As Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to Turkey for the G20 summit after a productive visit to Britain, we can extrapolate two things with some certainty: one, his foreign credibility is still very much intact, amongst leaders and citizens alike and two, in spite of his record in governance, the media, both domestic and foreign, still looks at him as a staunch conservative figure who is responsible for the rising levels of intolerance in India. I shall attempt to rebuke the latter claim in the following article.
Over the past months we have seen hundreds of intellectuals return their literary awards as a sign of protest over the murders of rationalists and muslims around the country. The media has backed their protest strongly and the consequence of that has been that somewhere down the line it has become an established fact that India is becoming an intolerant country under Modi’s rule and the freedom of expression is under serious threat with the incumbent government.
Now, I do not doubt the sincerity of the concerns raised by the intellectuals and I am also willing to concede that the attacks in question were carried out by fringe elements of the BJP, although there is no proof of that, but to attribute them directly to the PM or even the government is too much of an exaggeration. I say this because the rule of law has not been any different for the attackers who are being tried in court and the government has strongly condemned any voices within the party trying to shield the attackers. Besides that, if freedom of expression was threatened in the country, would the media be able to criticise the central government for the vigilante violence in states where BJP wasn’t even in power? If Modi wanted to curb expression, couldn’t he have ordered a government crackdown on journalists and bloggers on the same lines as we have seen in Turkey and Bangladesh or has been done for years in China and Saudi Arabia? I bet these so called flag bearers of free speech would think twice before making any such accusation on the respective Head of State of these countries.
I think this is attempt by the media to divert the attention from policy and defame the government in the foreign media. In order to counteract this, the rational voices in the country need to speak up and highlight the policy initiatives undertaken by the government that will result in a never seen before impact on the socio-economic fabric of the country. They must highlight the coherent foreign policy initiatives, the massive social welfare programs and an attempt to create a liberalised economy, all of which will prove to be incredibly fruitful in the not so distant future.
Conclusively, I think the people of this country need to focus on the bigger picture without looking out for instances that somehow vindicate the opposition.