I contend that the articles of Roy, Talukdar, and Chacko in the publication of Australia’s think tank, the Lowy Institute, paint a distorted picture of Modi and India. The articles are a part of the information warfare that has been unleashed against India by Pakistan, and against the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by opposition parties after their crushing defeat in last year’s election. In information warfare, ethical journalism is always a casualty. The Cambridge Analytica scandal and the recent revelation by an Indian journalist that he was offered USD 1,500/- to write an anti-Modi piece suggest that.
The articles of Roy, Talukdar, and Chacko would need to be read in the above context given their apparent Hindu- and Modi-phobia.
Roy asserts that only the majority Hindu community was involved in the Delhi violence and that it targeted Muslim households, businesses, and religious places. Roy forgets the gruesome killing of the Intelligence Bureau Officer Ankit Sharma. He was killed in the typical extremist style: stabbed 400 times, sulphuric acid poured on him, and his body was later dumped in a sewer. Roy also does not mention the police officer Ratanlal who was killed on line of duty by Muslim mobs. Both these officers were Hindus. Roy contends that Hindu mobs were yelling “Jai Shri Ram,” but he conceals that Muslim mobs too were yelling “Allahu Akbar”.
He notes “for months, Hindu politicians were making incendiary speeches” without providing any supporting evidence, and hides that the first salvo was fired by Indian National Congress (INC) President Sonia Gandhi in a public rally in mid-December 2019, calling upon minorities (a euphemism in India for Muslims) to be ready for a fight to the finish battle (aar-paar ki ladaai). It was followed by INC leader Mani Shankar Iyer asking protestors to test whose hand is stronger, that of the kaatil (killer), a reference to Modi, or ours. Harsh Mander, a close associate of Sonia, “delivered a speech instigating violence to a huge gathering of people outside Jamia Millia Islamia in December 2019. Yet another rabble-rouser Muslim leader ranted, “15 crore Muslims can dominate 100 crore Hindus”. Yet, Roy blames only Hindu politicians. Why?
Roy contends, similar to the other two authors, that “universities, once sacrosanct, have not escaped the state’s wrath,” but all of them conceal that rioters burning buses, police vehicles and public property were running for cover inside university campuses. Is a university campus a hiding place for hooligans? Or, is a University a separate state within a state, that is above the law, and that police cannot enter it to catch rioters who threw stones at the police from inside the campus? If a gun-wielding man runs for cover in an Australian university campus to avoid police chase, would the police enter the campus or not? Roy avoids explaining why, out of more than 300 universities in India, the violence was confined to two Muslim universities and the leftist students’ union-dominated Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Roy distorts facts once again by writing that a new law “promises Indian citizenship to refugees from neighbouring countries” except for Muslims. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 provides citizenship to persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. These countries are either Islamic or predominantly Muslim countries, where according to the United Nations, minorities are persecuted on religious grounds. Muslims in these countries can also apply for Indian citizenship under a different law, and around 600 have already been granted citizenship by the Modi government. Could Roy explain why he is hiding this information and pushing a false narrative?
Roy’s claim that the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) considers that “India’s 200 million Muslims do not belong in a Hindu nation” is laughable. Muslim votes are decisive in 200 of the 543 Parliamentary constituencies in India. Consequently, no political party including the BJP could afford to alienate such a large number of voters. Talukdar and Chacko advance a childish claim that the idea of the BJP is to disenfranchise 200 million Muslims. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the Indian constitution. Can any government do such a thing? They forget that India is the world’s largest democracy.
These three authors find fault with Kapil Mishra, a BJP leader, who made a statement before a senior police officer requesting him to clear the sit-in street protests that had started in Chand Baug and Jaffrabad areas of Delhi, on the background that such protests, started two months ago in Shaheen Baug area, are blocking public roads, thus inconveniencing commuters, school children and ambulances. Another two protest sites would mean that close to 3.5 million commuters and others would face inconvenience. Yet, Roy invents an incitement for violence in Mishra’s statement. Four retired judges disagree that Mishra’s speech amounts to incitement for violence.
Similarly, labelling the 2002 Gujarat riots as “a sustained pogrom against Muslims” is a distortion of facts, since members of both communities were killed in it. Pogrom occurs when only one community suffers. Pogrom has happened in India only twice so far: In 1984, when about 3,000 Sikhs were massacred, and in the 1990s, when some 500,000 Hindus were forced to flee Kashmir – both under non-BJP governments.
He contends that the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was stripped of its constitutionally enshrined autonomy. But, he conceals the fact that Article 370 of the Indian constitution giving J&K special status was a temporary provision from the very beginning. Because of the special status, Dalits in J&K were being denied the rights that they enjoy elsewhere in India. Similarly, Muslim women in J&K would now enjoy the privileges of the abolishment of Triple Talaq (instant divorce). Some other benefits are that anti-corruption laws would now be applicable to J&K, tourism potential could get fully exploited, and gender equality would be ensured. But for Roy, these are of no consequence.
The eleven non-BJP state governments taking a stand that they would not implement NRC is a brazen disregard of the Indian constitution. The NRC is a federal subject and is beyond the jurisdiction of state governments. Furthermore, as the Home Ministry has clarified, there is no decision on nationwide NRC as of yet. In spite of this, false propaganda continues.
Roy’s spin on Justice Murlidhar is laughable. The Justice himself clarified that his transfer was effected on 17th February, a few days before Kapil Mishra made his allegedly controversial comment.
Talukdar and Chacko’s claim that “Indian democracy has come under attack in the past few months” is appalling. In mid-2019, in a nationwide election, Modi’s party won 303 out of 543 Parliamentary seats, with the largest opposition the INC winning only 52 seats. Since then, the INC and its eco-system are in despair. But instead of soul-searching, they have launched a virulent misinformation campaign to malign Modi globally with the help of willing accomplices including some journalists. However, Indian democracy did come under attack in 1975 during the INC regime when fundamental rights were suspended for 21 months and opposition leaders jailed. Has anything like this happened in Modi’s regime? But the authors don’t care. They have a narrative to push.
In the end, it will help if journalists do serious research before writing any piece. Publishing such blatantly false narratives not only undermines their own credibility as a journalist but also that of the publishers. Taking a blatantly partisan stand and pushing a particular narrative is a fraud committed on the readers as they are robbed of the truth.
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Milind Sathye is an Australian academic.