Even if Narendra Modi doesn’t do any other good as prime minister of India, he has made one historic contribution to politics – i.e. exposed the hollowness, hypocrisy and sheer venality of what masquerades as secularism and human rights activism with regard to India.
Recently a moral advisory has been issued by a group of US academics to Silicon Valley professionals that they should boycott India as an investment destination because its current prime minister is allegedly a tainted man and is “almost certainly” going to misuse Information Technology for spying on its citizens (see full text of original letter: at:http://scroll.in/article/751959/full-text-leading-us-academics-criticise-uncritical-fanfare-ahead-of-modis-silicon-valley-trip).
To quote their own words, “As it stand Digital India” seems to ignore key questions raised in India by critics concerned about the collection of personal information and the near certainty that such digital systems will be used to enhance surveillance and repress the constitutionally protected rights of the citizens.”
In a democracy everyone has a right to criticize, oppose and even hate politicians whose actions are out of sync with their expectations. Modi certainly deserves criticism on several counts. I myself have critiqued various acts of commission and omission of Modi government. These academics are also welcome to critique or even display open hostility to Modi provided they don’t distort facts and masquerade their hatred of the man as defense of “academic freedom” and “civil liberties.”
Several signatories to this ridiculous appeal are my old friends. Some of them have hosted my lectures in the US and offered me warm hospitality. Some of them have even contributed insightful articles to MANUSHI, the journal I edited. Having known them well, I can only say that they seem to have signed this absurd and ludicrous appeal under peer pressure without applying due diligence expected of academics in premier universities. To my old friends in this group, I can only appeal that they should do a reality check before they undertake political interventions so that they don’t end up being used by vested interests with devious agendas. The rest of my rejoinder is addressed to those who have made it a religion out of nursing mortal enmity towards Modi and BJP at the behest of vested interests.
It is noteworthy that there is not a single scientist, engineer lawyer or IT professional in this list of signatories The signatories to this and several other anti Modi campaigns have almost always been from the domain of feminist studies and departments of South Asian studies which have been systematically nurtured by the US establishment as breeding grounds for anti-India propaganda under the guise of upholding human rights and social justice. It is in the domain of science, and technology that Indians have excelled and emerged winners in open competition with their American colleagues. Their relationship with India is far more constructive than that of academics employed in the ghettos of South Asian studies.
Sirs & Madams, Your Emperor Has No clothes!
It is hard to believe that such learned faculty does not know that they their own “Emperor has no clothes”. Residing in the US and bankrolled by its agencies or institutions, these "Neo Anglo-Saxons" choose to forget (or made to forget or ignore?) that US and Britain have been running an equivalent of a worldwide police state for the past several decades whereby substantially any phone call or communication could be tapped by their intelligence agencies.
As pointed out by Professor Gopinath of Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, “the Silicon Valley honchos they appeal to have pioneered countless technologies that are routinely used for offensive and defensive intelligence operations. They petition technologists and businessmen in Si Valley to be wary of privacy violations (ONLY in India?) When, for many of them, it is part of their daily bread and butter! As one their tribe announced in 1999 (Scott McNealy, former CEO of Sun Microsystems, a high flying Internet company 1980’s to 2010’s) "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” Note that this quote applies to US citizens; it goes without saying that non-US citizens are completely at the mercy of US/Britain agencies without any recourse! Microsoft, AT&T, Yahoo, Google and other companies have routinely assisted (under duress/subpeona sometimes) “US national security operations”. Many Silicon Valley companies have actively sought out customers among well known autocratic regimes. A well-known product Skype, though certified by a leading cryptographer as being secure, was revealed to have a backdoor that was provided to China so that every conversation could be tapped in real time with almost no effort. If they had dared meddle with American investors going to China or even Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, they would have been asked to go see a shrink and certainly ruled out of tenured jobs!
