Thursday, Feb 27, 2020 | Last Update : 01:05 PM IST

Age Debate: Protests ahead of Modi’s UK visit show intolerance has grown under NDA rule

Published : Nov 19, 2015, 10:34 pm IST
Updated : Nov 19, 2015, 10:34 pm IST

The events unfolding in any given month of the 18-month old Modi sarkar would make most people wonder if we are headed towards Digital India or Divided India!

SHEHZAD.jpg
 SHEHZAD.jpg

The events unfolding in any given month of the 18-month old Modi sarkar would make most people wonder if we are headed towards Digital India or Divided India!

From the killing of intellectuals like M.M. Kalburgi and Govind Pansare to the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq, Zahid Ahmed and Noman Akhtar over rumours of beef-eating and selling; from the hatred spread by Union minister of state for micro, small and medium enterprises Giriraj Singh and Bharatiya Janata Party MPs Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath, and MLA Sangeet Som, to the clampdown on Greenpeace and activists like Teesta Setalvad who are critical of the Modi government — each incident provides a screenshot of the growing intolerance under the Modi government — ministry of home affairs’ findings show that cases of communal violence under this government have risen by almost 25 per cent over the previous year.

Even as the President spoke on multiple occasions about the country’s secular spirit and against divisive rhetoric, numerous writers, Sahitya Akademi Award winners, artists, National Award-winning filmmakers, scientists and historians returned their awards to bring the Prime Minister’s attention to instances such as Dadri, urging him to speak on the threat to writers, free speech and growing intolerance in the country. But Mr Modi maintained a quiet ambiguity on these subjects. Meanwhile, BJP spokespersons called these nationwide protests “manufactured” and anti-India! Union minister of state for external affairs Gen. V.K. Singh (retd), wondered if the protesters were “paid money” to protest! Mr Modi was silent when BJP president Amit Shah said during an election rally that voting against the party in Bihar would set off fire crackers in Pakistan. Kailash Vijavargiya, a general secretary of the BJP, wondered if Shah Rukh Khan’s heart was in Pakistan after the actor said that “there is intolerance, there is extreme intolerance ” when asked about award wapsi during an interview on his birthday. Mr Modi could not escape this domestic issue on his UK visit with silence.

Not only was he greeted by massive protests on the streets of London, organised by Awaaz Network and other individuals, but even faced a barrage of hostile questions on his track record as chief minister of Gujarat. He was also questioned about rising intolerance in India by the international press during a joint media address with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Over 200 writers, including Salman Rushdie, and leaders from the Labour Party petitioned Mr Cameron to “urge Modi to provide better protection for writers, artists and other critical voices and ensure that freedom of speech is safeguarded”.

While it is easy to live in denial about growing intolerance in India where the media obliges Mr Modi that was not the case in Britain. The protests in UK and the questions posed to him there should be a fair barometer of how people are viewing the rising graph of intolerance in India under Mr Modi. The question is whether he will walk the talk on “Sabka saath, Sabka vikas” and act against the “bigot brigade” in his party and the larger Sangh Parivar, or twiddle his thumbs like Nero as the flames of intolerance burn the plural fabric of India

Shehzad Poonawalla is a lawyer activist and founder member of Policy Samvad

$ UK showed how world views India

***

The Awaaz Network-led protests in the UK prior to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit were sponsored just like the ones against the Modi government in India between September and October 2015, before the Bihar Assembly elections.

The dramatised protests against “intolerance” had nothing to do with communal intolerance, but they did actually reflect political intolerance.

Ever since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance lost power in 2014, political intolerance has grown in India and, today, the ruling National Democratic Alliance is the worst victim of this political intolerance.

It is saddening to note that the Opposition is unable to tolerate Mr Modi or the Bharatiya Janata Party in power. This is a political movement in the garb of a protest against intolerance which is sponsored by the Opposition parties, mainly the Congress Party.

In India the protests against alleged “intolerance” were led by writers and artists with links to the Congress, while the Awaaz-led protests in UK too had political sponsors.

For example, the Awaaz-backed protesters included some Sikh organisations who were supporting a few fringe Muslim groups’ protests, but the Sikh protesters had no answer when asked why they had never protested during the dozen visits to UK by the late Rajiv Gandhi or Congress leaders Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler, accused of 1984 anti-Sikh riots

It’s really shocking that these Sikh groups decided to protest Mr Modi’s visit, accusing him of the 2002 riots in Gujarat, even as the Modi government gave additional compensation to 1984 riot victims’ families. It’s absolutely clear that these Sikh groups’ protests were sponsored. Otherwise, why would some Sikh community organisations oppose a Prime Minister who is trying to get proper justice for its members’ hurt

It’s strange that no minority group ever protested against any Congress Prime Minister visiting the UK despite India witnessing so many anti-Muslim riots during the Congress rule.

Mr Modi’s visits to West Asia saw no protests. The protests in UK were stage managed.The Awaaz Network protest was as flimsy as the award wapsi protests in India.

The protests in India faded as the last votes were cast in Bihar, while in UK, the motley group of protesters were outnumbered by the chants of “Modi! Modi!” by a never-seen-before gathering of over 60,000 Indians at Wembley.

The Awaaz protesters in UK should have thought a 100 times before accusing Mr Modi for the 2002 riots. Their protests brought shame to our motherland even as the international community continues to accord full honour to

Mr Modi, the latest being the opportunity to be the first Indian Prime Minister to address the British Parliament.The Indian political system needs to mature and learn to tolerate political opposition.

The Opposition parties need to accept a man whose 18 months of governance have no taint of corruption, has brought inflation under control and put development in full swing.

If the Congress-led Opposition cannot trust Mr Modi, they should take a leaf from the Mr Cameron’s speech at Wembley: “They said acche din aane waale hai, under Modi acche din zaroor ayenge”.

Praveen Shankar Kapoor is media convenor, Delhi, Bharatiya Janata Party

$Awaaz protests motivated

***