On Thursday 26th April 2021 in Delhi, India, AB de Villiers the former South African cricketer hit 75 from 42 balls in the Indian Premier League (IPL) to send his team the Royal Challengers Bangalore to top of the league. This annual multi-billion dollar event is taking place in empty stadiums, with players, coaches, pundits and other staff existing in a biosecure five star bubble to ensure the games go on.
Elsewhere in India the daily Covid infection rate hit 350,000 with the death toll reaching over 3000. These are record breaking numbers; the highest anywhere in the world since the pandemic began. News and social media are filled with stories and imagery of people collapsing in the street, dying whilst waiting for hospital beds and a now non-existent oxygen supply.
The second wave of Covid infections has literally taken India’s breath away.
Anyone who wants to understand the contradiction that is modern India should simply look at these two events in microcosm. On the one hand you have the slick pristinely stage managed IPL with all its glitz and glamour and on the other hand you have the stark reality of life, harsh and unforgiving. Capitalism has shown its true colours to the Indian people.
Held up as the largest democracy in the world, a darling of free marketers and one of the largest consumer markets in the world, it is understandable why so many can become intoxicated by India.
With its own space programme, a massive global film industry, Bollywood, the likes of Apple producing iPhones in the country and an ever increasing number of billionaires, India Inc. is very much of the moment. So much so that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to put India on the travel red list despite it having an infection rate double that of other countries on the list. Courting India has never been so popular since the days of the Empire.
This is one reason why the Modi government asked social media companies to ban posts accusing the Indian government of mismanagement, why hospital staff have been told to not to put lack of oxygen as the cause of death on death certificates: there is an image to uphold.
To the outside world and its regional neighbour Pakistan, India likes to flex its muscles both economic and military. It uses its oppression of the Muslims of Kashmir and its nuclear power to show it means business. The weak minded and naive are quick to put India on a pedestal it simply doesn’t deserve.
India is a nation divided and now on its knees, the constant Muslim baiting and Hindutva politics has created chaos in the country; Covid has simply lifted the veil on a failed state. Failed not in the dictionary definition of a dysfunctional government sense, but failed in every real human sense.
If there was ever a case study of what capitalism does to a nation then India is it. Those in the Muslim world obsessed with the free market and direct foreign investment based democracy should look at India today. India’s GDP is set to grow by 12.5% in 2021 according to the IMF, but what use is this if the average man on the street is unable to access the very basic health care he needs?
As one young man told a Sky News reporter “I have money, I have everything but I could not save my sister.”
The currency of India has become the political favour and the people you know, who will no doubt will extort you in the process, but without contacts life saving treatment is nigh-on-impossible to get. The days of empire have long gone, the blame of this debacle can no longer be placed at the door of exploitation of the East India Company. A post colonial India chose its path to be a new direction towards the West, throwing away its Islamic history that had once made it so great.
Shashi Tharoor an Indian Congress MP said of the state of India before the British rule:
“The British came to one of the richest countries in the world when the GDP was almost 27% in the 17th century, 23% in the 18th. But, over 200 years of exploitation, loot and destruction reduced India to a poster child for third world poverty.”
This sentiment was mirrored by Indian politician Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, who in 1948 said:
“(The Muslims had) enriched our culture, strengthened our administration, and brought near distant parts of the country… It (the Muslim Period) touched deeply the social life and the literature of the land.”
To expect Hindutva India to turn back to its Islamic past maybe a long shot, and the moral of India’s sad story is for the Muslim world to not chase dreams that are destined for failure.