June 02, 2024

The Divisive Colours of Narendra Modi’s Speeches

Sukhbilas Barma

The 2024 Lok Sabha election campaign has set a record of sorts, with the number of untruths, half-truths and fudging that has emanated right from BJP’s top and is being parroted down the line.

THE penchant of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bend reality to suit his party or government’s need usually gets more pronounced prior to elections. However, the 2024 Lok Sabha election campaign has set a record of sorts, with the number of untruths, half-truths and fudging that has emanated right from the top and is being parroted down the line. Perhaps author Mark Twain’s famous statement that there are three types of lies – “lies, damned lies and statistics”, needs a fourth one.  

Going by Modi’s statements made in recent years in the course of his election campaigns, the saying can be changed to “Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Modi’s Speech”, implying that Modi’s statements are more unreliable than statistics. While statistics, including those from the Modi government have some element of truth, Modi statements do not contain even a grain of it. For instance, his remark about not discriminating between Hindus and Muslims and both the communities being given equal treatment, has exceeded all limits.

Six out of seven phases of the general elections have been held. The last phase is on June 1. Naturally, everyone is involved in a guessing game on the outcome. Ajay Umat, a Gujarat-based journalist, who runs a digital news channel, made a prediction ‘panho ochho padse’, meaning that the width of the cloth will turn out to be inadequate.

The view that the ruling party will fall short of numbers needed for a clear majority is being widely discussed by journalists, analysts, voters and contestants. Modi, who is from Gujarat, understands the meaning of ‘panho ochho padse’ very well. He realises that he needs to do something. Out of desperation, Modi, one of the most ‘designer’ leaders in Indian politics today, thought of the biggest hoax of his life -- saying that he treats Hindus and the Muslims equally.

Anybody in the country, with the slightest interest in socio-politics, can easily assess the credibility of such a claim made by Modi. But, for any real assessment, we first need to know who Narendra Modi is, and research his activities in the wider context of the Indian secular, democratic parliamentary system.

Some insights can be got from the book, Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up, authored by Rana Ayyub, a journalist, based on her under- cover investigation in the guise of one Maithili Tyagi on the frightful events of the Gujarat (Godhra) communal riots in 2002, the killing of innocent people (mostly Muslims) in fake encounters and the murder of Haren Pandya, the then Gujarat home minister. The stories that Maithili obtained from the interviews of bureaucrats and some cops holding the highest posts during 2001-2010, reveal the “complicity” of the Gujarat state administration under Modi and Amit Shah in that crime against humanity.

The book has interviews that reveal that Modi was a cadre of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Amrutbhai Kadiwala, the then RSS chief, gave him immense power and authority. RSS was the backbone of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat. It has been widely alleged that Modi could become ‘Modi’ because of the communal violence in 2002. Nobody knew him before that.  There have been communal riots in 1985, 1987, 1989, 1992 in Gujarat when Hindus were affected. But after 1995, the Hindu majority voted a BJP government in the state and saw Godhra as an opportunity to “avenge”.

In February 2002, thousands of devotees of Ram  (Ramsevaks or Kar Sevaks) had gone from Gujarat to Ayodhya at the behest of the Vishva Hindu Parishad to take part in the Purnahuti Maha Yajna. On February 27, the Ahmedabad-bound Sabarmati Express, carrying good number of kar sevaks, stopped at Godhra station. As the train started leaving the platform, someone pulled the chain. Then the train was attacked by a mob of around 2,000 people. After some stone-pelting, four train coaches were set afire, trapping many people inside. As many as 59 people were burnt to death, and 48 others were injured. The Gujarat riots, in which Muslims were the targets of widespread and severe violence, began shortly after, as consequence of this train incident.

The VHP called for ’bandh’ in protest. On February 28, the next day, the violence spread all over; young boys and girls, old people- all were out on the streets. The violence was allowed to continue for over a month. It was alleged that Modi, the then chief minister, remained indifferent.

The cause of the train fire was disputed. In 2003, the Concerned Citizens Tribunal concluded that the fire had been an accident. But the Nanavati-Mehta commission, appointed by the state government in the immediate aftermath of the event, concluded in 2008 that the burning was a pre-planned arson committed by a Muslim mob. An independent investigation by a non-governmental organisation supported the theory of the fire being an accident. 

But in February 2011, the trial court convicted 31 Muslims for the fire, relying extensively on the Nanavati-Mehta Commission report as evidence. In October 2017, the Gujarat High Court upheld the convictions.

Apart from Godhra and other violence, the Modi regime in Gujarat was internationally famous for murders by fake encounters, so much so that the then state home minister Amit Shah was even arrested for his alleged involvement in such killings. In the encounters, the victims were mainly Muslims-- the famous cases being Sheikh Sohrabuddin, his wife Kausar Bi and Ishrat Jahan.

