Twesh Mishra [email protected]

Senior reporter based in New Delhi. Covers corporates and policy in energy and infrastructure. Opinions personal

Twesh Mishra

The silence of Narendra Modi

| Updated on March 09, 2018 Published on March 01, 2017

DE22RAMJAS

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been more vocal than any other leader at the helm of our country in recent times. Through his monthly sermon, PM Modi regularly expresses his views on pertinent issues based on queries he receives from the country’s folk. In February too, the PM spread his word through a pre-recorded audio podcast.

February’s over 3,800 word voice of thought (Mann ki Baat) was broadcast for an hour on all major news television stations and government radio frequencies. The word ‘student’ appeared twice in the extensive exercise. This was once to pontificate the benefits of the lottery scheme run by the Government of India. The other time was to narrate the experience of a student that utilised digital currency.

Not once did the word ‘violence’ appear in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sermon to the nation. Hence, the words Student and Violence did not appear together anywhere either.

The broadcast was conducted on February 26. Less than a week ago, on February 22, violent clashes erupted in the national capital. The violence was led by the ruling party’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

A stray incident of violence can miss the eye of the country’s Prime Minister. But in the four days to the broadcast of the PM’s Mann ki Baat, not once did the violence in Delhi University’s Ramjas College miss the nation’s headlines. ABVP alleged that anti-national slogans were raised by left-leaning students and teachers, prompting them to turn violent. The veracity of the ABVP’s claim is yet to the established but even if proven, it still does not sanction the student body to justify mobocracy.

The situation worsens with the remorselessness of the ruling establishment. Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju expressed veiled endorsement for ABVP’s actions on February 23 when he said that no anti-India slogans will be allowed in the name of freedom of speech. Rijiju’s ministry is responsible for maintaining the internal security of the nation. He also, more openly, called for a parallel law enforcement institution when he tweeted asking students of Delhi University to not allow anti-India slogans in the campus a day later.

To the credit of the government, on February 25, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley did say that he did not believe that there was any space for violence on college campuses. But he too questioned the premise of freedom of expression and stopped short of condemning ABVP.

Come February 26, the nation expected some direction from the supreme authority. The Prime Minister has expressed his opinion on multiple topics. In January, the Prime Minister had shared his wisdom on the pressures of sitting for exams and how students should not be deterred. In February’s sermon, even flowers and chirping of birds during the month of spring found a place, but a call to contain violence on campuses could not.

Published on March 01, 2017
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