12 March, 2014


In October 2012, I spoke to a crowd of mostly Indians in the Detroit area about the need for innovation in Indian media. After my talk, I was stopped by an Indian woman who looked to be in her forties, was elegantly dressed, well-spoken, and struck me as someone who I could have easily run into at a gallery opening in Mumbai or high tea at a five-star hotel. She complimented me on my speech, I thanked her, and we began talking about the far-off 2014 Indian election. What she said to me that day festers in my memory:

“Even if Narendra Modi was involved in the Gujarat riots, I don’t care. His economic work wins out. I will vote for him.”

Since then, I have not been able to shake a deep-seated disturbance at her disregard for essential humanity. This disregard, I fear, is shared by many in India. Before I lose your attention, this is not another piece debating Modi’s guilt. In fact, the argument about Modi’s guilt feels to me like the argument about whether Delhi is better than Mumbai—it will never end. I have my view, you have yours, and facts are facts—some we know and others we never will. That’s not the point. The point is not even whether you think Modi is better than Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal, or any other potential prime minister. What matters here is where you draw the moral line between what is acceptable in a politician and what is a deal breaker. 7

What this woman showed me—and I have heard this thinly veiled sentiment often—is that if Modi walked into a press conference tomorrow and confessed to all of the crimes he is accused of, then she would still vote for him. She had already made peace with the possibility of him being guilty. To me, that position is untenable.

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