Modi’s dislike for Muslims is also manifested in the controversial piece of legislation, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019. The RSS backed BJP government started this game in 2003 by inserting the concept of ‘illegal migrants’ in The Citizenship Act, 1955, the mother Act on the subject, which provides for four ways of acquiring Indian citizenship- by birth, by descent, by registration and by naturalisation.

With a view to adding troubles for Muslims, Modi took initiative to amend the Citizenship Act in 2016, and the Bill was sent to the Joint Parliamentary Committee. This was finally passed as the Citizenship Amendment Act in 2019, inserting the provision that persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, entering into India on or before December 31, 2014 shall not be treated as ‘illegal migrants’. Immigrants belonging to the Muslim community were the only one to be debarred from the entitlement of citizenship. And now, the creator of such a discriminatory law in a country that has a democratic constitution, claims that he does not discriminate against Muslims?

The Modi administration did not conduct the 2021 Census for any cogent reason, and at the risk of being called inefficient and worthless. One of the reasons for delaying the Census operation appears to be designed to give a wrong notion before the 2024 general elections that the growth rate of the Muslim population has been higher than the Hindu population in order to drive the party’s agenda that ‘Hindu khatre mein hai’ (Hindus are in danger).

Here, Modi has taken the help of economists like Shamika Ravi, member of Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Group who, by applying a wrong methodology of percentage calculation, not warranted in statistical analysis, has shown that during the period 1950-2015, the Hindu population has declined by 7.82 per cent, while Muslim population has increased by 43.15 per cent. (An example of Modi statistics). 

Whereas the actual position in respect of the rate of increase of population of Hindus and Muslims has respectively been 20.7 per cent and 32.7 per cent during 1951-61, 22.7 per cent and 32.9 per cent during 1981-91, 19.9 per cent and 29.4 per cent during 1991-2001, and 16.7 per cent and 24.7 per cent during 2001-2011. The rate of increase in respect of both the communities is downward.  (Source: Article ‘Merukoroner Ostro’ (weapon for polarisation) by Shaswata Ghosh, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata, in Ananda Bazar Patrika, May 20, 2024).   

According to Census 2011, out of total population of 1.210.86 million, the Muslim population is 172.2 million i.e 14.2 per cent only. Should we still believe that ‘Hindu khatre mein hai’? But Modi and company do believe so, and that is another example of his “equal treatment” to Muslims.

Just the other day, in an election speech in Rajasthan, Modi used words of utmost hatred for Muslims by calling them ‘infiltrators’ and ‘people having more children’, while attacking the Congress party. He received widespread backlash from the Muslim community and the Opposition for this. Rana Ayyub wrote on X, ‘This is not a dogwhistle; this is a targeted, direct, brazen hate speech against a community.’ Unfortunately, there was no response from the Election Commission to the complaints made against such hate-filled and communal speeches.

Some more lies in the form of ‘Modi’s guarantees’ may not be out of context. He had made so many statements/promises to the country in past --‘Acche Din’ (good days), ‘Rs 15 lakh in each pocket out of the black money recovered’ ‘ending corruption and terrorism via demonetisation’, ‘providing 2 crore jobs every year’ and so on. Modi had miserably failed to fulfil all these promises and has tried to cover up his failures with the court-directed construction of the Ram Mandir in Ajodhya.

Promises in the form of BJP’s Sankalp patra/Modi’s guarantees, real or absurd, have been felt necessary to attract the voters, because the politics around Ram Mandir was expected to be high-capacity vote- fetching machine. But it has failed to create the desired euphoria. In fact, it gave rise to some negative reactions in some sections, even in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.

Some BJP and RSS leaders, including RSS supremo Mohan Bhagvat, also invited adverse reactions due to speeches in favour of their Hidutva agenda, advocating a change in the Constitution of India. Some promises, such as free power, piped water for all, pucca houses for all etc., included in the ‘guarantee’ package are almost absurd because all these are under states’ domain.  States may simply dodge the issues, as has happened in West Bengal.

In addition to paid and ‘godi media’, a term coined by journalist Ravish Kumar, a number of video films are being screened on ‘Modi’s guarantees’ which can, at best, be considered as only advertisements, far away from real life. The ‘guarantees’ listed in full- page newspaper advertisements are -- service to the poor and middle class, being with the labour, tradition and growth, honour to farmers, employment to the youth, strengthening the base of infrastructures, honour to women power, well administered India, right to the deprived and senior citizen. These are exactly the same promises made in 2014 and 2019.

An example of the “transparent administration” under Modi is the expulsion of 144 opposition MPs during a parliament session for no fault of theirs but for failure of the prime minister and home minister to ensure security of the house. The objective was to get some controversial bills, including the one that excludes the Chief Justice of India from the selection committee for appointing the election commissioners, passed without hassle. This is how Modi got two of his own men appointed as Election Commissioners, which could be one reason why the present Election Commission chooses to remain mum on Modi’s hate-filled and communal speeches.

Courtesy: Newsclick