This year, India’s guest for the Republic Day Parade is Jair Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil. And it shouldn’t be a cause of celebration.
Trigger Warning: Rape, Homophobia.
From the likes of Mandela, who have changed history for generations to come, to the likes of Bolsonaro, who has somehow single-handedly managed to ruin the world’s largest forests, it hasn’t been much of a glow-up for India.
Republic Day is a reminder of the concept of a Republic, a concept emphasising the Constitutional values that have guided us over the years and the equality of all citizens. The founding of the Republic was a very significant step for this newly independent nation of India, and needless to say, it is a proud day for us.
Bolsonaro is another fish swimming in the current populist wave. Erdogan in Turkey, Trump in the United States, and the recently elected Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom are some other popular examples showing this rise is extremist leaders; all of them are leaders who have no problem expressing themselves in vile ways, as long as it appeals to the masses. Unsurprisingly, they also have limited patience for dissent and are extremely right-wing. Does this ring a bell?
A man notorious for his policies, Bolsonaro’s stances on environment, LGBTQ+ rights, women, and democracy are deeply problematic. He’s a far-right politician known to be openly racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and militaristic. A quick search of his name would easily lead you to hundreds of articles describing his controversial statements and inflammatory takes on everything you could care about.
The Amazon fires of 2019, which were a stark, unmistakable reminder of how destroyed the earth truly is, had one man to blame. He has also been caught on tape while calling himself, “a proud homophobe,” and saying he had rather have his son die in a car crash than be gay.
“I am not going to rape you, because you are very ugly,” said he to a female politician in 2014. “Elections won’t change anything in this country. It will only change on the day that we break out in civil war here and do the job that the military regime didn’t do: killing 30,000. If some innocent people die, that’s fine. In every war, innocent people die,” said the right-wing leader in an interview in 1999.
Not only is his speech provocative, but it also is his policy-making atrocious. Brazil is also home to 17 of the 50 most violent cities in the world and has the world’s highest homicide rate. Bolsonaro pledged to tackle this security crisis: he relaxed gun ownership restrictions. He also scrapped Brazil’s Human Rights Minister, and created a position of a Minister of ‘Family Values,’ placing an ultraconservative pastor at the post. Doesn’t this ring a bell too?
“Bolsonaro is a political figure I don’t wish to see on such an occasion. He is against everything I stand for. But, honestly, I can’t say I didn’t see this coming. After this country’s policy changes and the ridiculous direction it is going, I suppose the worse is yet to come,” said Mrinalini, a third-year student.
Considered close to leaders such as Donald Trump, he’s had spats with France’s Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel, and Norwegian leaders, over his exploitation of the Amazon. Needless to say, he isn’t a leader other respectable world leaders are tripping over their feet to befriend. This is why Modi’s growing comradeship with the Brazilian leader speaks even louder.
His statements and actions are evidence why he shouldn’t be suitable for an occasion as esteemed as this. However, it isn’t surprising that the Modi Government thinks otherwise. Modi, after all, is a part of the same extremist club too. And, well, birds of a feather flock together.