The phrase, “white man’s burden” is well known. It signifies the responsibility, forcibly taken on by white aristocratic men, to make the world a better place. But equally worrying today is the “white media’s burden” — the self-acquired responsibility of the Western media to create false and illogical discourse around those who are either far from their universe or those they are heavily biased against. The recent BBC series, The Modi Question, is a perfect example of the “white media’s burden” — it is an unwanted and unsubstantiated commentary on a subject that they are prejudiced against.
The mindless targeting of the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy fails several tests.
First, the series shows utter contempt for the Indian judiciary. The 2002 riot cases have been heard at virtually all levels of the Indian judiciary; they have been heard in different states as well. The highest court of the land, the Supreme Court, constituted an SIT to investigate the case. The results are for everyone to see. After thorough judicial and administrative findings by men and women of high professional standing, Narendra Modi was given a clean chit. Different review petitions have also been found untenable.
Therefore, it begs the question: Does the BBC consider itself above India’s judiciary?
Second, and importantly, the agenda of the BBC has not found favour in the court of the people. In 2014 and 2019 (and before that, in 2002, 2007 and 2012, Gujarat), Narendra Modi secured resounding mandates in the country. This is not possible unless people across diverse social groups vote for a leader and a party. Their numbers may vary but the trend is hard to ignore.
In my interactions with Muslims, particularly women, I have found great appreciation for PM Modi for abolishing the archaic practice of triple talaq. Other initiatives, such as ensuring smoke-free kitchens or registering crores of houses in women’s names under the government housing programme have found support across the religious spectrum. Muslim women are no exception.
Third, the BBC would be wiser if they controlled their urge to perpetuate victimhood among Muslims. Our community has had enough “false godparents” who have merely used Muslim issues to build their brands. The challenges our community faces will never be addressed by half-baked agendas. They can be addressed by constructive inter-faith dialogue. PM Modi won the hearts of many Muslim youth when he spoke of his vision for them. “Development is only possible when Muslim youth hold the Quran in one hand and a computer in the other,” he said. In the past, leaders were either too fixated on tokenism or they were too oblivious to our spiritual roots. Today, a number of Muslim youth are engaged in start-ups and other new ventures. This trend is encouraging.
BBC’s agenda-driven journalism does not pass another test — how the Muslim world is engaging with India. I can confidently say that India’s relations with the Islamic world are better than ever before. India is engaging with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Palestine,Oman, Qatar and many other countries in the Islamic world. The BBC could check how many Islamic nations have bestowed their highest honour on PM Modi. There was a time when the OIC kept a Muslim Indian leader waiting. A woman foreign minister of the Modi government was invited to address the august gathering. These gains would not have been possible if the Muslim world felt that the condition of Indian Muslims is pitiable.
I would like to urge the BBC to shed its “white media’s burden”. The horrors of imperialism are for everyone to see. Virtually half of our planet was left impoverished and resourceless to satisfy the material greed of a small island nation in Europe. There have been instances of communal violence in India. But has Britain been free of civil disturbances? The Indian economy just outdid the British economy to become the fifth largest in the world. The social cleavages post-Brexit have been long-lasting. One wishes the BBC also looked within Britain instead of preaching to people outside the country.
The BBC has assembled 20 years of biased reportage, peppered it with outdated condiments and garnished it with loads of misplaced victimhood. The recipe is that of a distasteful disaster.
Muslims in India have confidence in the Constitution, the executive, legislature and courts that their issues will be addressed. We want to move on from the past — we do not live there anymore. We are looking ahead and are doing so with hope as well as anticipation. For Indian Muslims, Modi is not a question, but Modi is the answer that is undoing many of the injustices against us. Better is expected from the BBC – or perhaps not.
The writer is Vice-Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University