Have these worthies already forgotten the NSA classified information leaked in 2013 by Ed Snowden, a former CIA employee and government contractor. These leaks revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments. Any unbiased observer can see how persistently (across six decades or more) US/Britain/Europe have been taking the rest of the world for a privacy/security ride with active collaboration of Silicon Valley.”
Though their pious appeal is bound to be laughed at by Silicon Valley, yet it can't be ignored because it seems to have been inspired by vested interests who wish to keep India mired in poverty, promote strife among its people and be vulnerable to terror attacks.
Witch Hunting under the Guise of Piety
This coterie of Modi baiters remind Silicon Valley entrepreneurs of their moral “responsibilities and obligations” but seem to be oblivious of those required of academics who are expected to be grounded in facts instead of manufacturing a demonology around a leader whose popularity they cannot stomach. So blinded are they by their malevolent prejudice that they can't tell the difference between hating Modi and hurting India. By calling upon the global community to go for an economic boycott of India and declare it as an apartheid state simply because of their irrational and corrosive hatred of a popularly elected ruling party and prime minister they have betrayed that they are likely to be acting as pawns — some of them knowingly and others unwittingly — in the hands of forces inimical to India. The investments that come to India are by no means going to Modi’s pocket.
This is not the first time American academics have crossed the Lakshman Rekha that divides honest well meaning criticism and witch hunting for ideological reasons. They along with their collaborators in the Indian academia had launched a similar campaign in 2005 addressed to the US government demanding that Modi be denied US visa because they, not the Indian courts, consider him guilty of “masterminding” massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. The fact that they launched this campaign three years after the riots and only after Sonia headed Congress came to power, gave away their game as to whose interests they were serving.
Since the appeal had the backing of well-entrenched hardcore evangelical groups in the US who hate BJP for opposing conversion drives in India, the US government readily obliged and announced a ban on Modi’s entry into the US from 2005 till he became prime minister in 2014. They wouldn’t even let him address a videoconference when invited by American universities or NRIs. It is noteworthy that not a single FIR had been registered against Modi at that time (or even till date), no police station or court had registered any case against him. And yet US academics began a McCarthy type witch-hunt against the popularly elected chief minister for the simple reason that vested interests in US and India had failed to defeat Modi politically and therefore began using patently lawless means to dislodge him from power.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the US establishment is uncomfortable with the rise of Modi and BJP to power. Otherwise such hate campaigns would not have repeatedly emanated from American campuses. Majority of these academics are of Indian origin but the brains behind the whole move are undoubtedly white American. Rabid evangelical organizations are backing and funding anti-BJP hysteria because they find that unlike the Congress Party, BJP is unwilling to open up India for large-scale conversions to Christianity.
Absurd Charges against Modi
Digital India–A Modi Conspiracy for Citizen Surveillance: Are these academics so disconnected with the lived reality of contemporary India that they are unaware that digitalization pre-dates Modi’s assumption of power as PM?
Digitalization is the magic wand that can help transform the face of governance in India, by making it transparent and hence accountable. It is the only way the administration can bring about efficient and speedy delivery of services and welfare measures to citizens. Therefore, E-governance mantra has been adopted by all major political parties in India due to strong pressure from citizens to move in that direction. India has already lost precious time and fallen behind the rest of the world because leftist trade unions obstructed computerization for nearly two decades. But now nobody in India is willing to brook delays and obstructions in this regard.
Yes, some of these technologies are bound to be used for surveillance including crime detection, catching hawala networks for money laundering, busting terror networks and beefing up border security. But no one is complaining in India because people realize that India is among the most endangered countries in the world thanks to its misfortune of having Pakistan as a next-door neighbor whose self-declared policy is bleeding India to death through a 1000 cuts! If these academics are genuinely bothered about misuse of digital technologies for violating citizens’ right to privacy, let them first persuade the US to dismantle its global snooping systems. They rest of the world, including India, will gladly follow the example.
