Should Modi's Time-ing Affect Muslims?

I do not like Narendra Modi, but I find it unacceptable that there should be objections to a cover story on him. Would there be such a reaction if it were not Time magazine and a local one? Are there no op-ed pieces praising him often within the country?

A Muslim organisation based in the US has decided to react. The headlines say “Muslims” object. Which Muslims? The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) sitting in the US is called “an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India's pluralist and tolerant ethos” and has condemned the cover story on Modi as “a dismal PR exercise intended to whitewash Mr. Modi's complicity in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002”. If it is a PR exercise – and Time magazine cannot claim to be radical – then it is hollow, and even more reason not to give it so much importance.

But, hitting out at straws has replaced dealing with issues:

"Although TIME's cover story is not an endorsement, it contains inaccuracies, half-truths…Mr. Narendra Modi as the potential Prime Minister of India is a diplomatic and moral conundrum for the United States and other countries of common human values.”

This is kneejerk reaction, and I object for a few reasons:

  • This organisation does not represent Indian Muslims
  • So long as there is no attempt at glorifying violence against any group, the story has every right to project who it wants in whatever light.
  • Time magazine does not decide who becomes the prime minister of India or which party will come to power. The majority of the electorate does not go by such coverage.
  • People are not fools that a PR firm trying to clear the image of its client will negate his role in the Gujarat riots. By even suggesting this, the expat organisation reduces the concerns of the local population in India and the consistent battles fought by people like Zakia Jaffri and Bilkees Banu.
  • They have no business in meddling in our affairs. On what grounds do these migrants to America equate India with the US and countries with “common human values” when the US’s record is abysmal?
Another comment:

In 2005, the US State Department, in an unprecedented move, placed a ban on Mr. Modi from entering the US on the grounds of egregious religious freedom violations under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

Right. How does a magazine cover feature change anything? The US State Department itself does not always go by “facts” that IAMC is saying the article lacks. There are a number of people who are under vigilance by the American establishment. Does one assume that a PR exercise on their behalf by their supporters would alter perceptions? Empowering the US to make tacit decisions conveys a lack of self-esteem and, more importantly, projects it as a general Muslim need.

IAMC has also called upon the Brookings Institution to salvage its credibility as a think-tank by conducting an official study into the situation in Gujarat both on the human rights and the economic front, instead of merely repeating Mr. Modi's fallacious claims.

On what basis can an international think-tank be granted the power to conduct an “official” study? There are several reports and cases from Indian agencies. These are the ones that may be relied upon. The appeal to Time magazine to run another story from the human rights point of view is really pathetic. All sensible Indians should protest against this ridiculous idea. It will do greater PR for Modi than his agency purportedly has done, for it will prove his ‘fearsome’ reputation. The US and the west love leaders who bulldoze.

Here are a some quotes from the Time piece:

"Modi, 61, is perhaps the only contender with the track record and name recognition to challenge Rahul Gandhi."

Any article that puts Modi, a seasoned politician, against Rahul Gandhi is worth a laugh. If I were Modi, I’d want to disown the article just for this.

"It's Modi in makeover mode: an act of self-purification, humility and bridge building in a state that is still traumatised by the Hindu-led anti-Muslim massacres of 10 years ago and the flawed investigations in their wake...”

This, in fact, makes it look like the chief minister is a sinner put in the Confession box.

"Many Indians recoil at any mention of a man whose name is indelibly linked to Gujarat's brutality of 2002; choosing him as India's leader would seem a rejection of the country's tradition of political secularism and a sure path to increased tension with Muslim Pakistan, where he is reviled.”

This is not the whitewashing of Modi, but of the US administration that is always finding new ways to try and control Pakistan, and “increased tension” is just what it wants. Indians give as much leverage to the Pakistani view of Modi as Pakistan does to India’s opinion on their political leadership.

"But when others think of someone who can bring India out of the mire of chronic corruption and inefficiency of a firm, no-nonsense leader who will set the nation on a course of development that might finally put it on par with China they think of Modi.”

There are different versions in India about Gujarat’s development, and as I have said often Narendra Modi is a regional leader, quite happy ruling a small kingdom. He can manage the elite among his 5 crore Gujaratis, but not all Indians. Most industries keep special funds for corruption purposes; what they dislike is red-tape. It is easy for Modi to do away with it as he was establishing a brand and consolidating it.

