It’s all over now. And by over, we mean the vote-counting process of the big fat Indian election that has consumed our lives over the last few months. And we have a clear winner: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be returning to form a government with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the top. His re-election is said to be even more historic than his right-wing party’s landslide victory during the 2014 elections, because it's the first time a non-Congress prime minister has returned to power. To know what people with a broad range of experiences and expertise have been thinking, we got them to share their current sentiment.
Radhika Ganesh, 31, activist and convener of Young People for Politics
“When you finally hit rock bottom, there is nowhere else to go, but up. This is the spirit with which we have to spring back from this cataclysmic sweeping victory of an extreme right political establishment in India. This outcome is not just disappointing, but is going to prove costly to our diversity and freedoms. People of this country, having given this sweeping mandate to a divisive party such as the BJP (and their allies), now have the responsibility of seeking accountability from them. At no cost, should we become complacent, for, this victory for some parties, is a loss to our democracy. Their idea of India as a monocultural, mono-religious and homogenised country is dangerous to our diversity. This sort of hate and polarisation will affect all our lives deeply.”
Nirali S, 29, wealth advisor
“Looking at what has happened today, it seems like India has finally had a mature election, moving past old vote bank politics, and given a clear thumbs down to pseudo-securalism and casteism. The confidence is visible as BJP could break states like Bengal and South India which no other major party could in the past. The last couple of months, a lot of people have been questioning what Modi has done for the country. These people have been misinformed to a large extent. What happened in 2014 is that there were unrealistic expectations set on Modi. But the graph of the country can’t just change in a jiffy. This win will place India in a much better position amongst other countries. The focus for the next five years should be all about social reforms. The Modi government should now focus on reducing unemployment, empowering the lower classes by way of increasing the incomes of these families. If they enact all the reforms they have introduced and promised in the last term, then our country is going to benefit greatly.”
Fawaz Dalvi, 27, designer
"I feel sad thinking about all the hatred that has brewed over a seat of power, and it won't stop with this victory from them. I believe it’s not the ones who preach these toxic thoughts who are to be blamed, but the ones who practise them in their existence. As a Muslim, I think it's important to know now where our community belongs in this circus. I was reading on a few candidates and their intense promises of cleaning the anti-Indians, getting machines to shave our heads, and get us to accept a different religion. It got me thinking about whether this was required and if it even makes sense to really start a war. While campaigning, one of them even called Muslims a ’green virus’. Now that could be a crazy T-shirt print idea there. But then again, if clouds can give us advantage in advanced warfare then believe me anything can happen. It’s a funny thought, but the question people often ask me is where I see myself in five years. Now my answer changes to: I don’t know. It’s just a blank void visual of future."
Navin Noronha, 27, writer and comedian
“It's no surprise really that BJP is back in power. The sweeping majority also shows that the country doesn't want holistic growth and their charm so far has worked. I say that because even in the queer space, Narendra Modi has found supporters in huge numbers. So one has to step back and take stock of the situation. While BJP was in power when Section 377 was read down by the Supreme Court, the government body clearly indicated where their priorities lay and Modi was silent on the verdict. Their manifesto did not include any sort of LGBTQ welfare issues either. The cause for absolute queer rights is seemingly more distant as a result. It'll be a while before one can truly feel safe in India. But that is the price we pay for being a democracy.”
Priyanka Paul, 20, artist
“As a woman who comes from a minority background, I feel let down today. I feel let down because for five years, many of us tried to make out voices heard, about the inconveniences and discrimination we’re subject to to this day and clearly the mass public has shut their door on us. We will continue to make our voices heard and fight for what’s right. We’ll continuously hope for better when it comes to how policy is made and how governments treat their citizens, and will hold accountable this government for its claims of ‘development’.”
Aakash Ranison, 22, climate change activist
“Till six months ago, I would have been happy to see Modi win but the lengths he has gone this time around to get this victory—from weaponising religion to talking about the mandir and blatantly lying about things like the cloud cover helping the Balakot strikes—makes me feel like I do not want a leader who plays a game just with the intention of winning it any which way. I had been monitoring the BJP, Congress and other party manifestos before the elections, and only Congress had something concrete. But now with the BJP coming to power, environmental activists will have to work even harder to convince the government to address the climate change crisis. With industrialisation getting a major boost, I hope we are able to draw the line between how much of it we need versus what it means for our environment. I feel like Modi will become even rougher in implementing decisions like the demonetisation, and there are going to be lots of not-so-good surprises coming our way.”
Apar Gupta, 35, digital freedom activist
“There’s a very clear trend in India of mobile technology and communication devices integrating with our ways of life as well as in the form of governance. This became very clear in the entire debate on the constitutional challenge of Aadhaar, where service delivery was being affected—from rations to transfers to electronic votes. Also we’ve seen—and this has been very visible in the last few months of the outgoing term of the government—that there were concerns on rights, such as free expression online, which is facing both larger crackdown on people who voice dissent as well as recurring issues of abuse and hate speech. We’re also noticing privacy concerns in which India still doesn’t have any laws. There’s an element of data nationalisation, in which a lot of local firms are saying that large, global players are monopolising the entire tech sector based on personal data because India doesn’t have any personal data protection law. So I think within these broad trends, there will be a lot of activity, as well as legislative regulations on tech policy in India. There’s going to be a substantial risk to our constitutional protection, mainly of our fundamental rights, freedom of expression and privacy. I’m personally hopeful that there will be a greater maturity in our policy-making processes; they’ll be much more transparent, and rights-respecting in future.”
Seema Sayyed, 50, sex workers’ rights activist
“As organisations and federations, we will have to put down our foot more clearly, on what we want from this government when it comes to the rights of marginalised communities such as the sex workers. In the five years during which they have not been able to do much for them, there is a second chance and opportunity for the government to work with this section—not only the sex workers, but also the marginalised, the underprivileged, the unregistered population. This unorganised sector should be championed. Sex work should not be judged on the basis of religion, ethics or moral ground, but on the grounds of being women, children and single mothers. This is how we want to present this community’s cause to the government in a better way so that they understand that we are not supporting sex work, but that we want them to have access to welfare activities. We are positive towards the debate on legalisation of sex work becoming a serious issue, especially after the decriminalisation of Section 377 last year. There’s not been much focus on the issues of sex work because we, especially the sex workers, were not very open to discussing with the government. But now, we feel this discussion is possible.”
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