Modi’s Stand on Indian Muslims’ Patriotism

What should be assumed from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments regarding patriotism of Indian Muslims? Laying emphasis on their “patriotism,” Modi also stated that “they will live and die for India”. Prospects of their positive response to an earlier call of Al-Qaeda leader for joining this terrorist group, according to Modi, are “delusional.”

Has Modi really finally acknowledged and accepted the national status of Indian Muslims? Or has he made these comments out of diplomatic and political necessity to promote, that is advertise, this perception regarding his stand towards Indian Muslims?

This implies, Modi does not really hold this stand regarding Indian Muslims but at present he is more concerned about the rest of the country and world into presuming that this is his stand.

Irrespective of whether there has been a change in his attitude or not, Modi has taken a shot at “convincing” others that this is his view regarding Indian Muslims’ patriotism.  

This naturally demands an analysis of the factors that have probably compelled Modi to indulge in advertising his “stand” towards Indian Muslims’ patriotism. Equally important is the timing of Modi’s indulgence in such “campaign.”

It may be recalled, while campaigning for parliamentary polls, Modi certainly went overboard in propagating his “secular” image. At the same time, he did not make any special effort to display his approach regarding patriotism of Indian Muslims, similar to that displayed recently. Besides, Modi did not react immediately or even within a few days after an Al Qaeda leader displayed his intention to open a branch of his group in India.  

Interestingly, Modi expressed this stand in his first exclusive interview given to an international TV channel after his assuming charge as the Indian prime minister. This also draws attention to the approach maintained by Modi towards media after his success in parliamentary elections. Ever since, he has preferred keeping a distance. This “exclusive” interview was reportedly preceded by some “hard bargaining.” This probably implies that Modi agreed to give this interview only after reaching an agreement on questions he would be asked. Out of roughly 16 questions asked, two referred to Al-Qaeda and Indian Muslims. The crux of the interview was on India’s economy, foreign policy and whether it can emerge as an important rival to China.

Nevertheless, soon after the interview maximum importance and coverage was accorded to Modi’s comments on Indian Muslims and his stand on Al Qaeda leader’s approach towards them. The full transcript was officially released in Hindi later in the week on September 21 by the Indian government through the Press Information Bureau (PIB).

 On one hand, a media-wing played its role in taking Modi’s interview just ahead of his trip to US. Modi apparently agreed to give this interview only after reaching an agreement and being fully confident that this media-move will help promote his image along the lines he desires. Modi had earlier been denied visa to US because of the 2002-Gujarat carnage, targeting Muslims in this state when he was the chief minister. During the interview, this point was highlighted by CNN interviewer Fareed Zakaria. From this angle, irrespective of whatever his actual stand be regarding Indian Muslims, Modi used this platform to convince the world about his having no doubt about their patriotism.

 There is a possibility that failure of some BJP extremists’ communal campaign in the recently held by-polls made it politically important for Mr Modi to convince India and the rest of the world about the apparent distance he is keeping from communal extremists linked with the saffron brigade. Saying a few lines on the patriotism of the Indian Muslims was probably viewed politically and diplomatically as the most convincing move in this direction. This also explains as to why before releasing the full transcript of the interview and before its telecast, the released excerpts and related news gave undue emphasis to Modi’s comments on Indian Muslims’ patriotism.

If he was not scheduled to visit US and if assembly elections were not round the corner in Maharashtra and Haryana, there may not have prevailed any diplomatic or political reason compelling Modi to agree to this interview and ensure that it had a positive impact in promoting his “secular” image.

It is as yet too early to assume whether Modi has totally succeeded in having the political and diplomatic impact that he desires. He has certainly succeeded in propagating what he wants India and rest of the world to believe, that he has no doubts about Indian Muslims’ patriotism. Yet, propagation of this nature is likely to remain confined to certain political, diplomatic and media circles. Certainly, dominating the media-world and trying to reach out to several political and diplomatic circles have been Modi’s key motives behind his decision to give an exclusive interview to an international channel.  

From this angle, the “bubbles” blown by Modi have been effectively delivered by concerned media wings as well as political and diplomatic sections. Now, it is to be watched, for how long do these bubbles remain afloat? Will they burst in air or actually have a definite impact on targeted sections?

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 October 2014 on page no. 11

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