In times of uncertainty and despair, political leaders have been known to take advantage and move things into their favor. This has been seen in many examples over the course of history. Leaders use fear as propaganda and instigate social groups against one another, causing unnecessary internal conflict.
This was seen in the Nazi movement in from 1939 to 1945, where Adolf Hitler and his team used the fear of death, imprisonment and torture to build an army and maintain “support” at home, in Germany. This is also seen in the handling of the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001. Many years later, we see the ISIS militant group using the same technique to take over regions and eradicate racial and religious social groups. The use of fear and its disastrous consequences are seen in much earlier periods of human history. For example, in the Peloponnesian War (around 431 BCE), Athens provoked a war by telling their enemy, Sparta, to fear them rather than resolving the conflict or preparing for battle. This resulted in the conquer of Athens by Sparta and the loss of livelihood in Athens.
Today, during a pandemic, there are many leaders using fear and false representation of facts for their own benefit. One such example of this is Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his work during his term.
When Modi first became PM, he ran on aspiration, hope and promises to better the lives of the billions under his care. However, that changed gradually as he continued abusing his power. His victims are mainly from opposing states or regions. Over the course of his first term, there were numerous reports of mistreatment and hostility.
In West Bengal, people live in constant fear of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) which is a project proposed by the BJP to register and record every citizen in India. While this seems like a simple registration and accountability project, it has actually instilled fear among citizens over their livelihood, property, rights and more. In particular, those of West Bengal fear that their opposition of the party will compromise their lives. Many stood in lines and went to extremes to ensure they have sufficient documents to prove their citizenship in India. Many panicked and have committed suicide to escape this. Over 1.9 million people were said to have been excluded - meaning, they are not part of those registered.
Many human rights activists opposing the PM’s violent abuse of power, have been imprisoned and many still remain there. In addition to this, the party promotes religious discrimination and segration. The registration policy mentioned above promised to “remove every single infiltrator from the country” unless they are Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist. Despite the existing persecution against Muslims and Christians, this added policy creates a rift between groups. It also violates one’s basic rights to not be discriminated against based on religious, racial or social backgrounds.
In light of the pandemic, Modi still aims to maintain a positive image regardless of the misrepresentation of the situation. In 2020, when the pandemic began in India, news channels and reporters loyal to the Prime Minister only spoke of his minor accomplishments and comparisons between India and other nations. When it first began, the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 were tens of thousands. However, that and the dire situation of staff, medical supplies and treatment were only briefly reported. Even now, Modi announces that he has “saved humanity from a big disaster by containing corona effectively.” Later, he opened restrictions and announced the start of the Hindu festival “Kumbh Mela”. This attracted millions and caused a significant surge in the number of cases. “Everywhere I look, as far as I can see, there are crowds,” he proclaimed at the festival.
People live in fear for their basic rights, health, safety and for the stability of future generations. People get the right to choose their leader, but in this case it was after threats, violations and, for some, torture. The facade of an aspiring leader is not revealed even today despite the obvious. Any political success caused by fear and intimidation is not a victory, but a shadow of an abuse of power and ignorance of humanity.