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Not A Word Against The PM: How Criticising PM Modi Is Being Projected As ‘Unpatriotic’

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By Devang Pathak:

2014 will be remembered as a landmark year when the criticism of the man became the criticism of the nation.

I am in attendance at a suburban Literary festival in Mumbai. The topic is “Tyranny Of Power” with distinguished panellists including Congress’s Mani Shankar Aiyer. The debate ensues about our Prime Minister and his 6 months in office as well as the speculation about the true intentions of his government. The panel talked about the hesitance of the national media to criticize or question the Prime Minister, such as the meeting with the press, where several journalists were seen taking selfies with the Prime Minister and basking in the glory of his compliments for their work. There was discussion about how the media reported the Madison Square Garden event – without highlighting that it was essentially the Non-Resident Indians which were excited about the Prime Minister’s visit and not the American public in general. My guess is this was somehow construed as the criticism of the nation as in the approaching Q&A session one person shouted at Mr. Aiyer for his Chaiwallah comment about the Prime Minister last year and was supported by few people in the crowd in what became a shouting match.

modi criticism by media

The noise which enveloped the arena was barely recognisable. But it had a common message – don’t be cynical about our country and don’t criticize our leader. How did the disrupted session end? Mr. Aiyer, in his usual antagonizing way said that if anyone compares Mr Modi to Adolf Hitler, he isn’t wrong. The resistance to criticism was rewarded with outrageous comparisons. This has been the general discourse in our country since May – when a question or action which goes against popular political belief of the country is asked, it is met with rebuke and disgust which in turns triggers more heated reactions.

I will confess that I am not an avid supporter of Narendra Modi. I had maintained that even before the elections and I do even now. But on 16th May, after he became the Prime Minister of the country, I had an obligation to accept and respect it. The constitution and a basic democratic principle involves respect for the office of the democratic leader of the country. But the man bearing that office is not free from criticism.

For instance, at a recent adoption of the village of Jayapur by the Prime Minister, he made a case to let the girl child live. “If we kill girl child in the mother’s womb, then what will happen to the world. If only 800 girls are born against 1000 boys, then 200 boys will remain unmarried.” I find this to be an unacceptable argument. A girl or any human being for that matter is not utilitarian. They do not exist to serve a purpose such as breeding vehicles for men. They have the right to simply exist. The argument can be that while addressing the conservative villagers, Mr. Modi had to adopt this simple statement. But this would be a naïve view. A leader of his stature and power could have influenced the core idea – A woman has as much right to live as a man, without any regressive comment to support that argument. He left the crowd of his followers imprinted with the idea – to give birth to a girl and marry her off, in turn setting back the women’s rights movement in rural areas by many years.

There were many logical flaws in his argument at the rally. Yet, I failed to see even one mainstream journalist or publication point that out.

Let’s put that treatment in stark contrast to the former Prime Minister, for whom the criticism would be no-holds barred, by the public and even the media. There would even be a barrage of humor and jokes at his expense, some well-deserved and harmless while others personal and derogatory. Every mistake of his was scrutinised and penalised such as the “Theek Hai” gaffe.

The treatment of Mr. Modi falls on the other end of the spectrum. There are many well-deserved questions or criticisms which are never asked by the public or the journalists, and anyone asking these questions is often berated. I know the managers of a few Indian humor pages on social media, which often make fun of Indian popular culture, who are flooded with abuses and threats every time anything is said about the current Prime Minister, even if the query or statement is genuine. Even if there is something to criticize or question, the issue would be raised in an unprecedented manner – with civility. An example of this is a trend on social media a few days back “#ModiSirRemoveUnfairPOCSOLaw”. In my 4 years of using Twitter, I have never once seen a trend which addressed Dr. Manmohan Singh with a civil or kind request.

It is pretty evident that the intensity of emotions aroused by the 2014 election have been those unlike any other in recent times. Many have taken the present government as a sign of hope that the long promised “Developed India” will become a reality. There is nothing wrong with this level of optimism. But this optimism is being used to supplant logic and criticism. The worship and reverence of one man is being tied to our self-worth as Indian citizens and nation. This leads us to align patriotism with blind faith instead of our self-confidence and belief as a nation.

Let’s hope that our fragile belief systems make way for a stronger and resilient system of nationalism in 2015, which is not afraid to criticize and question its leaders.

