There is something enigmatic about the silence that Prime Minister rendra Modi maintains over major issues concerning the tion. Recently, two unidentified youths on a motorcycle, who pretended to be students of the great Kanda writer M.M. Kalburgi, knocked at his door at night and shot him dead in cold blood. Kalburgi’s sole ‘crime’ was that he was a ratiolist who went hammer and tongs against all superstitions that masquerade as part of our religion. The Prime Minister did not have a word either of comment or condolence after this event. Soon after, on September 28 a huge armed mob lynched Mohammad Akhlaque in a village near Dadri merely on the rumour that he had killed a cow and eaten the meat. This was indeed a very serious matter, and the entire tion waited anxiously for the Prime Minister’s condemtion of the tragic killing. There was not a word until much later. Activists of the Shiv Se in Mumbai, painted the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni black because he refused to cancel the launch of Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, a book written by Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri. There was no word of condemtion or any comment from the Prime Minister. One could easily run away with the impression that Prime Minister rendra Modi is a man of few words and not given to much verbalizing. This would be a grossly incorrect assessment of Prime Minister rendra Modi who tweets extensively for self-expression and communication. Between September 29 and October 13 rendra Modi tweeted birthday greetings to his colleague Dr Mahesh Sharma and to Bihar Governor Ram th Kovind. On October 3, he saluted Shyam Krish Varma, “the great patriot and inspiration for many tiolists”. On October 6, he sent a get-well-soon message to former cricketer vjot Sidhu. On October 10, he paid his tributes to the great ji Deshmukh on his birth anniversary. On October 13, he expressed happiness at the prospect of receiving the family members of Subhas Chandra Bose at his residence the next day. So it is not that Prime Minister rendra Modi had not been expressing himself during and after the days on which there were serious attacks on people by intolerant activists of political parties or groups of individuals ganging up who refused to put up with conduct that did not entirely conform to their notions of what was ‘proper’. In comments published in a Bengali daily on October 14, rendra Modi said, “Incidents like Dadri, and the protest against the Pakistani singer are sad. But what is the Centre’s role in them?” Novelist Sashi Deshmukh said that the Prime Minister had used a very weak word, pointing at his description of the lynching as “dukhyajak”. “Unfortute is a very weak term, and the leader of the country should be morally responsible for whatever is happening in the country. People have elected you and a few words from the leader of the country makes a lot of difference,” said Deshmukh. If anything, the word unfortute can be applied to the comment of senior BJP leader and Union Fince Minister Arun Jaitley, who has described the protest by writers returning their literary awards as “manufactured protest” and “politics by other means”. How could one talk about “manufactured protest” when almost everyone was voluntarily returning awards? Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the Opposition’s castigation of Modi for not saying a word was “unjust”. “All these incidents have happened in Kartaka, Uttar Pradesh and any other State. Is it not an issue concerning the State government’s law and order? Why does it get thrown at the Centre? Why is the PM asked for an answer much before the States have answered?” she wanted to know.
There are simple and direct answers to such questions. In the first place, when such heinous crimes pivoting on gross intolerance and stoked by private elements are perpetrated in any part of the country, it becomes the responsibility of the leader of the tion, mely the Prime Minister of the country, to condemn such happenings in the strongest terms. After all, none of these States are outside India. The Prime Minister’s failure to condemn such acts of intolerance unequivocally gives rise to all kinds of speculations that heinous crimes have the tacit support of the ruling party. The Prime Minister’s silence in such matters could well be explained away by vested interests as “Moune sanmati laksham (silence is indication of consent)”. It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to ensure that no one gets the impression that such acts of intolerance and curtailing of individual liberty can even remotely be assumed to have the support of the ruling party or the government of the day. In addition, there is the responsibility of ensuring that his government will not tolerate any kind of kangaroo courts or extra-constitutiol agencies to determine the acceptable norms of political or persol conduct or permit intolerance to corrode our individual freedom. Apart from the denial of persol freedom and rights guaranteed by our Constitution, permitting such kangaroo courts and alterte custodians of the law to function would project the most undesirable image of the country abroad at a time when India is seeking permanent membership of the United tions Security Council and also persuading the United tions to have a debate on terrorism. During an interview with NDTV, Salman Rushdie maged to paint a vivid picture of what tolerance of such intolerance could do to the country’s image abroad. He said, “I think what has crept into Indian life now is a degree of thuggish violence which is new. And it seems to be, I have to say, given permission by the silence of official bodies, by the silence of the Sahitya Akademi , which is what so many of the writers are protesting about, by the silence of the Prime Minister’s Office. Mr Modi is a very talkative gentleman. He has a lot to say on a lot of subjects and it would be very good to hear what he has to say about all this.”