India’s Great Educational Divide

Aatish Taseer in The New York Times:

ModiI spent the duration of the election shuttling between its crucible, in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and the drawing rooms of Delhi, where the political elite of the city, a cozy cabal of like-minded journalists and politicians, quaked at the rise of Mr. Modi. I had grown up in this world, and it was one in which class mattered much more than political difference. Nor was its cynicism confined to any one party. I remember being present when the son of a B.J.P. chief minister, a woman now in trouble over corruption, was asked why he wanted to enter politics. “Money,” he said easily, and no one minded. That was the kind of world it was.

Mr. Modi posed a mortal threat to the safety and entitlement of this world, and it was part of his appeal. Nor was there anything sinister in the mandate. Given his background in Hindu nationalism, he was justly an object of suspicion. But when journalists from Delhi would prod voters into giving sectarian reasons for electing him, a majority would stoutly reply, “Why are you asking us about temples, when we’re telling you that we’re electing him because we think he’ll bring development?” That was the mandate. It was very moving, and like many, I held my breath. I see now that I was focused too much on the world the election would supplant, and too little on the one it would bring into being. Because if the Modi election has made anything clear, it is that, one, a social revolution of a kind has already occurred in India; and two, the people, now in charge, might not possess the intellectual power needed to run the country. The cabinet, save for the rare exception, is made up of too many crude, bigoted provincials, united far more by a lack of education than anything so grand as ideology. At the time of writing — and here the one will have to speak for the many — Mr. Modi’s minister of culture had just said of a former Muslim president: “Despite being a Muslim, he was a great nationalist and humanist.” Some 10 days later, there was the hideous incident in which a Muslim man was lynched by a Hindu mob in a village outside Delhi, on the suspicion of slaughtering a cow and eating beef. It was a defining moment, the culmination of 16 months of cultural chauvinism and hysteria under Mr. Modi, the scarcely veiled target of which are India’s roughly 170 million Muslims. This ugliness is eclipsing Mr. Modi’s development agenda, and just this week, there was yet another incident in which a Kashmiri politician was attacked in Srinagar for hosting “a beef party.”

More here.