Modi a ‘Symbol of Hate’; Protests a ‘Glimmer of Hope’: John Oliver
As US President Donald Trump hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the “pride of India” at Ahmedabad’s packed Motera Stadium on Monday, 24 February, in the latest episode of HBO’s ‘Last Week Tonight With John Oliver’ the eponymous comedian and the host ripped through PM Modi’s administration, calling it “really dangerous”.
Oliver referred to PM Modi’s image as a “temporary symbol of hate”, drawing comparison of it to the Taj Mahal, an “enduring symbol of love”. He did not mince his words in the episode which is focused on the CAA-NRC controversy, the nationwide protests against the same, and attacks on minority communities.
In the episode which aired in the US on Sunday night (9:30 am, Monday IST), Oliver took on BJP, RSS, Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath, Modi’s rift with former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the erasing of history, among other issues.
Here are some highlights from Oliver’s take on PM Modi and the protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act and NRC:
On CAA-NRC & Nationwide Protests
Delving into CAA and NRC, Oliver said,
“Modi and his party may be about to strip millions of Muslims of citizenship and they did it in a diabolically clever two-step way,” he elaborated.
Oliver further pegged his criticism of the Modi-led government’s policies on President Trump’s visit to India, on 24 February. In a tweet in November 2015, the US President, who is regularly targeted on the show, had described it as a “very boring and low rated show”, claiming he’d received an invitation to which he’d replied “NO THANKS”.
Oliver deemed it a lie and clarified that Trump had never been invited.
In Sunday’s episode, Oliver asserted in a cautionary tone that although Trump is expected to hail Modi during his visit, the protests in India are “very much ongoing” and contrary to PM Modi’s claims, the protesters hail from “a wide range of backgrounds”.
“Even as Trump shows up to hail him for uniting India, the protests against him are very much ongoing and while Modi has tried to paint this as the work of Muslim extremists, the protesters actually come from a wide range of backgrounds united by a single argument.”John Oliver, ‘Last Week Tonight With John Oliver’ (Season 7, Episode 2)
On Prime Minister Modi
In his trademark brand of humour, Oliver lampooned PM Modi’s habit of embracing leaders in an “aggressive” manner and went on to acknowledge his “significant appeal and inspirational personal story”. He subsequently explained why Modi was an “increasingly controversial figure”.
“He is an increasingly controversial figure. His government has pursued a steadily escalating persecution of religious minorities. Persecution so intense that for the last two months, Indians across the country have been taking to the streets in anger.”John Oliver, ‘Last Week Tonight With John Oliver’ (Season 7, Episode 2)
Oliver described PM Modi as “a Hindu nationalist” as well as the increasing attack on minorities under his watch since 2014, adding that his “charisma is such that he somehow evades public anger sticking to him, which is a very dangerous superpower”.
On Amit Shah
Among the prime targets of the episode was Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah who Oliver describes as the “closest confidante and second-in-command” to PM Modi.
Oliver discussed Shah in context of his speeches on CAA and NRC. He referred to a specific strategy, that of “tactical quiet”, being employed by the prime minister with regard to religious minorities whereas Shah has been unambiguous about the same.
“While Modi has insisted that in no way his intent is to target Muslims, his closest confidante and second-in-command Amit Shah has been pretty unambiguous about what the combination of these steps (CAA-NRC) is designed to do.”John Oliver, ‘Last Week Tonight With John Oliver’ (Season 7, Episode 2)
Oliver played a clip of Shah speaking at a rally where he can be seen referring to minorities as “infiltrators sucking our blood like parasites” and asking the crowd “Should we throw out the infiltrators or not?”
On Uttar Pradesh CM Adityanath
Similar to his criticism of Home Minister Amit Shah, Oliver explained how several BJP leaders, including Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, have often led the most vile of attacks on Muslims in India.
Referring to Modi’s “tactical quiet” on issues about religious minorities, Oliver said that the prime minister “doesn't talk much about religious minorities but those closest to him are comfortable saying a lot” and that “many members of the BJP have openly targeted them”.
He proceeded to play clips of Adityanath’s speeches where he can be seen saying “Hindus and Muslims are two different cultures and cannot co-exist” and “if they kill one Hindu then we will kill 100 of them”.
Reacting to the CM’s inflammatory comments, Oliver said,
“The only glimmer of hope here,” Oliver said, “is perhaps the first time in Modi’s whole career, his actions are creating a massive and sustained backlash”.