"In the decade since that carnage, dozens of individual rioters have been convicted, but the state has never had to answer accusations that it failed to halt the violence: no top officials have been held accountable or had conspiracy charges proved against them.”

This is nothing new. Time magazine is not going to solve this problem, and those who get swayed by falsehoods are already amenable to such a viewpoint.

As regards glorification, it starts at home, in India. He is an elected chief minister, and it is the system that has to deal with what went wrong and how to correct it.

(c) Farzana Versey


  1. Farzana varsey has a passion to write but she is way too away from home. Needs to do some research how the PR firms work.

  2. Saleem:

    Where is the home I am far away from? Why do I need do do research on PR when I got the info of the Brookings Institute from the horse's mouth, and this piece is not on how PR agencies work. It is how they are made to work, if at all.

    But thanks for noticing my passion. That will be good PR for me!

    Ghazal (your comment posted elsewhere by mistake:

    "Well written FV, Farzana means Frankness!

    Modi and Rahul Gandhi.. A real good joke!"

    Frankly, thanks! Yup, wonder why no one is upset about the comparison. I guess the BJP waalas are offering the other cheek. Some cheek.

    - - -

    I notice the silence of F&F and CandidSpade, Akash. You no likeyee when I no angreyee? What a piteyee...

  3. It's a nice piece FV - I only crawl out of my Diogenes tub and opine when there's a passionate argument on - reasoned discussions are so '70 :-D

  4. FV,

    Sorry for the 'silence'! Suffered a communication blackout due to assorted resons. I assure you VHP and Modi had nothing to do with it. Honoured that my absence was noticed! :)
    QUOTE: "..those who get swayed by falsehoods are already amenable to such a viewpoint."

    I had said in one of my (disallowed) comments in the past that the truth about Gujarat 2002 is what one wants to believe. This is as applicable to FV as it may be to F&F. Selective opinions thrive in such an intellectual atmosphere which itself is created by the egotist, adamant position by the two camps that no meeting ground exists between the two and that a mirror flashed in the face must be smashed to smithereens right away.
    QUOTE: "choosing him as India's leader would seem... a sure path to increased tension with Muslim Pakistan, where he is reviled."

    It took a western capitalist magazine to state the truth which the sekulaar wetpants in India do not want to be mentioned. Pak is Muslim. The issues between India and Pak are solely due to the Islamic hatred for the predominantly Hindu identity of India, accentuated by the resounding defeat of 1971 and setbacks on other fronts. As long as Islam and Pak do not wake up and reform, the issues will remain. Trade or no trade.
    QUOTE 2: "..I do not like Narendra Modi"

    QUOTE 2: "... his role in the Gujarat riots."

    COUNTER QUOTE: ".. the truth about Gujarat 2002 is what one wants to believe. This is as applicable to FV as it may be to F&F."

  5. CandidSpade:

    I do yearn for reasoned arguments that are pugilistic, for reason can destroy more lethally.

    Thank you for stopping by...did not mean to pester, but thought that you would be interested that I am not against Modi as pin-up boy!


    All opinions are selective, but how far you go with them counts. I do not tarnish whole communities, unlike some people.

    COUNTER QUOTE: ".. the truth about Gujarat 2002 is what one wants to believe. This is as applicable to FV as it may be to F&F."

    No. It has to do with facts that are available and the 'untruths' that are thrown at us. Here, our beliefs need to look at what happened. Why it happened, can be our differing ways of seeing.

    It is interesting that you have completely ignored that I am against those opposing Modi being on the cover - a Muslim organisation.

  6. FV,

    I would rather not use the word 'tarnish'. It would automatically put the onus of defence on myself. I go by the evidence in front of my humble commoner eyes and try to ask specific questions which, not surprisingly, go unanswered.
    I have not ignored anything. I know the organisation is Muslim. I rather chose to concentrate on the core issue.
    What happened in Gujarat in 2002 was never in doubt. It palyed out live on national TV. We both know where exactly the issue of wanting to believe comes in. Your grief somehow is more sacred than mine. Is it?

    1. F&F:

      There is evidence in front of the commoner eyes and that provided by agencies, voluntary as well as govt. So your queries need not be answered just as mine are not.

      Wow, reality check, you chose to ignore the 'core' issue of this piece - the Muslim organisation.

      I don't demean your grief, should you express it. Your unpublished comments tell a story.


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