The entire United States has experienced a wave of violent riots and public protests following an incident in the state of Minnesota on May 25 where a 46-year-old African-American, George Floyd, was allegedly killed by a white police officer. There have also been reported a number of incidents of violence, plunder and arson across the country. A curfew has been declared in at least 12 major cities while the governors in 24 states and Washington, D.C. have called in the National Guard. The violence and protests have also claimed the lives of many Americans. Indeed, this unrest has just added to the hardships of such a troubled country which has already been finding it really hard to contain the spread of Coronavirus to protect its citizens against the deadly pandemic.

For many, it is not understandable why this single incident has triggered a series of massive protests and riots in a relatively peaceful country like the US despite the fact all police officers responsible for this unfortunate incident have been fired, and one who allegedly killed George Floyd has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. One should, however, not view this incident in isolation. In fact, the current violent public reaction over this incident is the ultimate outcome of the politics of hate and division constantly pursued by President Donald Trump since he launched his election campaign in the US many years ago. Ever since, there is resentment and a feeling of insecurity in the country’s Black population. This may also be the reason that the ongoing public demonstrations are largely participated by African-Americans who are protesting against the systemic racism in the US by raising the slogan of “Black Lives Matter”.

There is a budding friendship between US President Donald Trump and Indian PM Narendra Modi. These friends have many things in common. Both leaders are apostles of power politics and political pragmatism. Both are considered hardliners who are known for taking unpopular decisions. President Trump has taken many unpopular decisions regarding Iran and the so-called Middle East peace plan. Similarly, PM Modi has also been criticised for revoking the status of Occupied Kashmir, and introducing discriminatory citizenship laws in India. Both leaders have managed their entry into the power corridor by raising some popular political slogans to allure the majority ethnic or communal population in both countries. That is why both are equally unpopular among the minorities in both counties. There is currently a visible polarisation in both countries in consequence of certain policies pursued by these two merchants of hate and division.

The Americans reached an important milestone in their more than two-century long political history in 2008 by electing Barack Obama, as the first African-American president of the United States. Many believed that the long-cherished dream of Martin Luther King had finally come true. However, this optimism only remained short-lived as exactly eight years later, Donald J Trump, a person who was dubbed a ‘White Supremacist’ and ‘racist’, rose to the Presidency of the US. The so-called Trumpism favours the adoption of a typical neoconservative strategy to establish American supremacy internationally.

The slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ has been the central theme of Trump’s presidential campaign since mid-2015. In fact, this slogan is somehow closely related to the concepts like Pax Americana and American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism, which essentially believes in the special character of the United States as a uniquely free nation in the world, based on the ideology of individualism, liberty, egalitarianism, democracy and laissez-faire economics. Moreover, it also believes that the US is qualitatively different from other developed nations due to its unique historical evolution as well as distinctive political and state institutions.

Modi rose to power in India in 2014. His political party, Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), officially adopted the Hindutva ideology in 1989. The term “Hindutva” is alternatively used to signify a variety of the concepts such as “Hindu Nationalism”, “Hindu Supremacism” and “Brahmanism” in today’s India. Hindutva is essentially “a Hindu nationalist political ideology which is aimed to establish Hindu hegemony, and promoting Hindu way of life and its cultural symbols in India”. Within 3 years after formally adhering to Hindutva ideology, BJP, along with other Hindu nationalist parties in India, succeeded in mobilising the Hindu extremists to demolish the historical Babari Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992. Though BJP has become a mainstream political force in India, it hasn’t succeeded in rising above its narrow nationalist politics in the country. It has been trying to translate its Hindutva ideology, covertly or overtly, in India all the time. Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda has only brought unrest and division in India. In this context, Modi has also been dubbed “India’s Divider in Chief” by Time magazine last year.

Both Trump and Modi are ardent proponents of Nativism who have been favouring adopting some protectionist trade policies to boost their domestic economies. President Trump pledged to put ‘America First’ by adhering to two simple rules: ‘Buy American, Hire American’. On the other hand, Modi launched his policy of “Make in India” soon after coming into power. Both leaders have also taken strict anti-immigrant measures. These ambitious leaders, however, have miserably failed in either “making America great again” or “making India shine”.

As a matter of fact, both Trumpism and Modi-ism are diametrically opposite to the founding ideology of both states. The founding fathers of America - Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton - were geniuses and respected statesmen. They played a pivotal role in the evolution of the founding ideology of the United States. They obviously opted for such an ideology after taking into consideration the unique character of the American nation. A vast country, comprising thirteen large colonies, was just going to house a multiracial ‘nation of immigrants’. So, the American republic was primarily founded on the idea that “all people are created equal” and these people have some fundamental rights, such as liberty, free speech, freedom of religion, due process of law and freedom of assembly. The Constitution of America guarantees these fundamental rights to all Americans irrespective of their colour and creed. Therefore, regardless of their origin, now each European, Native American, African American and Asian American proudly calls himself an American in this ‘land of opportunity’.

The founding fathers of India sagaciously decided to declare India a secular state instead of a Hindu nationalist state. Now the preamble to the constitution of India essentially signifies that India is a secular state. It says: “We, the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”. The constitution guarantees religious freedom to all communities. In fact, secularism has been a strong cohesive force in multi-communal India. It has played an important role in the national integration of India. It is, therefore, advisable for both divisive leaders that, while selfishly endeavouring to expand their political capital, they shouldn’t let the very ideological pedestal crumble upon which the entire edifice of the statehood of both states essentially rest.

Mohsin Raza Malik

The writer is a lawyer. He can be contacted at mohsinraza.malik@gmail.com