Obama, Media and Us
- Indo-US media offensive against Modi continues unabated
Disparate responses greeted visiting President Barak Obama’s speech at the Siri Fort auditorium where he had said, “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith, as long as it is not splintered along any lines, and it is unified as one nation.”
In the background of revamped Indo-US relations, people were dismayed that a visiting President should see the need to offer advice to a host country on the handling of a purely domestic situation. But the media thought they knew more than the hoi polloi and took delight in reading it as a deserving snub of the host, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The New York Times and a section of the Indian press believed it was directed at Modi. The Times pinpointed the target saying, “Mr Obama’s speech was aimed partly at his new found friend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been criticised for not doing more to protect political dissent, to guard against sectarian discrimination and conflict. Mr. Obama in effect was saying that their developing partnership did not mean Mr. Modi would get a free pass.”
Suhasini Haider wrote in The Hindu: “His (Mr. Obama’s) words are seen as a strong statement against fundamentalism and extremism here and in the U.S. Mr. Obama admitted he had often felt “treated differently” because of his background in the U.S.” Mr. Obama’s admission of discrimination in the U.S. seems, for The Hindu, enough justification for him to show concern for the situation in India. Later, in an editorial, after a lot of hemming and hawing and the usual ideological tripe, The Hindu said, ‘However, holistically there is more substance to Mr. Obama’s 34-minute speech, set in the context of two emerging scenarios.” Whatever that means!!
Hindustan Times wrote: The significance of Obama’s words on religious tolerance could not have been lost on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Every person has the right to practise their religion and beliefs and not practise it if they choose so without any persecution. No society is immune from the darkest impulses of men and too often, religion has been used to tap into those instead of the light of God. The peace we seek in the world begins in human hearts,” Mr. Obama said. In its anxiety to be too objective, the newspaper feigned ignorance of any alternative meaning to Obama’s words. Was he really talking about Modi or about Jihadists?
Firstpost.Com brayed, “The fact that the US President chose to bring up the issue of religious discord in his big signing off speech of what is being hailed as a wildly successful PR exercise for the BJP is enough proof of the fact that the global concerns about the Modi government’s commitment to a truly secular democracy have not abated completely yet.”
And…The Business Standard was happy that “The US President’s parting message could irk the larger Sangh Parivar. Some of its affiliates, like the Vishva Hindu Parishad, have carried a campaign of ‘ghar wapsi’ against religious conversion in recent months.”
Does The Business Standard know that there are more than 100 Christian Democratic parties in the world which, when they acquire or share power, formally incorporate in their policies values drawn from a medley of Christian denominations There are more than hundred such parties in Europe and Latin America and also Africa. Why not express outrage over them?
It is possible that Mr. Obama made his remarks after he had provided audience to rights activists. It is not difficult to divine who these activists are. They are those who helped draft the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill that regards the Hindus as primary inciters of communal riots in the country. The National Advisory Council, a product of the ten-year diarchy headed by an unelected Sikh and a Catholic woman who originally drafted the Bill. These activists are the same people who, after the Gujarat riots, appeared before the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom and other European chanceries in Delhi suggesting intervention to set India on the “right” path.
It is evident they haven’t told Mr. Obama that both Christianity and Islam are nearly as old in India as they are in the place of their origin. Both have become indigenous religions and flourished to become major minorities in the country. Both Jews and Parsis, who fled persecution in their homelands, came to India and made it their home. The two major minorities enjoy the fruits of constitutional concessions and guarantees. Yet they constantly crave for more.
The speech reminded me of the American Secretary of State’s yearly reports on the status of religious freedom in the world. If Mr. Obama’s barb was not against Modi, as media suggest, it must be construed as aimed at India. If the target is Modi we must remember that Modi is the Prime Minister and thus represents its people in theory and in fact. It is not just activists who provided grist for Mr. Obama’s oratorical mill. It is also the last ten years of the UPA government, and the continued wet dreams of the English media that the power of their pen is enough to bring down Modi’s government.
In his recent visit to India Secretary of State John Kerry clearly stated that the State Department had relied on, besides other things, reports appearing in the Indian media to determine the status of freedom of religion in the country. The foreign media, denied of the benefit of familiarity with Indian languages, relied on reports in India’s English media for deriding the Modi regime. They branded Gujarat riots as genocide, holocaust, pogrom etc. The official figures for the riots released by the UPA government put Muslim casualties at 790 and Hindus at 254. Compare these figures with the Direct Action killings in Calcutta and the Sikh massacre in Delhi and their insignificance is glaring.
This joint Indo-American media offensive continued during Modi’s visit to the U.S. and remains unchecked. Something needs to be done about it…but do not expect it to come from within the media complex.