Sickular. Nationalist. Patriotism. Traitor. Presstitute. Pakistani.
These are some of the most commonly used words on Twitter today. If a famed journalist or a celebrity says something even remotely critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP government, a salvo is instantly fired at them.
Narendra Modi becoming the prime minister hasn’t gone down well with many people in India, owing to the 2002 riots scar. Though the Supreme Court may have exonerated him, some still believe (including I) that justice may not have been done. Despite his dubious past, the truth remains that he is the most charismatic and hard-working prime minister India has got in recent times.
Is visceral hatred for one man more important than the country’s welfare? It shouldn’t be, ideally.
For me, it is imperative that the country progresses and for that, all of us need to come together and contribute.
Here are five ways Modi critics are harming India:
1. Tarnishing India’s image globally: Many Indian writers and journalists have criticised Modi and the BJP for their pro-Hindu nationalist stand and written grossly unimaginable things, which are amusing to say the least. For instance, a few weeks ago, Anish Kapoor, a British Indian, wrote a piece in The Guardian titled “How India is being ruled by a Hindu Taliban”. The headline of the article was so outlandish that I couldn’t read it. There are only two possibilities. First, Anish Kapoor hasn’t ever read about the Taliban. Second, he has written the article for sensationalism. Though it cannot be denied that the rise of Hindu nationalism is indeed a cause of worry, such poorly written op-eds completely destroy the narrative. Had the article been toned down and not compared India to a Taliban, people would have appreciated it much more.
2. Opposing everything blindly: There is a thin line between opposing and critiquing. Our freedom of speech allows us to write anything we want, but we should always focus on critical analysis rather than a blind opposition. Statuses like “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is doomed to fail”, “BJP is doing nothing”, “It is just a marketing gimmick”, are examples. Rather than such extreme opinions, it would serve better to focus on in-depth analysis and constructive criticism. I had done a investigative story on the government’s 100 per cent toilet claim in schools, which proved to be false, but at the same time, I had also included comments by experts and researchers as to what should be done going forward. Therefore, blind opposition to everything the government does because of one’s hatred for one man won’t lead to anything constructive. The power of social media is immense and as seen in several cases, the medium has compelled the government to take notice as well as appropriate action.
3. Vicious atmosphere of negativity: By constantly posting negative and hate news, one tends to start feeling depressed and dismayed. We will share endless articles about Yogi Adityanath, Sadhvi Prachi, and other outspoken leaders’ shameless statements, but won’t share anything on how a woman in a train who tweeted for help against harassment got aid in a few hours. I doubt how many people actually even know the “Accessibility India Campaign”, which aims to make public places differently abled-friendly, something that should have been done much before, given India has 27 million differently-abled persons. I am not trying to be an Anupam Kher, arguing “intolerance” on every news channel, but many amazing things are happening in India, which should be highlighted.
4. Wasting time and resources: There are no statistics available but the fight between pro-Modi and anti-Modi supporters on Twitter and Facebook to prove each other wrong consumes thousands of man hours and money each day. For example, Swarajya, a right wing portal, publishes some amazing articles about liberal right standpoints, whereas, on the other hand, a Facebook page, “The Frustrated Indian”, only focuses on petty fights and blind worship of the BJP, rather than encouraging meaningful discussions. That time could better be spent on doing constructive things like working with organisations, apprising the government of underlying issues using social media (for example, using the Swacch Bharat app to highlight unpicked garbage), volunteering for NGOs, posting suggestions on the MyGov portal (which has recently been made public for suggestion and editorials), among other things. Endless arguments and ego fights on Twitter are the least judicious use of time.
5. No coverage on real issues by anti-BJP media: Television journalists will run endless debates on censorship of words by the Censor Board, VVIP racism, transfer of a Haryana IPS officer, et al, to criticise the BJP and its state governments, but none on rising farmer suicides, rising rapes in Madhya Pradesh, or the malnutrition in Gujarat. There are many issues on which the BJP’s inaction can be criticised, but the ones TV channels focus on should not be the priority. Though digital media outlets cover a lot of ground on burning issues, for an average office-goer, prime time news is the major source of information and opinion.
Having said that, though there are cases of rising Hindu extremism and fringe groups, I am of the firm view (and I may not be correct) that India will never become a Hindu Rashtra because the BJP knows that there is too much at stake.
If one follows Modi closely, it is not difficult to gather that apart from selling India abroad, he wants to project himself as a global leader and probably the best prime minister India has ever had. Therefore, prioritising on making India a Hindu Rashtra would be detrimental to his dreams and ambition. But he definitely needs to come down heavily on the Hindu fringe leaders and groups, who need to be reprimanded not because they derail the development agenda, but because what they promote and propagate destroys the secular and cultural fabric of our country.