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Narrative wars – do they really matter?

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Narrative wars – do they really matter?

By: M.R. Lalu
We see raging narratives frequently capture headlines. Election seasons come with multiple narratives that parties fling across for electoral gains. Most of them manage to make an impact on the emerging scenario. The common assumption is that the one, probably the best and the most impactful, wins the race in the media and brings votes for parties. Unmistakably political parties are upfront in manufacturing glossy narratives before elections. National elections are received with numerous doctored and unsubstantiated statements that are not near to anything called reality. This is not confined within India alone and it is unwise to consider them to be normal somersaults of politicians. The realm of their articulation goes beyond our reach. Ever since the Modi rise in 2014, this phenomenon has intensified and the eccentric element of its verbalization has been damaging the essence of India’s democratic credentials. There have always been exceptional and well calibrated narratives framed with an intention to malign India while liberal media across continents compete for gaining it a momentum. Such was the understanding I had as I flipped The New York Times and got caught on to what I saw,  the title “Strangers in Their Own Land: Being Muslim in Modi’s India”.
Accusations ranging from naming India a Hindu-first state with its leaders busy in vilifying its suppressed Muslim minority to the terror of its inhuman majority that according to the report ,has almost in every thick pocket of its dominance began to make the Muslim neighborhood feel estranged. Not only that the minority neighborhood is tremulous on the ongoing domination of the Hindu majority that is radical in nature but alarmingly defenseless on the drastically changing amiability of a society that once was well knit by the ethos of secularism, the paper claims. The paper accuses Modi for this increasing violent ascendancy of the rightwing, as it asserts, had begun to raise its ugly hood ever since the rise of Modi to national power in 2014. The paper refuses to delve into the reality of the social environment that the world’s largest democracy helps the minorities with. Instead it blames the Prime Minister for reducing the secular framework of a robust democracy that according to the paper once held the country together irrespective of its diverse religious traditions and caste divisions.
The Times deliberately overlooks statistics and facts that obviously announce the credible secular behavior of the Indian state that helped its minorities flourish demographically and economically, irrespective of its gigantic Hindu majority. Narratives frequently go one-sided with the prime objective of projecting the majority in the country as contemptuous and therefore describe it with deeply opprobrious language. This has also been true with respect to India as a country and the nationalist forces that stand for the values it groomed for years.  The vilification campaign against India has been afoot for a decade. What seems to be appalling and demeaning the gamut of the Indian mind is its turning sympathetic and to some extent paying attention to what the western ecosystem designs to demonize it. Bringing stray incidents of acrimony among groups to limelight, the New York Times blames Hindu organizations for their being jubilant in a country that the paper branded as majoritarian. And Modi, for the media house, is a silent emperor who celebrates the lynching of Muslims at the hands of emboldened Hindu vigilante groups. The New York Times blames Modi for he, it says, is the sole responsible person for the persecution of the minorities, as it feels the brutality of the majority over the minority began since he emerged nationally.
Statements as I said before, of people narrating stray incidents of intolerance and mild disagreements have been incorporated to juxtapose the quantum of intolerance among the Hindus for the Muslims.  Back home in India, the reality stands out with great meticulousness as statistics speak truth with figures backing. A working paper released by the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) to the Prime Minister through its 67-page in the EAC-PM Working paper series, “Share of Religious Minorities: A cross country analysis (1950-2015) argues that minorities in India are not just protected but also thriving.  Their increased share in the population over a period of 65 years has been a solid proof for this argument. The paper examines the demographic changes that 167 countries came across and comes out with startling facts revealing the decline of Hindu population in India by 7.8 percent making its total presence at 78.6 percent. The paper also reveals the demographic shift took place among the minorities. During the same period, the Muslim population in India rose from 9.84 percent to 14.09 percent and the Christian population made a leap from 2.24 to 2.36. The Sikhs have made a slight increase from 1.24 to 1.85 percent in the largest populated country which seems to hold 1.45 billion inhabitants.
While this surge of numbers among the Muslims makes India their stronghold, the condition of the minorities in neighboring Islamic countries can’t be seen without being disappointed. Bangladesh witnessed a drastic fall in the number of Hindu population. The Hindu minority in the country has crashed from 23 percent to mere 8 percent. And in Pakistan they are not only persecuted but the Hindus constitute just 2.14 percent of the country’s population which way back in 1947 was 24 percent. The New York Times that enjoys great reputation all over the world yells at Yogi Adityanath for his being a saffron clad man and the one who, the paper accuses to have had stopped open namaz of Muslims in the streets. This, it calls, has given the Muslims a shriveling sense and alienated them from being recognized as pure Indians. The paper’s deliberate assertions indeed fail to provide reasonable facts as it struggles or literally fails to establish the downfall of Muslims in Modi’s emerging India.
Why is there a double standard while the liberal ecosystem deals with India and its majority? Frequently concealing facts from the citizenry, it keeps polluting the country’s socio–cultural ambiance of inclusivity. The Public Policy Research Centre (PPRC) dissects this hypocrisy with concrete facts and assessments. The UPA regime from 2005 to 2012 witnessed hundreds of communal clashes between prominent communities killing hundreds of people in India. The decade of NDA rule under Modi could successfully curtail violence among communities, the report says. Again, there was this double standard while the global media put the consecration of the Ram Temple to the world audience. Deliberately demonizing historical facts on how the Temple movement became a dominant war cry for centuries and discarding the chronology of the judicial process that ultimately got the truth find its place; the New York Times and other western media houses kept running the country down holding hands with the left-liberal-media alignment in India. Time has come to imagine what India would look like with its fast changing demography as its Amrit Kaal being designed and defined for a developed India by 1947. Ultimately, whose responsibility is to maintain secularism, the majority or the minority or all Indians? Do India’s Islamic neighborhoods teach us a lesson?
(The author is Freelance Journalist)

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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