Netflix’s Patriot Act episode on Indian Elections by Hasan Minhaj on March 17th, 2019 has already gone viral by now eliciting vociferous reaction from almost all viewers some aligning with his thoughts and others wondering what was driving Hasan for presenting such a lopsided view on India as a country and the ruling party specifically. The whole episode was not only NOT fair, it was definitely driven by some agenda, the most visible being influencing Indian Elections through the use of minority victim card.
Let me say it right here: India is more cohesive than Hasan would have us believe. Indians are more mindful of their fundamental rights and historically, governments have toppled over the accountability of politicians to their people. Indian citizens care more about issues on corruption, hygiene, scientific achievements and India’s global standing than the made up divisive issues shown in the Patriot Act. By Hasan’s own admission, this is the largest democratic exercise in the world with the participation of close to 900 million people. This is a litmus test of the hopes and dreams of those 900 million voters (to which he disappointingly adds ‘caste’ as a way to denigrate the whole exercise).
So here is my response to Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act episode on Indian Elections
Right in the beginning we see few Indian origin uncles and aunties (clearly paid actors) who try to dissuade Hasan from stepping into this minefield. One such character is made to say “Your name [Hasan Minhaj] rings a bell [in India] that you are a terrorist”. I am very confident that the very people who Hasan is trying to show in a degrading light, if not all of those 900 million voters would be riled by this one statement. Hasan would be very well reminded that India is a country that has appointed both Sikhs, Muslims (three times) and women as President and Prime Minister. Indians can proudly boast of this achievement. Islam is the second-largest religion in India, making up 14.2% of the country’s population with about 172 million adherents (2011 census). In 2017, India had the third largest population of Muslims, after Indonesia and Pakistan. Indians take pride in being multi-cultural. But what would Hasan know?
Hasan loses no time to change into higher gear with the statement that “Since Modi came to power, India has grown more hostile to minority groups”. By this time, his agenda starts to become as clear as the sliver of moon after the new moon day! Fact is that the average incidences of communal violence per year have gone down from 756 between 2005-2013 to 730 between 2014-2017, while the average deaths in communal violence per year have gone down from 120 to 97 for the same two time periods. Communal violence gone up or way down, Hasan?
Next as the moon grows every night, Hasan’s eyes too grow wider as he mentions that “There is a resurgence of nationalism, specifically Hindu nationalism”. This line has been repeated ad-infinitum by special interest media houses (Netflix being no stranger) to show Indian people’s aspirations in a bad light. It’s like a software company telling another one that “ours is a feature, yours is a bug”. So, nationalism is a bad thing? Or is it a bad thing because as per Hasan, it is “Hindu nationalism”? In reality as Indians are becoming more prosperous, they are more aware of their place in the world and therefore becoming more nationalist, no matter what religion they belong to.
And how could Hasan let go of this golden opportunity without very predictably bringing up 2002 Gujarat riots? That being seventeen years back, is of no consequence to Hasan, even though he himself admits that the courts acquitted the then Chief Minister Modi. Of course, he forgets to mention that the court is the Supreme Court of India, no less. Of course, no mention of the Godhra killings that triggered the riots too.
Hasan then moves on to denigrate not just one political party or religion, but tries to paint the whole nation of India with one crude paintbrush by a world favorite dialogue of “All parties and almost everyone in India is corrupt. The equivalent of acquiring HPV disease in USA. Every single politician has some sort of connection to either a murder charge or a killing”. With that statement, Hasan could have wrapped the program right there, having achieved his goal of dragging down India’s image through filth. No mention of strides made in business transparency and other international markers. Fact is India improved its rank in Ease of Doing Business jumping 23 positions against its rank of 100 in 2017 to be placed now at 77th rank among 190 countries as assessed by the World Bank. But that doesn’t bother either Hasan or Netflix. They don’t need any business in India, do they?
Hasan then picks up a news item from Al Jazeera (anyone can Google and see this. Al Jazeera is the only news site that published this in exactly the same manner as he said) – “Unemployment is the highest in 45 years”. Doesn’t mention that unemployment rate has been consistently lower than 4% for the past four years in alignment with the past ten years. It shot up only last year due to various economic policies which still have to take effect, and the figures are not even official.
Then comes the high point of the program, as Hasan becomes visibly emotional talking about something that is clearly close to his heart – Bangladeshi illegals, sorry “immigrants”. Hasan says “BJP is currently trying to strip 4 million mostly Muslim immigrants, of their right to vote”. BJP or the Government of India? Immigrants or illegal immigrants? Playing the divisive trick again, Hasan? Also, just half a second back he is blaming BJP for high unemployment and right after that accuses BJP for not allowing 4 million more illegal and unemployed immigrants access to voting rights and therefore jobs? Hasan then twists the dagger more by mentioning that this is the “Single largest voter disenfranchisement in recorded history”. Voter disenfranchisement of illegal immigrants? Why is that a crime? And what will that do to the economy? Where do you stand Hasan?
By this time, our poor comedian probably realizes that his curry may have gone too sour now and, in an effort to take the rug under the feet of his hurt viewers, he throws in a little spice by making statements like “Hasan is a spy for Pakistan. Pakistani agent. Muslim from America. How can I be a Pakistani agent, if I am paid by Qatar? Hasan being paid by Iran”. Constantly mentioning Pakistan, Qatar and Iran. What he does not realize is that, if he doesn’t bring up his Muslim background every other minute, that will not even be an issue for the viewers, Indians or not.
By this time, Hasan has had enough of hide and seek and comes out clearly with his agenda, like the full moon on a dark night, by statements like
“Modi has given new life to the Hindu nationalist movement because of his deep ties to the RSS. RSS is trying to make India more Hindu and less secular. RSS is militaristic organization.”
“Mention of the book – Bunch of Thoughts with stress on the term Muslim”
“Mahatma Gandhi murdered by Hindu nationalist”
“Hindu nationalists. Intimidation and violence against religious minorities throughout India.”
“Yogi Adityanath has used fear of minorities as a cultural wedge issue. Changed the names of places from Muslim to Hindu names.”
RSS is accused of being militaristic while making fun of young kids with sticks? Subtle messaging about weak and ineffective Hindu population while also being accused of being militarist? So exactly what is your point about RSS being bad for India? Any data? Any evidence? Any research? Zero. Brings up “Muslims” specifically from a book, parts of which by his own admission have been dis-avowed by RSS. Brings up a political murder (Mahatma Gandhi’s) from 70 years back. Makes it a point to mention ‘Hindu nationalist” and “murder” in one breath. Job done. Again “Hindu” and “intimidation” and “violence” in one sentence. Direct accusation without any evidence or research. As for changing the names of the places, there is no mention of the places being renamed by foreign invaders and the government just reverting back to the original names. So simple, but what is troubling you, Hasan?
And then saving the best for the last – “Violence against minorities has gone up”. Proof? “46 people killed in cow-related violence in four years”. No matter, that the people were cow-smugglers taking the cows to slaughterhouses. Remember, cow is the livelihood of majority of rural population. No mention of illegal slaughterhouses run by cow-smugglers. No mention of this being a serious issue of theft of a livelihood resource like cattle and the citizen’s efforts to control the theft. No sir, religion sells. Right, Hasan?
In conclusion, Hasan Minhaj’s act was not about Indian elections. It was about
- Showing India as a thoroughly corrupt third world country
- Magically conjuring up militarism of the majority
- And showcasing imaginary victimization of minorities
- While unashamedly having zero actual evidence to back up any claim at all!
Featured Image: Youtube