Suzanne Harrington: Politics is about mothers and daughters

Suzanne Harrington: Politics is about mothers and daughters

I’M just back from a month in southern India, where all is lush, peaceful, and communist. In Kerala, this translates as higher literacy rates, greater gender equality, and less desperate poverty, rather than gulags and Stalinist pogroms. Like the rest of secular India, religion is everywhere; temples, mosques and churches tranquilly co-exist side by side. All gods are catered for.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the country, as the populist Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, welcomed his American counterpart, Donald Trump, dozens of people were slaughtered in Delhi. Muslim-owned shops and businesses were burned to the ground, in the worst violence for decades, reminiscent of the partition of 1947.

Why? Modi, elected by just 37% of voters, and leader of the ultra-nationalist Hindu BJP party, has been at it again. Rabble-rouser extraordinaire, he is India’s Trump. (A decade ago, he was refused a visa to the US; these days, Trump calls him “brother.”) Modi’s latest attack on democracy is the Citizenship Amendment Act, which discriminates against the 200m Indians who are Muslim. (India is 80% Hindu; Modi loves a scapegoat.)

Many Indian Muslims, often poorer than their Hindu compatriots, don’t have the paperwork to prove their citizenship, despite being born and bred there; Modi is building internment camps. People are terrified. And with good reason.

Here’s a recent story from The Hindu newspaper. A 27-year-old Muslim single parent moved from her village, in the southern state of Karnataka, so that her 11-year-daughter could go to school. The woman rented a place to live and got work as a domestic help, so that her child could get an education. (Being a single parent in India now is like being a single parent in Ireland fifty years ago; being a poor Muslim woman from a rural village makes it even harder).

But mother and daughter settled into their new life in the town of Bidar. All was going well, until the daughter’s class at school put on a play about the Citizenship Amendment Act, and its impact on the lives of ordinary people. The police heard about it, questioned the children, and arrested the head teacher, herself a Muslim. They also arrested the young Muslim mother from the village, charging her with “teaching objectionable dialogues” to her daughter. The school was charged with sedition.

When her mother was locked up, the 11-year-old child was left in the care of neighbours, before being transferred to a hostel. According to her teacher, a Hindu, the girl was in such a state she couldn’t sleep, and was unable to sit her exams. All she could do was cry for her mother. After several weeks and attention from the media, the mother and the head teacher were released.

Meanwhile, back in communist Kerala, the state governor rejected the Citizenship Amendment Act as “illegal and unconstitutional.” In Delhi, Modi and Trump bromanced each other, united in their policies of persecuting minorities as a way of clinging to power. Ugh.

More on this topic

Green shoots: Three female entrepreneurs who have developed eco-friendly children's productsGreen shoots: Three female entrepreneurs who have developed eco-friendly children's products

International Women’s Day: 7 ways to lift up other women in your workplaceInternational Women’s Day: 7 ways to lift up other women in your workplace

Remembering Mary Ryan: one of the trailblazers of our education systemRemembering Mary Ryan: one of the trailblazers of our education system

Clodagh Finn: We need to reclaim women from Irish historyClodagh Finn: We need to reclaim women from Irish history

More in this Section

Fergus Finlay: miserly sum an insult to all those involved in the arts in IrelandFergus Finlay: miserly sum an insult to all those involved in the arts in Ireland

The Irish Examiner View: It’s still up to usThe Irish Examiner View: It’s still up to us

Daniel McConnell: Fantasy cabinet predictions for the next GovernmentDaniel McConnell: Fantasy cabinet predictions for the next Government

Thanawat Tiensin, Agnes Kalibata, and Martin Cole: Urgent action is needed to assure food securityThanawat Tiensin, Agnes Kalibata, and Martin Cole: Urgent action is needed to assure food security

More by this author

Suzanne Harrington: Minding your pees and Qs working at homeSuzanne Harrington: Minding your pees and Qs working at home

Suzanne Harrington: In our house, life continues, mostly onlineSuzanne Harrington: In our house, life continues, mostly online

Suzanne Harrington: A heightened sense of empathy might emerge from thisSuzanne Harrington: A heightened sense of empathy might emerge from this

Suzanne Harrington: Have a happy remote St Patrick’s Day folksSuzanne Harrington: Have a happy remote St Patrick’s Day folks


Lifestyle

Easy and cost-effective ways you can spruce up your home. By Carol O’CallaghanStaying in is the new going out: Easy and cost-effective ways to spruce up your home

Need a funny, hopeful read? Hannah Stephenson rounds up the best.10 uplifting books to cheer you up on dark days

Esther N McCarthy put the call out to Irish crafters and grafters this week. Let's support our local makers, all of these are available onlineWish List: Supporting Irish crafters selling online

Shane Johnson takes a look (and listen) at two recent electronic full-lengths.Album reviews: Wajatta and Takeleave provide beats and pieces

More From The Irish Examiner