For a former cricketer (one time Port Melbourne Cricket Club thirds all-rounder) and keen participant in politics it was immensely satisfying to see Australia winning the ICC World Cup while the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi was there in the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad to witness it.
In case you were wondering of the significance of Modi’s presence the Indian media made it clear. Unlike in Australia – where it is impossible to imagine an Australian media outlet starting its report on a cricket match by mentioning the PM’s presence – it’s not the case in India.
India Today News Desk in New Delhi reported on November 19: “PM Modi reached the stadium to watch the India vs Australia World Cup final match at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.”
Another media outlet, Republic, headlined its match report with “PM Modi joins World Cup Final excitement at Narendra Modi Stadium.”
“Over 6000 security personnel are deployed in Ahmedabad city and the Narendra Modi stadium during the World Cup final between mighty India and Australia,” it also said.
The media managed to get in that the crowd was a lakh (100,000) and finally got around to reporting that there was “a nail-biting wave at the stadium as Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head celebrated their 100-run partnership, steering the 241 chase.”
Well at least it mentioned that Australia won – even if only at the very end of the intro paragraphs. Buried in the story was the fact that Australia’s Deputy PM, Richard Marles, ‘accompanied’ Modi.
It also reported Modi’s best wishes tweet – “All the best to the Indian cricket team! 140 crore Indians are cheering for you. May you shine bright, play well and uphold the spirit of sportsmanship.”
Sadly, for many Indians sportsmanship is not a major feature of Modi’s political approach.
Pankaj Mishra reviewing Uwe Wittstock’s Book, February 1933 The Winter of Literature (NYRB 2/11), compared the feelings of many Indians after Modi’s May 2014 election victory as something akin to the ‘icy horror’ many felt in Germany in 1933.
Hyperbole? Not to Mishra who said: “The sense of incredulity was great also because, unlike Hitler or Putin, Modi had revealed himself as an exponent of mass violence and organised hatred more than a decade before he became head of Government.”
A new two-part BBC2 documentary, The Modi Question, demonstrates that he had at the very least facilitated the killings and rapes of hundreds of Muslims in Gujarat when he was the state’s Chief Minister.
As a consequence, the British Foreign Office said Modi was ‘directly responsible’ for the events and the Bush administration refused him a diplomatic visa in 2002 and cancelled his business visa.
Modi is also linked to the RSS – a Hindu racist and a supremacist organisation which is guilty of massacres of minorities and the Gandhi assassination.
PEN America produced an India at 75 series with many Indian writers responding to Modi’s 2014 election.
In the report’s introduction PEN said Modi has “transformed India into a country where hate speech is expressed and disseminated loudly; where Muslims are discriminated against and lynched, their homes and mosques bulldozed, their livelihood’s destroyed; where Christians are beaten and churches attacked; where political prisoners are held in jail without trial.”
The Opposition Leader, Rahul Gandhi, was on 23 March 2023, convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment by a court in Surat, Gujarat, under charges of defamation because of remarks he had made about Modi during the 2019 Indian general election campaign.
It’s difficult to imagine Peter Dutton doing similar things in Australia although Donald Trump has promised the same if he is re-elected.
It is also highly unlikely that Richard Marles mentioned any of this in conversation with Modi. Equally it is absent from conversations with the many Australian businesspeople hoping to make money in the booming Indian economy.
Both Australia and the US have embraced India as a ‘bulwark’ against China and Anthony Albanese and Joe Biden are always happy to be photographed with Modi while avowing ever-lasting friendship and co-operation.
The RSS and Modi Gujarat years pale in comparison, of course, to the partition massacres which followed the British departure from India. But day-to-day India sees violence against those accused of killing sacred cows and marauding Hindu supremacist gangs targeting Muslims.
Muslim monuments are destroyed, and the centuries of Muslim rule and magnificence are erased from the history taught to the nation’s children.
But trade and a common desire to spruik a China threat bind the US and Australia with India and encourage some diplomatic silence.
It’s also a good bet Richard Marles didn’t mention any of this to Modi at the cricket and we can only hope that, consistent with the usual Australian sycophancy towards Modi, he didn’t apologise for Australia winning.