Modi’s ‘Blue Whale’ Jibe at Congress Insensitive to Mentally Ill

Does that not convey a wrong message that people suffering from mental illnesses are weak? Does it suit his stature?

Updated
Politics
3 min read
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally.
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“The fact is that Congress is trapped in the Blue Whale game and on 18 December, the game will be over,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Ahmedabad on Monday, 11 December. To imply that Congress is going to lose this Gujarat elections, Modi decided to use an unusual metaphor.

The game has been linked to mental health issues. So, by saying that, does he mean that the Congress is weak and so will lose? Does that not convey a wrong message that people suffering from mental illnesses are weak? Does it befit the stature of a prime minister to make a remark that trivialises what so many kids and teens across the country are going through?

Mudslinging in politics is not new. And parliamentarians have seldom shied away from throwing jibes at opposing parties. But it didn’t play out well this time.

The Bigger Problem of Mental Health Behind ‘Blue Whale’

There have been various deaths linked to the Blue Whale challenge, which is a game that apparently coaxes vulnerable teens to kill themselves in the final task.

Whether or not the kids were actually playing this game, experts have linked it to the bigger problem of mental health in India.

Here’s what Modi’s own government has to say about the challenge.

“Blue whale game (The suicide game) is abetment to suicide. Players of the challenge are blackmailed and cyberbullied into completing the ‘game’.” It goes on to say that parents should protect their children from this game by looking for signs of distress and mental illnesses.

Modi’s ‘Blue Whale’ Jibe at Congress Insensitive to Mentally Ill
(Photo Courtesy: Screenshot of Government of India website)

The government asked for the immediate removal of all links and mentions of the game from social media and for relevant sites to be blocked on the internet. The matter was even brought up in the Supreme Court.

Surely, after so much has happened PM Modi knows that the subject is sensitive and using it so loosely all for a dig at the opposition party wasn’t in good taste.

The Problem With Trivialising Mental Health

Nearly 50 million people have illnesses like depression or anxiety in India, which leads to about 63,000 suicides annually in the age group of 10-24. We should be looking to tackle the massive mental health crisis, instead of trivialising issues related to it.

There’s already a mountain of stigma attached to mental health in the country. Small steps are being made to remove that stigma but every time we talk about it offhandedly, it pushes us further back. People don’t talk about their problems, fearing that they’ll be considered weak.

Many don’t realise the impact of mental illnesses on people. Depression is now the leading cause of illness in the world. Still, people don’t understand it properly and see it as a ‘state of mind’ rather than an illness.

So, when the prime minister says something like this, it affects how people view mental health and there’s a fear that they may take it lightly.

At a time when the country is trying to create awareness about mental health, it may not have been prudent for him to make light of an issue which was related to it.

Politicking This Gujarat Elections Has Been Rough

With alleged sex tapes of Hardik Patel, Mani Shankar Aiyar calling Modi ‘neech’ and Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Modi engaging in a continuous war of words, the lead up to Gujarat elections this year has been anything but sanitised.

File photo of former prime minister Manmohan Singh (left) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right).
File photo of former prime minister Manmohan Singh (left) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right).
(Photo: Reuters)

Before his recent comment, Modi alleged links between Congress leaders and Pakistan, saying that they are interfering in the elections. This prompted former prime minister Mamohan Singh to voice his annoyance and ask Modi to apologise for the statement.

However, the ‘Blue Whale’ remark just went a bit too far.

At a time when the country is trying to create awareness about mental health, it may not have been prudent for the prime minister to make light of an issue which was related to it. 

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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