Burnaby writer Nadeem Parmar pulls no punches when it comes to criticizing what’s happening in the world’s so-called largest democracy under a right-wing regime.
His novel 2025 (Beeh Sau Pachi) predicts that India is going to be turned into an intolerant Hindu theocracy in two years. Parmar tells the story through a young Punjabi woman who can foresee how India, which is known for its diversity, will be transformed into a monolithic nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Parmar is a seasoned novelist who has written extensively on Indo Canadian history and the 1985 Air India tragedy.
His new book has its origin in the famous Indian farmers’ protest in 2020-21, which received global attention. Demonstrators succeeded in forcing Modi to roll back controversial farm laws that farmers felt threatened their livelihood.
Modi has been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu supremacist group of which his ruling right-wing BJP is a part. The RSS was established in 1925 to create a Hindu nation.
Parmar’s novel looks deeply into that possible scenario and warns that Modi is determined to make that happen by 2025. It mentions of real-life events, such as growing attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents, including scholars, since the Modi government came to power in 2014.
In fact, Parmar could not find a publisher in India, partly because of the environment of threats and intimidation, before self-publishing his novel.
“I tried to reach as many as half a dozen publishers, including some in Canada,” Parmar said. “A few did not even respond, while others suggested that I rather go for self-publishing.”
Parmar believes in secularism
Ironically, Parmar was among those who welcomed Modi at the Ross Street Sikh Temple during his official tour in Vancouver in 2015. This is despite the fact that Parmar had written a poem in protest against the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.
“I was about 12 years old when it happened and couldn’t stop writing a poem addressing his killer Nathuram Godse.”
Many Modi supporters, including a few of his MPs, glorify Godse. Notably, the RSS was briefly banned for its suspicious role in Gandhi’s murder.
Though Parmar does not want to comment as to whether he regrets his decision to welcome Modi back then, he says that was only there because of his involvement in the Komagata Maru museum project at the Ross Street Sikh Temple.
The Komagata Maru was a Japanese vessel carrying more than 350 Indian passengers. It was forced to leave Vancouver’s Coal Harbour and return to India in 1914 under a racist immigration regulation.
“I have always believed and continue to believe in secularism,” Parmar said.