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Yeh Jo India Hai Na: Should a PM's Election Speech Spread Fear & Misinformation?

Why the need to insult an entire community? Why the repeated need to suggest that Indian Muslims do not belong here?

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Producer :Jaspreet Singh
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Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya

Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma

Yeh Jo India Hai Na... here, should a Prime Minister’s election speech spread fear and misinformation? No.

Should a Prime Minister’s election speech encourage bigotry? No.

But it has happened.

In an election speech made in Rajasthan, PM Modi claimed the Congress plans to snatch the land, the life savings, gold, and even the ‘mangalsutras’ of Hindus and give them to India’s Muslims.

Sadly, the Prime Minister also used communal slurs to describe India’s Muslims as ‘infiltrators’, i.e., as ‘ghuspetis’ and as ‘that community’ whose members have ‘too many children’ – it was a new low for a speech by a national leader.

Modi’s claim was that in a speech in 2006, our then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that Muslims should have the first right to India’s resources. But that is simply not true.

Here’s what Dr Manmohan Singh, while addressing a meeting of the National Development Council on 9 December 2006, had actually said, and I quote,

“Our collective priorities are clear… critical investment in rural infrastructure, essential investment needs of general infrastructure, along with programmes of upliftment of SCs and STs, other backward classes, minorities and women and children. Plans for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes will need to be revitalised. We must have innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development. They must have the first claim on resources.”

So, while Manmohan Singh was speaking about all of India’s underprivileged, and pointing out that no section among them should miss out on their share of the nation’s resources, Modi’s speechwriters chose only the last two lines, took them out of their context, totally twisting their meaning.

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And it’s not the first time that the BJP has raised this false alarm. BJP spokespersons had cherry-picked and targeted Manmohan Singh’s lines back in 2006 as well. In 2023 too, ahead of the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections, Modi referred to the same Manmohan Singh speech at an election rally.

Each time, the same false claim.

This time, however, Manmohan Singh’s words have been further twisted to fan fear and tar India’s Muslims, firstly, by raising the birth rate bogey! But the question is - are birth rates really linked to religion? No.

Data shows far clearer linkages to poverty, to female literacy and to female health. And that is why Bihar and UP have India’s highest birth rates, while Karnataka and Kerala have the lowest. So, don’t the PM’s speechwriters know this? Or do they routinely ignore data that is inconvenient?

And here’s another fun fact for the same speechwriters, that India has been home to crores of Muslims, for centuries. So why the repeated use of this false claim of Muslims being ‘ghuspaits’, who ‘infiltrated’ into India?

Why the need to insult an entire community? Why this repeated need to suggest that India’s Muslims do not belong here? Why the need to imply that equal opportunity and equal access to the country’s resources is not for India’s Muslims, for them to be thought of as 2nd class citizens? Why the need to seek Hindu votes by creating a ‘fear’ about Muslims, based on false claims?

And why the need for India’s Prime Minister to say any of this? After all, he is supposed to represent every Indian.

Let’s also understand that the side-effect of such statements, especially when they come from the PM, is that they immediately send a message to extremist Hindutva leaders that they now have an unspoken go-ahead to do the same. One can only hope that doesn’t happen in the weeks ahead.

Yeh Jo India Hai Na, it is the world’s biggest democracy. Let’s not forget what that is really supposed to mean.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Producer :Jaspreet Singh
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