Had they been truly concerned about misuse of digital technologies, they would have sent concrete suggestions about building effective safeguards against its abuse, something they should know well living in US–the Belly of the Snooping Monster!
Appointments of Incompetent Persons: They indict Modi government for appointing incompetent people in key jobs. It is noteworthy that they cannot cite more than three cases. In each of these three, Modi government has indeed chosen very incompetent persons to head those institutions. But the list does not stop at these three. Many of us are dismayed that Modi government has allowed too many incompetents and mischief mongers appointed by the Congress regime to either continue in key jobs they held or even be elevated to higher posts (such as CTBT chairperson and head of Central Vigilance Commission). These are far more glaring examples because they involve corrupt officers who were established cronies of the Congress Party and yet managed to get patronage even under the current regime despite their tainted track record. They have been positioned there to sabotage anti-corruption measures. But such people don't rankle the signatories of this ludicrous appeal because they are "secular crooks!"
I am sure there are plenty of such questionable appointments even in American universities. Did people stop investing in the US on that account? The merits of appointment under any and every regime, in every country of the world are often questioned and even challenged. This has happened during all regimes in India. But is it their case that before investing in India (and no other country) American investors must scrutinize all government appointments as per the norms set by these self appointed guardians of academic excellence?
Most important of all, those critiquing Modi government’s appointments should remember none of them can outcompete the incompetence and unsuitability of Gopa Sabarwal’s anointment as Vice Chancellor of Nalanda University by none else than the venerable Amartya Sen – who is well known to be the intellectual godfather of this academic gang. Chauhan is no doubt a poor choice to head FTII but Sabharwal is by all accounts even less worthy of the job she was handpicked for in violation of all rules regulations and qualifying criteria. In fact Prof Sen himself may have been a celebrated economist but he has earned a lot of ignominy by treating Nalanda as a personal fiefdom, running its affairs through remote control without any accountability, bleeding it financially, making absurd appointments and leaving it scam ridden. (For details see http://indiafacts.co.in/how-an-economist-wrecked-the-nalanda-revival/)
Sen’s brazen nepotism and mismanagement in the affairs of Nalanda caused former President Dr Abdul Kalam, who was the prime mover behind this project, to publicly dissociate himself from it in protest. Just because after the expiry of Sen’s scam ridden term in July 2015, the NDA had government did not renew his tenure, he went around breast beating in the media that NDA had brought in “political interference in education.” In fact, Amartya Sen landed this prestigious job only because of nepotism, he is a personal friend of Manmohan Singh and a leading courtier in Sonia Gandhi’s durbar.
The truth of the matter is that a small coterie of leftist intellectuals and academics have been allowed and therefore come to expect as their birthright a near total monopoly of prized appointments. Whenever this monopoly has been questioned or touched, they rise in outrage and make life hell for whichever regime dares bring in a different set. Eminent academics, artists and intellectuals whose credentials are widely respected have been hounded out of their jobs if they do not have the stamp of approval of this intellectually tyrannical coterie. Anyone who dares fall out of line with their agendas and ideological prisms has their careers marred for life.
As far as their charge of government interference in academic institutions is concerned, I wish the Indian signatories to this naïve petition had stayed on in India and launched a determined campaign to free educational institutions from statist controls which were institutionalized during the time when regimes of their choice were in power! Have they forgotten that under CPM rule, leave alone a professor’s job, one could not get even a peon's job without being a card holding member of the communist party? But since these academics chose greener pastures for themselves, let them not waste their precious emotion at the sorry fate of our educational institutions because Congress party that ruled India for over 5 decades, let the education system rot to the core by institutional political interfence. They can rest assured that many of us in India are committed to changing the rules of the game in favour of academic freedom – a task these worthies ignored to undertake when they had a chance to do so
Bans and Restrictions on NGOs: Their charge that Modi’s first year in office has meant “bans and restrictions on NGO’s” is product of paranoia. They are crying wolf simply because same of their allies among the US funded NGOs have been issued notices to explain why year after year these NGOs knowingly avoided filing their audited accounts for the hefty funds they received from western donor agencies thus violating Income Tax laws and FCRA regulations applicable on those who receive money from foreign sources for their activism.
