Your Voice | Response to “On WIEF and Modi”
March 14, 2013, 1:11 am·
As a student at Penn, I have the deepest respect for professors Loomba, Kaul and Ghose’s accomplishments as academicians and professors. I myself have read some of their work, and I admire their erudition and knowledge. I offer them the same respect that a student would offer his guru. Respectfully however, I must disagree with their opinions and reasons to oppose the invitation of Narendra Modi to the Wharton India Economic Forum. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. However, we must base decisions such as these on facts rather than opinions. Allow me to offer a point-by-point rebuttal of their article:
1) They say that Modi is responsible for the deaths of 2,000 Gujarati Muslims in 2002. While many share the same opinion, he has never been proven guilty in a court of law. It is easy to doubt the Indian legal system and its judicial processes, but none of us are in a better position than the courts to declare a man guilty. I believe firmly in the legal process, and I believe that we as individuals have no right to declare Modi guilty of a “pogrom.” Had he been proven guilty, their rejection of his invitation would have merits. Until that day though, we cannot take the justice system into our own hands and condemn the man. While the United States State Department has refused to grant him a visa, it has done so on the basis of reports by watchdog agencies, as opposed to a trial. Denying him his visa is not proof of his guilt. Modi brings his share of controversy with him and his denial of a visa is simply a confirmation that the U.S. government would prefer not to deal with it.
2) They claim that Modi’s style of politics is threatening to India’s secular constitution. They claim that he is a dictator, describing him as “authoritarian” despite the fact that he has won three elections. They are entitled to believe that he is a dictator — they are not alone, and many more will agree. But who are we to pass judgment when the man has won three fair and free elections in a row? I have faith in democracy, and I trust that they do too. Opposing so strongly the invitation of an elected official because they feel that he is a dictator unfortunately gives me the impression that they have allowed personal opinions to cloud better judgment. If the majority of 60 million Gujaratis are voting for him, there is little moral ground to oppose his invitation. The opinions of three professors cannot be the reason to directly disrespect an elected Indian head of state by rescinding his invitation.
3) The professors claim that Modi’s policies have resulted in the “systematic underdevelopment of vulnerable sections of Gujarat’s population.” They have an excellent point. Gujarat ranks very poorly on social indicators, despite ranking so highly on economic statistics. However this is exactly why we must examine Modi’s policies — to understand the causes for this disconnect. The intention behind forums and speaker events at universities is to stimulate debate and discussion. By hearing from Modi first-hand, we have the chance to learn from his mistakes and create the perfect development model. WIEF had speakers from both sides of the spectrum, and it would have been thrilling to hear the arguments both for and against the “Gujarat” model. It appears to me that they believe Modi is overrated — and fair enough, many (including myself) believe that he is. But being overrated is hardly a justifiable reason to rescind his invitation.
Unfortunately pure emotion has swayed the professors rather than reason. Rescinding his invitation has significantly damaged the name of the Wharton School and Penn as a center for excellent scholarship and free thought. I admire that they wish to educate the Penn community about Modi’s political record. In this spirit, I will be attending their screening of “Final Solution” on March 18. Lamentably however, the movie will present only one side of the issue. I can’t help but think that attempts to convince us would have been far more effective given a chance to see the other side too.
Pranshu Maheshwari is a College and Wharton sophomore from Chennai, India.