President Trump has landed in India for his first state visit, "and at the center of it will be Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a man for whom Trump seems to have a great deal of affection," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. While Modi may have charmed Trump, however, "within India he's an increasingly controversial figure, because his government has pursued a steadily escalating persecution of religious minorities — persecution so intense that for the last two months, Indians across the country have been taking to the streets in anger."
The charismatic, previously Teflon-coated Modi has both a "cult of personality" inside India and a new groundswell of opposition, Oliver said, "and if citizens in the world's largest democracy, home to over a billion people, are either wearing masks of Modi or marching in the streets, it seems like tonight it might be worth exploring why that is" and "where things could be heading."
One of Modi's "defining beliefs" is Hindu nationalism, the idea that "India is a fundamentally Hindu nation — which is provocative, given that India's founders, Gandhi and Nehru, explicitly disavowed that," Oliver said. While they created India as a secular nation, Modi's BJP party "has served as the political arm of a hard-core Hindu nationalist paramilitary group, the RSS," whose founders admired Hitler's aim to purify the race, he noted. India is home to the world's second-largest Muslim population, and while Modi doesn't say much publicly about Muslims, "those closest to him are comfortable saying a lot."
And "since winning re-election, Modi has moved from quiet support for religious intolerance to concrete action," his government working to "strip millions of Muslims of citizenship, and they did it in a diabolically clever two-step way," Oliver said. "They're basically Marie Kondo-ing India, and it's only Muslims that don't seem to 'spark joy' in them." Now, "the government is now building detention camps for all the illegal immigrants that they are creating," and "the only glimmer of hope here is that for perhaps the first time in Modi's whole career, his actions are creating a massive and sustained backlash." Oliver ended with an image of the Taj Mahal and a message: "India, home to this enduring symbol of love, frankly deserves a lot more than this temporary symbol of hate." There is NSFW language. Watch below. Peter Weber