A handful of NGOs have had their FCRA registration canceled following inquiries which yielded solid documentary evidence of gross corruption including siphoning off of funds to personal accounts as well as spending large sums on purposes altogether different from the ones officially declared. The most notorious case is that of a Mumbai based NGO whose founders Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand are great favourites of this clique. These celebrities have been accused off gobbling up crores of rupees from a fund collected in the name of victims of 2002 Gujarat riots. Teesta and her family used the money for purchasing personal luxuries, beauty treatments, expensive wines, branded clothes, ordering feasts and foreign travel. It is noteworthy that the investigation into Teesta’s misdemeanors began only after the concerned riot victims filed a police complaint alleging fraud and misappropriation against this NGO. And yet they are being treated as victims of Modi’s wrath!
Is it their case that their favoured NGOs are above the law of the land? Don’t they know how people accused of fraud and non-compliance with standard legal requirements applicable to all would have been treated in the US? Yes, Greenpeace has been deprived of FCRA registration. But adverse reports were filed by the Intelleigence bureau against this international NGO under “secular” UPA regime. In any case, cancellation of FCRA registration only means it cannot receive foreign funds for its political activism. It is free to carry on its propaganda and advocacy campaign with locally raised resources, as lakhs of NGOs in India do. The FCRA law enacted under the Congress regime mandates that political activity cannot be carried out with foreign funds. Even political parties are banned from doing so. In such a situation, if NGOs indulging in political campaigns for or against this or that party and trying to influence the outcome of elections by use of their money power and foreign funded networks were to be called to account, it cannot by any stretch of imagination be treated as a crackdown on dissent. There is no bar on their activism, provided they abide by the country’s laws like others. No self respecting country can allow its politics and economy to be held to ransom by a coterie of organizations propped up by foreign powers, especiallyg those that have a history of harming India’s interests.
Modi Government is Censorship Prone: As for the charge that Modi’s regime has brought in harassment and censorship of opinions critical of his government, even a casual glance at our newspapers, magazines, TV debates, news programs, and academic writings would show that Modi is under the harshest possible public scrutiny, by both the media and academia. Some of the criticism leveled against Modi is well deserved while good part is malicious. Not a single journalist or academic can claim having suffered on account of Modi bashing which is a favourite media and academic sport in India. There is only one person in Modi government who the media choose not to criticize because he has been their loved one for long years—much before Modi came to the national scene. He was not criticized even when he was Leader of Opposition. The rest in BJP, including Modi, are easy prey!
Religious Freedom at Risk: Their charge of violations of “religious freedom” under BJP government would be laughable but for its sinister intent to paint India as a rogue nation where religious minorities, meaning Christians and Muslims, are under grave threat and being forever massacred. They have mastered the Goebbelsian technique of endlessly repeating lies with vehemence till they acquire the force of truth.
This sustained Goebelsian propaganda has put India on top of the hit list of jehadi terrorists and created prejudice and fear among global investors. They are thus endangering India by making Islamic terror groups feel justified in executing bomb blasts and other murderous attacks in India. Many among this worthy list had signed similar appeals to Indian voters to prevent Modi from becoming PM alleging under his reign India would be engulfed by communal riots and rivers of blood would flow all around. They are outraged that nothing of the sort has happened. Therefore, they are reduced to gross exaggerations and outright lies by presenting half a dozen minor cases of theft or vandalism of small churches by local hoodlums as proof of NDA's anti minority policy. As per police records in the same period over 258 cases of theft and vandalism took place in Hindu temples of Delhi without evoking any hysteria among Hindus or words of sympathy from the votaries of “religious freedom.” Whatever else their other faults, ( and the BJP has many), none of the BJP ruled states—be it Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh—have witnessed communal riots that became the hallmark of Congress regimes. Even Gujarat, which was the most riot prone state during Congress rule, became totally riot free for 12 years after Modi understood and brought under control the forces that had instigated the 2002 killings. Since Modi became PM communal riots have taken place in states ruled by "secular parties" such as the Samajwadi Party in UP and Congress Party in Manipur and Assam.
