Recently, I read the various statements issued in the press by eminent writers and poets who were returning their awards or resigning from posts and I could identify a definitive trend. Most of these awards were being returned to an independent body of writers but the attached statements were confusing to say the least. They ranged from attaching the blame on the Sahitya Akademi (see here and here) for not standing up against the recent attacks on some writers, to talking about the persecution of minorities from 1984 until now. A report on Hindu-Muslim violence in India by Violette Graff and Juliette Galonnier enumerates multiple riots that took place under different parties in power. The fact that most of these writers did not react similarly to previous riots under other dispensations was brushed aside as a pro-Modi argument on social media.
Some time back, I was appalled to see Sikhs in New York protesting against atrocities on Sikh "minorities" in India. I honestly could not understand how and why the Sikhs were seeking to classify themselves as a minority. The last Army chief was a Sikh, so was Gen JJ Singh who later became Governor, and I can count at least three other top Army/Defence commanders today who are Sikhs. In corporate India, Sikhs own marquee companies like Ranbaxy, MAX healthcare and EIH (Oberoi Hotels) amongst others. To see the members of this generally progressive community protesting on the roads of a foreign nation was a defeating sight. So was the sight of several posters along Modi's planned route citing his involvement in the Godhra riots. The amount of hatred was evident when educated people (even among my friends) are opposed to progressive ideas like Digital India and Smart Cities, primarily because they are seen as Modi initiatives.
"[E]ducated people (even among my friends) are opposed to progressive ideas like Digital India and Smart Cities, primarily because they are seen as Modi initiatives.
Add to this, the entire uprising that took place when a man was lynched on suspicions of eating beef in UP. There's no doubt that this was a barbaric attack that defies humanity. However, what was surprising was that the blame fell squarely on Modi despite law and order being a state subject as per the Indian Constitution. Nobody raised a finger against Akhilesh Yadav's government that has time and again failed to uphold communal harmony and human rights in the state. A simple analysis will reveal that in all the pre-2014 cases of communal violence, a lot of people from all religions were killed, but never were the consciences of the liberals thus aroused. As for beef, many states already had bans on beef for the last 60 years, why has it become an issue today? This is not because I condone what is happening, but I wish to separate the chaff floating around in the air from stuff on the ground.
The problem in the country today is that nobody wishes to talk about solutions, and everyone is an expert at counting problems. Unfortunately, the problem in the eyes of many people is the man, Modi. People may not have concrete reasons to hate him, but they cannot understand why others are so enamoured of him. To the intelligentsia, he comes across as the man who has broken all stereotypes and will change the way Delhi functions. Change is a dangerous thing. For years, the elite media and academic circles in Delhi have been a bastion of the left, and it is difficult for them to change to someone who threatens the premise of their professional success.
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Coming to issues like Digital India and Smart Cities. Many educated and well-travelled people come up with arguments saying that India has so many poor and hungry people and we should seek to feed them before we embark on a globalisation trip. What most of these people forget is that the IT revolution, ISRO and other similar initiatives were seen as frivolous too. Progress and poverty are surely interdependent -- what better example of this than the mobile phone? A rich person's accessory once, it has now become a ubiquitous tool in the hands of everyone -- from the uber-rich to the ultra-poor. It has given the gift of connectivity to the masses in ways other government initiatives couldn't. Digital India is an extension of the same concept. As for Smart Cities, the argument regarding the lack of basic facilities in the rest of the country seems to be prejudiced too. If building Smart Cities and dedicated fast transport corridors can help generate more investment, which in turn will generate jobs, I think it is a step in the right direction.
In the same vein, if Internet.org can provide net connectivity to millions of people, it's a step in the right direction. The argument that it takes away the neutrality of the internet for all is flawed. We have 60 years of backwardness to catch up on and anything that speeds up growth and provides "better than yesterday" facilities, opportunities or education should be welcomed and not sabotaged in your hatred of one man.
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