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28 Feb, 2020 03:09

Western media is wrong: India isn’t losing its pluralistic ideas

Western media is wrong: India isn’t losing its pluralistic ideas

This week’s editorial of the Guardian on recent violence in Delhi claims that “Modi stoked this fire.” Western media’s biases against democratically elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now a normal thing.

On December 13, 2019, the Washington Post published an analytical article titled “India’s new law may leave millions of Muslims without citizenship,” while the Economist in its edition of January 23 said: “Narendra Modi stokes division in the world’s biggest democracy.” In fact, the Guardian editorial had described last year’s democratic mandate as “bad for India’s soul.”

However, the image that Western media wants to portray about India is highly exaggerated. India’s new citizenship law, which they call “divisive,” isn’t actually divisive because it doesn’t snatch away the rights of any Indian citizen, including Indian Muslims. This law just aims to fasttrack the citizenship of those six religious minorities who came to India before 2015 from three Muslim majority countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Importantly, this amendment passed in the Indian parliament doesn’t alter the existing policy of naturalization, which is open for every legal immigrant irrespective of any religion.

Western media is wrong: India isn’t losing its pluralistic ideas

Despite these facts, Western media picked up the narratives of Indian left intellectuals and started portraying the Modi government’s new law as part of a sinister plan to turn “Indian Muslims into second-class citizens.” They state that there have been huge protests by “secular Indians cutting across regions” against the law. No doubt, the Western media view these protests “as an attempt to save India’s soul.”

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Here, the Western media ignores some important points. Firstly, the protests are led largely by a minority Muslim community aided by left intellectuals and activists, who mostly are soft towards the opposition parties. Muslims are protesting because of the widely spread misconception that the new law would render them “stateless,” which is completely untrue.

Secondly, what the Western media won’t tell their readers is that a majority of Hindus don’t have an issue with the citizenship law. So, terms like “Indians are angry” are highly overstated. Only in Assam, situated in the northeast region of India, the locality, both majority Assamese-speaking Hindus and minority Assamese-speaking Muslims are against this act – but their reasons are completely different. They are against immigrants whether Hindus or Muslims or belonging to any religion, as the province has already been burdened with both Bengali-speaking Hindu and Muslim immigrants for decades. Instead, Assamese are often associated with having some sort of “xenophobia” – which is highly inappropriate.

Thirdly, Western media terms this act as a “majoritarian decision to turn secular India into a Hindu religious state.” They are wrong again. The new law, keeping local interests in mind, excludes northeastern provinces where the majority are mostly Christians or where Christians have a large population. Had the law of the Modi government been a “Hindu supremacist one,” as alleged by Western media, these provinces with a large non-Hindu population would have been included too, against their wishes. Importantly, the six religions that the act mentions include Christianity and Zorastriansm, apart from the four Indic religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

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Lastly, the Western media states that this act will be followed by the National Register of Citizens across the country “to complete the process of exclusion of Muslims as citizens of India.” This is again highly exaggerated. PM Modi himself has clarified that there has been no decision taken on this by his government. Until now, the NRC has been implemented only in Assam. But the context is completely different, which the government too has stated repeatedly. Assam’s NRC ordered by India’s Supreme Court was based on the Assam Accord signed by the Indian National Congress government led by then-PM Rajiv Gandhi with Assamese organizations in 1985. Significantly, the NRC is about detecting illegal immigrants with no parameters favoring any particular religion.

The recent horrific Delhi riots, in which both Hindus and Muslims clashed with each other, too are the outcome of this constant fear mongering of Muslims, which polarized both communities. It happened due to the involvement of some mischievous anti-social elements aided by intelligence failure. But it would be grossly incorrect to interpret on this basis that “India is losing its pluralistic ideas.” Delhi is only a part of India. It doesn’t wholly represent India as the Western media believes. Communal riots have occurred earlier too in different parts of India many times since 1947. Although there have been tough times, India has never abandoned its pluralistic ideas, which are not facing attack under Modi’s rule.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.