It is no coincidence that this pious group of global conscience keepers has never lobbied for apartheid or economic boycott of military dominated Pakistan, a state well known for having decimated religious minorities — Hindus, Christians, Sikhs alike — and promoted the most hostile policies against the minuscule non-Muslim minorities that have survived murders, abductions, tyranny, extortion, forced conversions and glaring absence of full citizenship rights. Pakistan state doesn’t even spare Muslim sects like Ahmedias that are considered heretical by Sunni Muslims. At the time of Partition, Hindus constituted over 28 percent of population in the area that declared itself as Pakistan. Today, Hindus constitute about 1.8 percent per cent of Pakistan's population and 8.2 percent of Bangladesh. By contrast, the population of Muslims in India has grown from 9.8 percent in 1951 to 14.2 percent as per the 2011 census. Yet, it is India and not Pakistan that is consistently targeted by these self-appointed guardians of political morality. These worthies have never mobilized world opinion against Pakistan even though in pursuit of its undying hostility towards India, Pakistan has made itself the fountainhead of global terrorism. Why? Because Pakistan’s regimes have been bankrolled by the US and act as its puppets.
Would they dare petition foreign governments to ban entry to US presidents whose devious political interventions have wrecked numerous countries and caused mass slaughters as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria etc
Complicity in Riots: For the Nth time they have raised yet again the charge that during Modi’s tenure 1000 Muslims died in communal riots. However, for once they got the figures somewhat close to reality. Earlier they wouldn’t stop at less than 3000 Muslim deaths. But they deliberately fail to mention that the total number of killings were as follows: 262 Hindus killed either by Muslims or in police army firing on riotous mobs as against 863 Muslims done to death by Hindus or in police firing. Riots have taken place in several states of India under non-BJP regimes. How is it that their heart bleeds only for the victims of 2002 riots? How come they have never grieved for the 58 Hindu men, women and children who were burnt alive in a train coach at Godhra by a Muslim mob – an incident that triggered off the retaliatory violence? Their harping on Modi’s complicity even after the Supreme Court of India found no evidence against him after subjecting Modi’s handling of riots to intense scrutiny for three long years shows the motive is not so noble. Incidentally, the officers of the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigative Team (SIT) which grilled Modi and his administration were handpicked with due approval of professional Modi baiter, Teesta Setalvad. Yet Modi emerged unscathed. I would feel very privileged if these self appointed guardians of Indian Muslims would care to challenge and rebut my detailed fact sheet detailing day by day handling of the 2002 riots by Modi’s government, including his public statements. This has been published in my book Modi, Muslims and Media. (It is available on Amazon.com)
Physician Heal Thyself First
I can only conclude by saying to the Hate Modi Brigade, that the more irrational and malicious your rants against Modi, the more you strengthen public opinion in his defence. The vigorous protest on social media against this petition have not all come from Modi admirers. Many of us who signed the Rejoinder to the Silicon Valley petition (http://bit.ly/SiliconValleyPetition ) are fairly critical of the current functioning of Modi government. And yet we feel compelled to rise in his defence because your Hate-Modi campaign has clear "Hurt-India" overtones and motivated by the desire to reinstall a scam ridden regime which has been junked by Indian voters for being venal and harmful for the country.
Those who wish their criticism to be taken seriously have to earn the right by being visibly non-partisan. This includes having the courage to acknowledge the positive aspects and good deeds of the person targeted for scrutiny. There are as many serious lapses being committed by Modi government, as there are attempts to improve things.