An open letter to Mr Kiren Rijiju, Union Law Minister

Modi BBC Documentary

I am seventy years old. I was born in Quilon, Kerala. I studied in a college in Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district of Kerala. After my graduation, I worked in many cities: Madras, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Bangalore and New Delhi. Now I am in Delhi. I have an Aadhar card, a PAN card and a Passport too, though it has expired now. I have voted in a couple of elections, definitely the ones in 2014 and 2019. And if alive will vote in 2024. That makes me an Indian, one among the 1.4 billion, almost one eighth of the world population. Isn’t it?

I do not endorse whatever our government does or says. Since nobody is bothered about my endorsement, I can at least say that I have the right to my voice. Then how can you, the Law Minister of the country, say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s voice is the voice of 1.4 billion Indians? You have every right to be Your Own Master’s Voice. That doesn’t give you the license to claim that the voice of the Prime Minister of the country is the voice of the entire population of India. I strongly object and say that my voice is different, and so may be that of millions of others like me.

Haven’t it struck you that you have made this astonishing claim over an issue that the Prime Minister of the country has not spoken about though he happens to be at the centre of it. The issue: the first part of a BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question. It apparently deals with the role of the Prime Minister in one of the darkest episodes in post-independent history, a barbarous communal riot (I am consciously not using the word pogrom) that happened in Gujarat in 2002. At that time Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat and so in a way was responsible for what happened. The first part of the documentary has apparently held Modi guilty of the massacre of over 2000 citizens in his state, a majority of them belonging to the Muslim community.

I use the word apparently deliberately. Before I could see the documentary, the government had blocked all platforms- Twitter/YouTube or any other outlets through which I and a billion others could perhaps have seen it and made a proper judgement of it. So the government wants us to see the documentary, like in old fashion cinema halls, ‘through black’. After denying our right to view the documentary, you, holding a responsible position , have the cheek to say “Minorities, or for that matter every community in India is moving positively…Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s voice is the voice of 1.4 billion Indians.” But whose voice is the Minister referring to?

Certainly not mine and millions like me. Is he referring to the voice of Narendra Modi in the documentary? According to hearsay, Modi spoke to the BBC representative, if and when he or she met him to know his side of the story. Modi apparently questioned how and from where the representative picked up this garbage, meaning I presume, the documentary’s version of the riots. By garbage perhaps he (Modi) meant the number of deaths, the religious identity of the dead, the statistics regarding rapes, reasons for their death during the riots, who were the rioters, what was their religion; the questions can be never ending. People like me do not know or in a way you, as one representing the government, don’t want us to know.

Still you claim that India’s image cannot be disgraced, tarnished by “malicious campaigns” inside or outside the country. What a paradox! Then why, honourable minister, your government chose to decide that people inside the country should not see the said documentary? What are you afraid of, except your Prime Minister’s, sorry our Prime Minister’s own past shadows? Stop treating us like school children who are told what to do and what not to do. If this is a nation of 1.4 billion, they cannot be herded like cattle. Or if you think that it is possible to blind fold an entire nation, best luck to you.

And for heaven’s sake, and for the country’s, stop making false claims, which has become a hallmark of your government. Your government has got only about 38% of the vote share or near about. That doesn’t give you the right to assume the rest 62% should toe the line you draw. The Prime Minister and his government as elected representatives have every right to represent the whole country. But to say the voice of the Prime Minister, be it X Y or Z, is the voice of the entire nation is utter nonsense. This cannot be accepted.

Before you try to propagate, in this case impose ‘See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil”, then better you have a good look at the mirror yourself.

Thank you

Santosh Kumar

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