In December of 2007, Karan Thapar wrote a column in the Hindustan Times with hateful rhetoric against Narendra Modi, using phrases like “sudden removal of Narendra Modi”. In July of 2010, Vir Sanghvi, writing in a column, called Narendra Modi a Serbian war criminal. This, after routinely slandering Modi as a “mass murderer” and likening him to Hitler.
In fact, one has lost count of the number of hate-filled columns written by assorted Left-liberal and Muslim commentators repeating the Hitler slur. Leave alone the amount of abuse and personal slander, including explicit threats, that come Modi’s way across social media on a daily basis.
Hence it was amusing to see celebrity television anchors and assorted voices in social media cry hypocrisy over Modi’s decision to protest the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA’s clumsy attempt at political censorship of the Internet. Narendra Modi protests censorship by UPA
Slandering Modi has been a matter of habit for many so-called ‘liberal’ commentators. In July of 2011, historian Ramachandra Guha got his history abysmally wrong when he sought to inject Modi into a column on free speech with false claims of a ban on a Aamir Khan movie. This was after another column by Guha in April of 2011 that reeked of class prejudice against Modi. One can count at least three editorials in the Indian Express over the past many years making false claims on Modi. Leave alone the manner in which clips from the movie Parzania were interlaced with Tehelka’s sting-op on the 2002 riots back in 2007 ahead of a key State election.
The sum total of the hatred and slander expressed towards Modi should make many sit up and wonder how many defamation suits, criminal complaints and content removal requests were filed?
In stark contrast to the thin-skinned celebrity anchors and the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress, not even one complaint was filed.
Apart from independent MPs like Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Modi is the only major politician who has been steadfast in speaking up on attempts to censor the Internet. Not even the other rockstar politician in social media, Shashi Tharoor, has been unequivocal in speaking out on social media freedom.
Those ‘liberals’ who bring up the two book bans by Modi’s Government in Gujarat should look within for having failed the Evelyn Beatrice Hall test on free speech themselves on Subramanian Swamy’s column in DNA. As despicable and bigoted that column was it did not issue a call for violence while seeking to accomplish the bigoted agenda by the most constitutional of means — a two thirds majority in Parliament.
Those who could not find within themselves to defend Swamy’s right to free but bigoted speech have no credibility in judging others’ record on free speech. The two book bans while unfortunate pale in significance when compared to the extent of tolerance Modi has shown towards his most vicious critics in social media and mainstream media.
The reality of free speech in India is there is none given the spate of laws and court judgements. Rather than getting into a lose-lose debate of one upmanship over free speech credentials, all digitally active Indian citizens must recognise that this was an attempt at political censorship by the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA. Instead of getting sanctimonious over free speech credentials every digitally active citizen should join in to speak up against this political censorship lest a wrong precedent be set that will come back to haunt them in future.
(The writer is a commentator on Indian politics and public policy. Opinions expressed in this article are his personal views.)