Kerushun Pillay
Kerushun Pillay

Why is South Africa so eager to welcome Narendra Modi?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s imminent arrival in South Africa seemingly has everyone excited.

A few “grand receptions” will welcome Modi to the country, where he is expected – among other things – to be part of “discussions” on change, minorities, and hate speech.

But why? Why is South Africa – where we normally shun the controversial, racist, and violent – is so eager to welcome Modi, a dangerous politician once called a “divisive manipulator” by a prominent Indian novelist?

South Africans appear to be oblivious of Modi’s actions, which include spending a large part of his life in the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – a group of Hindu fascists who have been called “no different to Isis” by historians, and whose alumni include Nathuram Godse, the man who killed Mahatma Gandhi.

Back in 2002, his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) blamed a fire on a train which killed over 50 Hindu pilgrims on Pakistani secret services, then used it to justify a three-day strike where mobs dragged women and children on the streets to be raped. It is understood that between 1 000 and 2 000 people were killed, mainly Muslims.

He puts campaign groups under intense scrutiny, he closed down Greenpeace India, and earlier this year, student Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested for allegedly shouting anti-India sentiments at a commemoration for the death of Afzal Guru, an alleged terrorist who was hanged in 2013 for his apparent role in an attack on India’s Parliament in 2001.

So irate were BJP supporters, that Kumar sought to stand trial in front of India’s Supreme Court for a bail application, as he feared for his safety.    

It has also been revealed that Modi has allowed RSS to gain influence in India’s education ministry, and have even doled out RSS-written textbooks to schoolchildren in Gujarat.

Last year, over 40 of India’s regarded writers had returned literature awards in protest after Hindu fanatics lynching people for eating beef in what they see as a “climate of intolerance” under Modi’s leadership. 

It is widely accepted by his critics that Modi’s rulership in India – a religiously diverse country, which has the third highest Muslim population in the world – resembles a “Hindu taliban, where religious minorities are at “serious risk”, and those who disobey traditional Hindu rules are in danger.

But regardless, A 10 000-strong crowd is expected to welcome Modi next week in Johannesburg, treating him to both Zulu and Indian dancing.  

The group hosting it, South Africa Welcomes Modi, called the visit a “very timely one for South Africa,” and an interviewee in Durban’s Sunday Tribune newspaper a few weeks ago noted that Modi is “widely respected and admired by Indian South Africans”, and that he inspires hope for them – god, I really hope not.

Last week I attended a National Hindu Conference at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where speakers – including Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma – spoke of Hinduism and human rights and responsibilities.

Ashwin Trikamjee, President of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, had nothing to say to me when I asked him what he made of Modi’s imminent arrival in Durban.

Nor could Ela Gandhi, who just delivered a speech which said that Hinduism advocates “non-injury in thought, word, and deed”. All she told me was that South African Indians should stop seeing Modi as their president, and treat him as they would any visiting leader.

When I asked her whether she thought he was controversial, she simply replied that all presidents are.  

Modi, it seems, has managed to dupe the world; not only are many not critical of him, but most appear oblivious to his antics.

To think such a person will be part of engagements on hate speech in South Africa, and is seen as a hero to South African Indians, is as perplexing as it is worrying.


  • Vinod Cb

    Keep on worrying buddy….

  • Level Headed

    It seems that the writer has not done enough research on this topic. I especially found this comment amusing: “Back in 2002, his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) blamed a fire on a train which killed over 50 Hindu pilgrims on Pakistani secret services”. Mr. Kerushun, where did you get this info from? The train was burned by a local Muslim mob. There was no talk about ISI’s involvement in it. The members of this Muslim mob also have been sent to jail, along with the members of the Hindu mob who ran the riots which followed the burning.

  • Kowie Misir

    What an uninformed and erroneous article. If this is the quality of the “thought leader” blogs, then the forum should cease operation. I will not enumerate the inaccuracies in the article, but I suggest that the write fact check.

    Further, latching onto an extremist comment that the RSS is equivalent to ISIS (the individual making this comparison is probably hoping that it be buried forever) exposes the writer’s biases. Does the global population know about the RSS and their quest for domination? No, because no such comparison can be made. The world does know of ISIS!

    Controversial, violent and racist? The author should unpack these adjectives with respect to Mr. Modi. The fact that the English language media terms someone controversial or “activists” with agendas characterizes individuals as such does not necessarily make them so. Racist – really now!

    The writer is entitled to not like Mr. Modi or to write a critical article on his policies or politics. However, the writer is not entitled to his own facts.

  • jonathan jack

    I totally agree with you Kerushan. Modi is a con…..there is more communal violence in India
    under his watch. What is he doing about the persecution of Muslims and Christians by
    his BJP? There are caste-related deaths everyday in India. What is he doing about it?
    Cows are more respected in India than the lower caste Dalits.
    Have people forgotten the riots in Gujarat when Modi was the Chief Minister when
    Muslims were slaughtered and he looked ‘the other way’ ?
    What do Gandhi and Trikamjee say about Hindus treating their fellow human beings
    as lower forms of humans by practising the caste system which is worse than apartheid?

  • equalitarian

    So where’s the boycott of Indian goods etc? Or is it because India is one of the big trading partners that it doesn;t matter? I didn’t see any big protests either. Maybe there’s just a hint of hypocrisy in this article.

  • Max Parshotam

    Dearest Kerushan Pillay,

    Excuse me Sir; in your play-time on-line you chose to decorate Prime Minister Modi of a small democracy with an insult. I think you have been very successful in your endeavour.

    In case you did not attend the Modi gig I can assure you it was mind-blowing. The themes were Indo-African the dancers were awesome. The speech was organic public participation was 65,000 minus 50,000 equals 250,000.00

    You have an amazing flair to fragrance factual inaccuracies in your grammar. Have another attempt to amuse the readers with something more ostentatious for our attention. Try to be controversial if that will favour you !

    The only person oblivious to anything Mr. Pillay is Kerushan that is so cool. I guess it’s nice to be naughty and nuisance to oneself.

    We had a Truth and reconciliation in South Africa and recently Marikana in a great democracy. People that live in glass houses don’t throw stones.

    South Africans embraced forgiveness so did Nelson Mandela standing shoulder to shoulder with his adversary that incarcerated him for three decades.

    You must learn to look at the merits of others and remedy your own little faults. When the world is viewed through that prism your ideals for emulating mediocrity would evaporate.

    I recollect you asked a question to Ela Gandhi and Ashwin Trikamjee that’s because you are an intelligent man. I am not surprise you don’t know the answer. India and South Africa are great democracies ordinary men making extra ordinary errors but believed in understanding. Surely Mr. Pillay you know better your IQ disappointed you on this occasion !

    My intellect informs me the opposite of a genius can ask what ever likes. You don’t have to lavish him with the wisdom of a dictionary :-)

    When you know little on a subject and assume you know it all that is perilous.

    Perhaps you should consider renaming — Thought Leader to Zealot Advocate !

    Have a fun day Mr KP please dont hesitate to write jokes.

    Warm regards,