New Delhi: The western media’s abhorrence of Narendra Modi is not new. In April 2014, a month before he was actually sworn in as India’s Prime Minister, ‘The Economist’ in its edit had written – “He (Modi) will probably become India’s next prime minister. That does not mean he should be”. In fact, there is a school of thought in India which says the Hindu population in the country never got justice from national politics and the Hindus have been mostly looked down upon by world media. There are some interesting tales associated with the politics of Hindutva, protagonists like Narendra Modi and the beheviour western media.
For the last 300 years and more, India has been trying to ape the west and the colonisers have always rejoiced in it. But Modi has backed the idea of ‘modernisation’ instead of westernisation. Even Indian Left apparently encouraged aping the west. Thus in Modi’s rise came a cult figure who would mark a new beginning towards the end of three-century old ‘mental colonization’. There is a mix of “white man” arrogance and ignorance. As the Covid Tsunami builds up a crisis for India; western press targets their favourite punching bag – Namo – Narendra Modi. To them, Modi represents – the spirited Hindutva icon – whom they could not prevent becoming Prime Minister of India.
Thus came some headlines – ‘Modi Flounders’ (The Times) and ‘The System Has Collapsed’ elsewhere in ‘The Guardian’. One Australian paper wrote “arrogance, hyper-nationalism and bureaucratic incompetence” have landed India into a “crisis of epic proportions”. The ‘Financial Times’ said the latest wave was “sparking a health crisis and human tragedy in India that is far surpassing anything seen last year.” India’s Deputy High Commissioner P S Karthigeyan has issued a rejoinder to ‘The Australian’ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Dore calling the newspaper article as “baseless, malicious and slanderous”. “Coverage of such motivated and malicious reports in your publication only helps in spreading falsehoods and undermining humanity’s common fight against the pandemic”. The deputy envoy of course also said: “….we are confident that the surge will be contained”.
BBC ran a feature under the headline – “Did election rallies help spread virus?” The number of corona cases are far higher in Maharashtra and Delhi than in states where polls were held.
In general the western media’s treatment of Asia and especially India has been loaded with prejudice elements. Their coverage of ‘Kashmir terrorism’ is different from something like that in their part of the world. Has Indian or even the Chinese media really blasted the ‘right-wing bigotry, gun culture and drug abuses in America at the scale the western media does for this part of the world. On this front, even Chinese side often complains that the west cannot see a “rising China”.
Of course, a ‘rising Modi’ too could not be tolerated. In 2019, just during election season, ‘Time’ magazine said Modi is “Divider in chief’. In 2020, during Lockdown, one headline ran – “….desperate millions hit by Modi’s brutal Lockdown”. In 2021 also we have a series of Lockdown, night curfew in Maharashtra, Delhi and Karnataka; the western media has virtually endorsed them as something ‘expected’. Last year, during Donald Trump’s visit and which coincided with mayhem in the streets of Delhi; CEO of Prasar Bharati, Shashi Shekhar Vempati had said coverage of the Delhi riots by BBC was one-sided and “damningly silent” on attacks on policemen and the brutal murder of an Indian Intelligence Bureau official.
Whither media vis-a-vis Indo-US partnership
There are deliberate and repeated attempts in western media to ‘underplay’ India’s diplomatic success – be it be under Indira Gandhi or under Narendra Modi. Even post second wave crisis, the US decision finally to supply raw materials for medical purposes is actually a major win for New Delhi. The US initially sat over it, and delayed taking a decision. Later it agreed to “rapidly” deploy support for India. Was it not a success of India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar who had tweeted saying multilateralism needs to be practised and not merely ‘preached’. Will one western press report that Joe Biden had to ultimately ‘surrender’ and reverse the ban on exports. But India will remember this ‘delay’ – I presume, and it should.
It’s one of those things that ought to come – like a birthday greeting. But the point is the US and India are ‘strategic partners’ and for New Delhi, the illustrious friend’s good wishes card came late – even after ‘not so warm friends’ China and Pakistan had done their part. “Sometimes a friend appreciates you making the effort even if it can barely stanch the bleeding. It’s time to be the friend we (the US) profess to be to the Indian people,” ran a tweet. Where is western media? Time matters, Mr Biden; and the western press gaze in thine own heart at times.