Silence is not golden August 9, 2014
(The day 2nd Atomic Bomb was dropped on Nagashaki-1945)
Narendra Modi has a chance to lead, even change, the nation’s discourse. Right now, we are ripe for a thousand unspoken conversations; Secularism, inclusiveness, development, gender, poverty. But instead of a dialogue we have competitive shrillness.There is great noise around Narendra Modi’s silence since the 60-odd days that he has been prime minister. Garrulous candidate Modi of the campaign trail seems to have morphed into politically correct Prime Minister Modi; a travesty of his taciturn predecessor.
Yes, we know from his tweets that Modi is saddened by the loss of lives in a Pune landslide, wants to harness the potential of our fisheries sector, and salutes the brave martyrs of Kargil. But of the increasingly frequent litany of comments from the loony brigade there is silence. India’s greatest women’s tennis player is derided by a BJP MP as a ‘daughter-in-law of Pakistan’. No word from the PM. A political ally shoves a chapatti into the mouth of a caterer who is fasting for Ramzan, and our prime minister remains silent. That indefatigable Hindutva warrior Ashok Singhal warns of “Further Hindu consolidation”. Not a murmur. Goa’s Christian Hindu deputy chief minister redefines the Constitution by describing Indian as a Hindu Country. Silence.
To be fair, India’s prime minter cannot respond to every 24-hour news outrage cycle abd certainly some of the controversles of the past few weeks have been hyped by TRP hungry media, Right wing self seekers and a floundering Congress opposition. Yet because it is clear that what is emerging are not stray comments but a pattern of hate speech from members of his own BJP and the larger Right wing alliance, Modi’s continuing silence is disconcerting for a number of reasons.
First, the silence can be construed as a nod to the raucous brigade. Silence is not just the absence of words. It can also mean tacit support. Second, the silence poses questions on the priorities of the prime minister. Modi’s emphasis on economic prosperity speeding up bureaucracy, energy security and bilateral relations cannot come at the cost of social inclusion.
Third, the silence leads to an uncomfortable suspicion. One must ask: Is Modi his own man? Or are political compulstions forcing this maun vrat? Is Modi so beholden to the RSS that he cannot even issue the slightest disapproval’. Fourth, Modi’s prime minister ship follows two terms of UPA rule, characterized by near absolute silence from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the aloofness of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. After pitching himself as a man of the people, Modi’s silence could lead to an uncomfortable conclusion of Congress-style arrogance: I don’t owe an explanation to those who elected me.
Finally, in Modi’s diktat to ministers to choose their words carefully, in his refusal to take mediapersons along on official tours, there is a clamping down on information, which is inimical to any democracy.
An extract of an article by Namita Bhandare are HT 02 Aug 14