OpEd: Deep Similarities between Politics & Creme Brûlée

How Kamala Harris changes the dynamics of US India politics

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From Flickr Creative Commons by Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff https://www.flickr.com/photos/thejointstaff/ and White House 45 https://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse45/

By Shree Baphna, AsAmNews Staff Writer

Creme brûlées are delectable. The caramelized sugar surface is glossy, hard, and smooth. At first glance, it seems indestructible. Yet, if one brings a silver spoon to it and gives it a small tap, the hardened sugar shatters and releases the gooey pudding underneath- a pudding that doesn’t really have much shape, when you think of it. It is barely contained chaos and disorder, and the sugar encasement was just doing a splendid job of fooling us. 

I love creme brûlées and this analogy means nothing against them. However, it perfectly captures the superficiality, fragility, and contradictory nature of political relations and internal affairs. 

Now that Trump has officially left office, it is astounding- but not surprising- how many of his former allies are jumping ship. One of them is of course, Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister. India itself is grappling with its own fragile facade of democracy that is just barely concealing tumultuous politics. I am specifically referring to the growing monopoly strength of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party, growing religious intolerance, and a slow choking of social and economic freedoms. However, the fall of Trump and the rise of Madame Vice President Kamala Harris have added a different spin on events from the conservatives in India. 

Vice President Harris’s mother, the late Dr. Shaymala Gopalan, was native to southern India, specifically the town of Thulasendrapuram in the state of Tamil Nadu. Harris shares Indian blood and has spoken often about going to visit her relatives in Tamil Nadu. This has been a cause for great rejoice for Indians all over the world, not just in the United States- the Vice President’s ancestral town celebrated her victory with great pomp. Most notably. Narendra Modi has aligned himself with the new administration, tweeting to congratulate the new President and Vice President as well as hoping to strengthen country relations. 

So, what happened to Modi and his buddy-buddy relationship with Trump? The two were similar in many ways, both part of the current wave of neo-fascist leaders who have arisen in many countries across the world, including Brazil, the Philippines, Chile, Turkey, and so on. However, Modi was pretty quick to shed all his alliances with Trump and express support for the new administration in power. Many of Modi’s critics in India have been quick to point out this hypocrisy. 

First of all, India’s sudden allyship with Kamala Harris is rather ignorant of the internal division among Indians themselves. The north and south of India are extremely different cultures, something that has permeated into the treatment and behavior of the populations towards each other. With a conservative, ‘pro-Hindu’ government, the dissension between the north and south has grown, with northern Indians imposing themselves more than ever before. 

There is a push to make Hindi, a language spoken predominantly in northern India, the national language. Additionally, there has been a push to make it a mandatory language to learn in schools across the country. This has not sat well with southern Indian states, whose languages are extremely different from Hindi and strongly prefer to speak their own dialects. 

Aside from language, there is also an ethnic divide that exists, based on discriminating colorism. The cruel stereotype is that people from South India tend to have darker skin color, whereas those from the north are assumed to be fair-skinned. Thus develops a colorist approach in differentiation and assumption of one’s background. 

Yet, all of this prejudice has somehow disappeared with Kamala Harris now in an extremely prominent position as second-in-command of the United States. The India that is rejoicing at Harris’s well-deserved victory is turning a blind eye to the lack of cultural harmony and acceptance that exists internally. 

In another contradiction, the turning point in Modi’s break away from his allyship with Trump seemed to have arrived with the insurrection on the Capitol a few weeks ago. Conservative news channels in India provided their interpretation of the Capitol riots. While scenes and videos from the attack were broadcasted, these news channels spun the events as a golden opportunity for India to show through as the new beacon of democracy. The United States was painted as a ‘fallen’ icon, paving the way for countries like India in the developing world that have fast-growing economies to become the new symbol of “democratic freedom”. 

However, India cannot quite claim that crown, seeing as Modi and the conservative BJP ruling party are- as mentioned earlier- pushing democracy aside with their nationalistic and neo-fascist ideals. In fact, the farmer protests in India from earlier this winter are being compared by Indian conservative media to the Capitol insurrections. In yet another grab for sympathy and support, the Indian government is doing its best to spin the Capitol riots in their favor. In my opinion, the farmer protests in India are for gainful reasons- to protect the rights and livelihoods of the farmer industry and to exercise the democratic right of protest. On the other hand, the Capitol riots were an act of violence, White Supremacy, and deep disrespect for democratic proceedings. Comparing the two once again shows a direct contradiction between India’s facade as a political ally and India’s true internal happenings. 

Political relations are complex and operate on a multitude of levels. I am no expert myself, but the inconsistency behind these alliances are hard to ignore. The relations between India and the United States are also ever-changing, and the entrance of a new administration will bode differently for both parties. However, as someone from the inside looking out, the reality I see and the image that is projected are two entirely different entities. In my opinion, India needs to first sort out its own political status before it can so blatantly project itself as a grandiose ‘savior’ of democracy.

Photos from Flickr Creative Commons by White House45 (left) and Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs (right)

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