- Posted March 8, 2013 by
Wharton Compromised: Modi is not the Only Culprit
The denial of visa to Modi by US and the eventual withdrawal of invitation by Wharton is the apogee of ignorance and persistent refusal to see the reality. People who have committed worse crimes than those allegedly committed by Modi have been feted by US mandarins with nary an eye brow being raised. The perpetrators of Nellie and infamous Sikh massacre are just some examples.
I have repeatedly criticized Western academic biases toward India. I consider business schools less ideologically motivated, focused instead on imparting business skills. However, the recent decision by Wharton to un-invite Narendra Modi to the Wharton India Economic Forum shows that the ideals, ethics and independence of Wharton Business School are getting hijacked.
Modi is a controversial political leader in India, who nonetheless has had enormous success in the economic and social development of his State Gujarat. He was invited be a keynote speaker at the prestigious annual student-run event on business opportunities in India. But suddenly the university pulled the plug on the invitation under pressure from ideologues that are far removed from the world of business, and are hostile to free enterprise and globalization which is the bread and butter of Wharton’s program.
What I feel has nothing to do with Modi as a person.. What concerns me is the violation of important principles and due process. Such intrusions are reminiscent of the way the British East India Company operated in Indian affairs, supporting one Indian raja against another, often citing ‘human rights violations’ as its excuse. It was through these strategic interventions, and not through a conventional military invasion, that they ended up stitching together the world’s biggest colonial empire.
Today, India has a functioning democracy that has elected Modi three times, as well as a legal system whose Supreme Court set up a special investigation team into the allegations against Modi. The Supreme Court investigation resulted in no charges being filed against him. Yet, these findings are apparently insufficient for Wharton, which, citing the concerns of three Indian professors, withdrew Modi’s invitation. Ironically, these Indian professors specialize in scholarship criticizing colonialism, not realizing that now they are serving similar American policies on interventions in India. They are extreme leftists when it comes to protesting against imperialist interventions in places like Iraq, Libya, Syria and other failed States. But they switch sides when it comes to India, and play the same role for America in undermining India’s sovereignty as the sepoys did. (The sepoys were Indian soldiers serving the British army to fight against other Indians.)
Prior to this episode, American business schools had been largely free of such politicking, had enjoyed autonomy within their universities and were viewed as good revenue generators for the universities. The jealous humanities departments often hold business schools in mild contempt, trivializing their pragmatic approach as ‘unintellectual’. This distance between business schools and humanities worked out well for India. Business school students have been spared the brainwashing by humanities discourse that routinely paints India as a basket case ridden with caste, cows, dowry, slums and other scourges, ripe for rescue by Western interventions. Rather, the research emanating from business schools, authored by a young breed of Indian professors, has focused on the strengths and potentials of Indian society. This is why Wharton’s Modi saga signals a potential loss of autonomy and political neutrality for business education in America.
Though American universities are amongst the best in the world, there also exist many compromised academics that promulgate theories on India which are racist, colonial and downright inimical to India’s interests. Many naïve Indian donors have unwittingly sponsored such scholars. Many colonized Indian intellectuals are funded to dish out divisive and biased materials on India. Such meta-narratives can put Indian business leaders on the defensive in their international negotiations.
Wharton should not have capitulated to political petitions from persons outside of the business world. It ought to have turned this into an opportunity to debate Modi, and confront him on the controversies that swirl around him. That would have been true to the spirit of intellectual freedom. Universities are not known to shy away from controversial figures, and students are supposed to learn multiple sides of complex issues. This was meant to be a business students’ forum that has been organized entirely by students for several years. Most of them will have careers involving non-Western countries with controversial leaders and circumstances. They are better off being taught to think for themselves rather than running away from complexity or letting others make decisions for them.
It is important that Indians ask the following questions: Why did Wharton’s decision-makers not rely on Indian democracy and India’s legal system as the most important criteria for an Indian leader’s legitimacy? Are the future business leaders being taught the lesson of succumbing to political pressure without doing thorough due diligence of their own? Have the professors behind the ambush done a disservice to American businesses by snubbing the Chief Minister of a State that is the most sought-after destination by multinationals for their Indian manufacturing hubs? Modi’s long list of endorsements from global business leaders seems to have been overruled easily by three angry professors. Why did their opinions prevail over all others, when their main competence is in English and postcolonial theory, not business?
Importantly, Modi’s popularity is largely due to the fact that businesses consistently rate him the most corruption-free leader in India. The same cannot be said of many other leaders who’ve graced the auditoriums of Wharton in previous years, and who will be honored at this year’s event. Indeed, many Indians have speculated that it is his refusal to be bought off by vested interests that makes him a target of the political-intellectual mafia.
