’t you being alarmist?
You might call me an alarmist. But I am bloody alarmed!
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