The 10th anniversary of the Gujarat riots has come as a wonderful opportunity for Narendra Modi bashers to flaunt their ‘progressive’, ‘secular’ credentials. For the past decade, Narendra Modi has come to symbolize everything that has gone wrong with our democracy even though statistics and reality claim otherwise. In spreading deep rooted lies about Gujarat, its development or the condition of the Muslims sections of the media have gone berserk in constructing a reality that is far fetched and regressive at the same time. It is a pity that these ‘secular’ and ‘progressive’ journalists leave no stone unturned in showing not only Narendra Modi but also Gujarat in poor light.
Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’ was a classic case in point of how Eurocentric biases colored perceptions about the Orient, in this case the Middle East and North Africa. In the 21st Century a very different kind of ‘Orientalist’ discourse has crept into Indian mainstream media. These are a series of misplaced perceptions and notions about Gujarat, its people and more specifically its Muslims. Rajdeep Sardesai goes on about ‘Two Gujarat’s while Christophe Jafferlot writes about the lack of truth or reconciliation in the state. Television shows are running endless specials from Godhra and the ‘view from the ground’ after ten years. In each of these TV shows you will find a thread of commonality that has shaped public discourse on what Gujarat and its people are all about.
Portrayal of Muslims of Gujarat
In every bit of media coverage on 2002 the Muslims are Gujarat are stereotyped in the most pathetic way possible, as if they are living in abject poverty. TV channels shamelessly show a Muslim family invariably living in a hut, surrounded by heaps of stray dogs and goats. With children crying and mosquitoes surrounding them, these people are then made to ‘recount’ their horror story of 2002.
Is this picture correct? Are the Muslims of Gujarat really worse off than what they were in 2002? The facts state otherwise. The Sachar Committee categorically stated that the Muslims of Gujarat lead a much better life than their counterparts in other states. During Narendra Modi’s Sadbhavana fast, Sushma Swaraj narrated the story of a Muslim businessman who was given a red carpet by the Narendra Modi government in minutes. After 2002 Gujarat also had a Muslim DGP in SS Khandwala indicating the heights Muslims have scaled in the last decade. The scale of development in Gujarat is such that no community can ever be left out of it.
But, when somebody brings this to light what happens to him? The answer lies in the fate of Maulana Vastanvi who lost his job for praising Narendra Modi’s work. Such is the influence of this misplaced Orientalism that truth speakers even lose their job if they do not comply with what the 24/7 media version of truth.