A Kashmiri journalist examines a new generation of tyrants threatening the (illusory) promises of liberal democracy.
Columbia University–trained, New Delhi–based journalist Peer (Curfewed Night: One Kashmiri Journalist’s Frontline Account of Life, Love, and War in His Homeland, 2010) focuses on alarming authoritarian developments in India under Narendra Modi, chief of the right-wing nationalist BJP party and prime minister since 2014, and in Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, the head of the AKP party, which has been in power since 2002. In both cases, the author traces their respective paths to power, political promises and deceptions, and oppositions. In Modi’s case, the Gujarat-based politician was anointed successor to Lal Krishna Advani, a leading Hindu nationalist politician, and thus owes “a debt that would see a massive payoff.” The horrendous violence of early 2002 in Godhra between Hindu activists and Muslim tea vendors, resulting in roughly 1,000 mostly Muslim deaths, was largely blamed on Modi’s complicity and political patronage, and the event has continued to haunt his leadership. Modi’s promises for economic order and better infrastructure seem to have canceled out concerns about sectarian violence. Yet Modi’s xenophobia and intimidation of intellectuals and activists, such as Rohith Vemula and Kashmiri rebel Burhan Wani, underscore a dark aspect to his populist regime. In Turkey, Erdo?an’s embrace of the European Union, emphasis on infrastructure, ostensible democratic reforms, and marriage of “moderate Islam and market-friendly policies” obscure his authoritarian tendencies, including corruption, harsh crackdowns on any opposition, and the suppression of non-Turkish minorities like the Kurds. Peer examines how Erdo?an’s relationship with one-time ally Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim preacher with powerful followers, degenerated into mutual hostility. The flood of refugees into Turkey has only exacerbated the prime minister’s strongman proclivities.
A knowledgeable journalist astutely delineates a troubling global move toward the right wing.