If Wharton wishes to boycott Indian leaders and parties that have well-established roles in prior communal violence, it must undertake a systematic analysis of the hard facts, namely, that many Indian leaders who enjoy great respect in U.S. have unclean hands in this regard.
American business school students and their alumni have an opportunity to refashion the discourse on India. Business schools generally have been friendly to Indian students. Wharton, for example, is known to be the ‘brownest of the ivies’ and admits hundreds of Indians every year. But business schools exist within the “ecosystem” of other disciplines, and these are likely to exert their ideological agendas.
For Indian alumni and students, this event should be a wake-up call to lead rather than follow the agenda on India. Indians have enough clout in business circles to not take this quietly. Otherwise be prepared for lobbying to impose US trade sanctions on the grounds of human rights violations! That is a card that US leaders periodically like to show Indian leaders. Unlike the Chinese who thumb their noses, and give their own reports of US human rights violations back to the Americans, Indian leaders have not shown the spine when pressured.
This unfortunate episode isn’t good for overall US-India relations and the perception of the United States in India. In recent opinion polls in India, Modi emerged as a top choice for the next Prime Minister. Americans should introspect that they applaud democracy on the one hand, and undermine fair democratic outcomes on the other. Meanwhile, the Indian sepoys are gleefully playing a double role — presenting themselves as representatives of India while undermining it; and facilitating American interventions in India while claiming to be experts on postcolonial studies.
The ‘worst ever’ anti-Muslim riot was not post-Godhra
Were Gujarat riots the largest such massacres. Ignore the 1984 Sikh killing. But one of the defining qualities of Indian ‘secularism’ in the last 10 years has been self-righteous chest-thumping in the name of safeguarding Muslim rights in Gujarat, where, in 2002, communal riots claimed 1044 lives. In the decade that followed, disproportionate amounts of media attention and NGO propaganda have managed to convince many that the post Godhra riots were the ‘worst ever communal riots’ in India.
What they don’t tell their listeners about is the Nellie massacre of 1983 which claimed the lives of more than twice the number of people who died during the Godhra 2002 riots. The Nellie massacre happened under a Congress Prime Minister’s rule, when the State was under President’s rule and the findings of the probe that was ordered into the massacre were never made public.
Following is a point-by-point comparison of the two tragedies to help put matters in perspective.
Nellie massacre in 1983
Gujarat riots in 2002
18-Feb-1983: 9 AM till 3 PM – Just 6 hours.
27-Feb-2002 till Mid June 2002 – 3.5 months.
Not clear. Maybe anti-Bangladeshi sentiments
58 Hindu pilgrims, including 25 women and 15 kids, were burned alive in a train, by Muslim mobs at Godhra station.
Violence Affected Districts:
1 District. 14 villages near the river Kopili. No one knows what triggered this horrible planned massacre.
151 towns and 993 villages in 16 districts out of the 25 districts of the state. All reaction to the train-burning at Godhra.
Number of Dead:
2,191 people. ALL Muslims. A case of suspected planned genocide. (unofficial figures run at more than 5,000)
790 Muslims and 254 Hindus. 223 more people were reported missing. (Unofficial counts well over 1500)
Places of worship damaged:
298 dargahs, 205 mosques, 17 temples, and 3 churches.
Congress – President’s rule
BJP at State level and NDA at the Centre.
Administration In charge:
Indira Gandhi (PM) and Gyani Zail Singh (President). Asom was under President’s rule on the day of the riot.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee (PM) and Narendra Modi (CM).
Convictions of Rioters:
Not ONE rioter or killer convicted till date.
Police filed 688 criminal cases, of which 378 cases were closed due to ‘lack of evidence’. 310 cases were charge sheeted, but Rajiv Gandhi dropped cases against ALL in 1985.
249 convictions till now in 19 cases. 184 Hindus. 65 Muslims. 31 for Godhra and 34 for post-Godhra.
Commissions and Probes:
600-page official Tiwari Commission report – Only 3 copies exist today. Asom’s Congress CM Hiteswar Saikia decided NOT to make it public.
Shah-Nanavati Commission, National Human Rights Commission, Banerjee Committee, Concerned Citizens Tribunal and finally Supreme Court monitored SIT. And of course 11 years of print and electronic media trials, including TV studio kangaroo court sessions.
Indira Gandhi and Gyani Zail Singh never probed. No SITs, no questioning by Supreme Court and no media trials at all. Indira got a Bharat Ratna too! Remember, not ONE person involved in the riot was convicted in 30 years.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi being blamed for 11 years. Even a state minister Maya Kodnani went to jail after being convicted. 249 people facing sentences, including many on death row, the most severe punishment. Still Modi termed “Merchant of Death” by Indira Gandhi’s daughter in law, even not ONE court finding Narendra Modi guilty on any charge in 11 years.
Dr. Bikram Lamba, a political & business strategist, can be contacted at email@example.com