Friday, November 20, 2015

Modi ji, you owe us answers

Pankaj Sharma

15 November 2015

The realities of diplomatic successes depend on the solid outcomes of serious efforts made by any government, not on the decibel level of “Modi-Modi” chants.

Narendra Modi and those who still have faith in him, in his policies and style, have every right to feel overwhelmed over the high-octane Wembley show. They also have a right to feel proud about the fact that Modi became the first Indian to address the British Parliament. Modi and his admirers can also take pride in Modi’s stay at the country house retreat of the Prime Minister of United Kingdom—Chequers Court—to the south of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire at the foot of the Chiltern Hills, and his first ever meeting with Queen Elizabeth-II over lunch at Buckingham Palace, where he arrived riding a Jaguar.

But, then these very people owe us answers to certain pertinent questions raised during the visit of the Prime Minister of India to the United Kingdom which houses the “mother of Parliaments”. Why is it that for the first time the Palace of Westminster in London bore a large image of India’s Prime Minister wielding a sword with a logo behind him of the symbol “Om” slowly transforming into the Swastika? Why splashed across the image were the words in bold letters “Modi not welcome”? Why did Indian activists oppose the visit of the Prime Minister of their own country by projecting an image that stayed on the British Parliament’s building for eight and a half minutes on a Sunday night?
For the first time an Indian Prime Minister had to face questions in his joint press conference by British media such as “Prime Minister Modi, India is becoming an increasingly intolerant place. Why?” Should we not feel deeply concerned about the fact that a responsible British newspaper—The Guardian—chose to publish an article written by a local journalist of Indian origin under the title “India is being ruled by a Hindu Taliban”? Why has the international community started to look at India with suspicious eyes in matters related to social harmony?

During his performance at Wembley event, even singer Jay Sean underlined the need to respect each other’s differences. After completing his first song, he began to narrate his personal story and told the audience that his real name is Kamaljit Singh Jhooti. Moreover, the singer said he takes pride in the fact that this country has recognised his talent ignoring all the considerations for caste and creed. Why should Jay Sean feel it necessary to express such sentiments between the two romantic songs he sang on the occasion, including his most famous “Down”?

Wembley could have been a great gala event for Modi’s fans. But the basics of diplomatic visits should not be allowed to be wrapped up under the heavy curtains of pop singer Sonna Rele “Every day with Love”—the title song of the film Cinderella, or the fusion by Jyotsna Srikant, Geeta Patel, and Shiamak Davar. The hard questions cannot be answered through Vidya Patel’s Kathak or Dandiya and Garba dances. The realities of diplomatic successes depend on the solid outcomes of the serious efforts made by any government and not on the decibel level of “Modi-Modi” chants. The funniest, rather insulting, part of the Wembley event was when British singer Navin Kundra sang “Bachna Ai Haseeno, Lo Mai Aagaya” just before the arrival of Modi and then tried to merge it with the songs like “Mere Desh Ki Dharti”, and Slum Dog Millionaire’s “Jai Ho”. But for the national anthem sung by Kanika Kapoor and a meaningful short speech delivered by British Prime Minister David Cameron, it would have been better if there was no Wembley event at all.

Ignoring developments such as the protests held by the Nepali people can come at a huge price. It is also for the first time that our neighbours flocked the streets on foreign soil, carrying placards reading anti-India slogans. UK Chapter of Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), Prabasi Nepali Manch-UK, and Nepali Janasamparka Samiti UK, among three dozen Nepali organisations, took part in the protest to express solidarity with their cause. We will be drastically failing in our diplomatic responsibilities if the sentiments strongly expressed during Modi’s UK visit by the South Asia Solidarity Group, Sikh Federation of UK, South Hall Black Sisters, Dalit Solidarity Network of UK, Indian Muslim Federation, Indian Workers Association, Muslim Parliament, and Voice of Dalit International are not addressed properly.

Parallel to the notes of Wembley music there were strong doses of analytical pieces in the British media on Modi’s fast decreasing popularity, which has been proven by the outcome of Bihar Assembly elections. “The loss is more personal than a party loss,” noted The Guardian, “since Narendra Modi took a personal interest in the Bihar state Assembly polls and he almost became the face of the campaign”. The report further said, “India’s ruling party has conceded defeat in a provincial election seen as a test of the vote-winning abilities and political strategy of Modi”. Leila Nathoo of The Independent wrote, “Instead of relying on local BJP leaders to fight the election on local issues, Mr Modi, a crisply dressed, and highly skilled orator, personally took control of the campaign in the hope that his reputation and charisma would seal the victory.”

The destiny of one-sixth of humanity lies in the honest efforts of making India a nation based on its true values—tolerance, inclusiveness, and equality to all. India’s destiny does not lie in gimmickries like opening up a branch of Madame Tussauds’ wax museum in New Delhi and getting a copy of the Magna Carta for touring displays in India for the 2017 cultural exchange or firecrackers in Wembley.

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