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  1. Babar

    While no one questions how many men Mr. Modi has murdered to climb the ladder in the political arena, questions, however, are raised about how 3,000 Gujarati Muslims lost their lives in the 2002 Gujarat riots, with brutal killings of men, women’s wombs cut open with trishuls, children burnt alive, girls raped in front of their families, homes torched down, shops looted, livelihood destroyed, just to shed a little light on the heinous terror inflicted on innocent Muslims by Bajrang Dal, formed largely by Mr. Modi’s goons. 26th May should have been a day of mourning in India, as an uneducated, illiterate, mass murderer, and rapist was elected to lead the largest democracy in the world. If India had to select a tea vendor to run the country, at least they could have chosen one who did not perpetrate crime in the most horrendous fashion.

    1. chandrakant sharma

      Babar bhai the question is so obviously not raised because the supreme court had provided him a clean chit in the godhara case. But I belive that is not enough for you to belive. To make it clear that when the riot happend the loss happend to both side not one families lost on both side not one.

      So repeating the same thing will do nothing than creating a rift in the society that we live .

      Unless you are having the intentions.

      So I suggest move on, others have…..

    2. Deva

      @Babar: Yeah?
      What about the 59 helpless women and children and roasted alive in the locked coaches of the train doused with oil at Godhra? Why did those Muslims enrage the public, resulting in those riots that left 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus dead? What about Hindus who lost their lives in those same riots at the hand of those “innocent” Muslims, what about Hindu women raped by them? Why were 157 riots started by Muslims in response to Godhra riots?

      Why did the Police kill 13 Hindus to control the riots if these were state sponsored?

      Anyone can be accused.
      You may be accused of stripping, raping and murdering your own mother and pimping and selling your own sister, but if the Sessions court, High Court, the Supreme court of India and a SIT, all find you innocent due to lack of evidence then it could be possible that you have not raped and cut open your own mother.

      You may be shouted at, bullied and overpowered till you are unable to respond to a journalist on an interview, but that would still not mean you would have raped your mother. Would it?

  2. Utsarjana Mutsuddi

    While I have to agree that I have not noted a more united sense of optimism in my country about a government in the past, I also have to agree with you about our Prime Minister’s regressive ideas about the utilitarian purpose of human beings in our nation that happen to be female. We live in a nation where a every person is objectified to the point of her/his utility in society. Our sense of inequality is far more deep rooted than patriarchy. Our identities rarely ever depend on who we are, it is more dependant on what we do. Now, what we do depends entirely on where in society we belong. Our sense of identities have been morphed to a point where we are what we do, what we contribute and most importantly how much we are worth. This sense of identitu needs to be challenged before anything else in order to truly challenge comments like “200 men will be left without women”. However as far as challenging/questioning our Prime Minister’s views are concerned it will take a while for the optimism to subside in order for people to notice the actual bigger picture and then conclude that he may not be entirely correct. While the optimism may be gradually fading in certain pockets of the nation, as long as we hold on to notions of identity as an utilitarian idea the general awakening against such subtle comments will not take place, as nation at large works upon the presumption of such ideas.

  3. Gaurav

    when you criticize a person for no reason and hold grudges and prejudice against him, it is easy to understand why… thats all

  4. chandrakant sharma

    Devang gr8 work , really appreciate the way you have put the thought of having a critcism of an individual that to of Narendra modi. Let me assur you I am not the fan of modi or any other political parties or joints U really assure you fir that, My perspective of the leader us simple who get the needed work done in time and with accuracy and who can put the faith of the citizens of india back in the politicle system , And I do think you’ll agree on that with me , there is no other politicle leader came so strong after smt. Indira gandhi in the indian politics. Who had created the belief that yes we can be what we want to be.

    The thing that I personally I like the most about him is his willingness to create a transperent system of working of offices & people.

    Now the question arises is , is this enough for not criticising a derogatory remark of the man who is so influential to the society? No the criticism or questioning is required & more than any other time. Where society had found a hope in a man and to let that man to get carried away with so much praise & power.

    Ask himself, yes we do have a right for that and we can. Ask him about the statement he made about the girls or ask him about his stand on the conversion of religion ask him anything that you want. But we wont be doing it. And that is coz we don’t have time to do that.

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