Dear PM Modi, We Loved How You Made Women’s Day All About Yourself

We were overwhelmed by your generosity and your thoughtfulness, your brilliant way of showing women that you cared.

4 min read
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Twitter was given to 7 women on Sunday.

Dear Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji,

You gave us a profound shock last week when you announced that you would be quitting social media. I, along with your zillions of social media followers (to be precise, 54 million on Twitter, 44 million on Facebook, and 35.2 million on Instagram, not to speak of millions more on sundry other sites) were aghast at the prospect of the echoing void that your departure from these platforms would create.

After all, ever since you assumed office, we get most of our news about the government’s plans and projects and also its stupendous achievements, from what you tell us directly via social media.

We had heard about ‘method’ acting, but you, Sir, have perfected ‘method’ communication – direct communication and frontal engagement with the masses through the route of social media.

If you turned your back on this gift that keeps on giving, where would you be, we wondered in panic. And how would we, your besotted devotees, deal with the vacuum?

To Giving Women a Platform

But then, you reassured us. You told us that you planned to log out of social media only for a day. You said that on 8 March, which was International Women’s Day, you would hand over your social media accounts to seven women achievers so they could share their powerful and inspirational stories with us – stories that would get exponentially amplified thanks to the millions of people who follow you.

We heaved a sigh of relief. And, of course, we were thrilled with this path-breaking initiative. (We are always thrilled with your slogans and campaigns. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, launched in 2015, is one example, even though, according to the ministry of women and child development, most of the funds allocated for the project have been used for advertising the campaign rather than for any real work on the ground.)

Anyway, this was awesome, as they say. What better way to recognise and celebrate women on International Women’s Day? You were giving women a platform! You were giving them a voice!

In fact, you were lending them your own voice – your own social media handles! We were overwhelmed by your generosity and your thoughtfulness, your brilliant way of showing women that you cared.

It was nothing short of noble – as noble as inviting the poor and the hungry to 7 Race Course Road on World Food Day, which is dedicated to the eradication of hunger (it’s on 16 October, in case you wish to mark it on your calendar) and asking them to eat all they can from your table for one day.

Naturally, one isn’t talking about EVERY poor and hungry person in India – there would be an awful lot of them to accommodate then – but maybe seven or eight. It’s the gesture that matters, right?

Another Kind of Padma Awards?

However, delighted as I was upon learning about your plan to showcase women achievers on Women's Day, I was also a trifle baffled.

How were you going to pick only seven out of the thousands of women who were doing exceptional work, breaking barriers, fighting and winning battles and setting new benchmarks of excellence in their fields?

Wouldn’t your critics say that this was another kind of the Padma awards, handed out as reward to those who have a cosy relationship with the powers-that-be?

Of course, no matter how just and stellar your selection, it was bound to be lambasted by those eternally disgruntled anti-nationals and urban-naxals. They were bound to crib and carp and say that this was just another publicity stunt on your part.

Like a stuck record, they were going to bring up Shaheen Bagh – that crucible of indomitable protest against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act by women in the capital – and say that since you disdained to engage with them, any attempt to project yourself as a champion of women smacked of pure hypocrisy.

And then there were those who scoffed that such gestures were laughably hollow when your party attempts to protect affiliates who are accused of rape.

That your army of social media warriors dishes out filthy abuse, rape and death threats to women. And that you follow many of these vicious trolls yourself. Well, that’s true enough, but what do they know about the realpolitik of running a government and keeping it invincible?

Be that as it may, as a leader with a famously large heart (or is it chest?), such random accusations ought not to touch you. Besides, there’s no doubt that the seven women who shared their stories from your social media accounts on 8 March were truly inspirational.

The 7 Inspiring Women

There was Malvika Iyer, whose hands were blown off in a bomb blast when she was 13, but who went on to pursue her studies, earn a PhD and become a disability activist. There was Sneha Mohandoss, who is leading a crusade against hunger and runs a food bank in Chennai. There was Kalpana Ramesh, an architect who is doing commendable work in water conservation.

Then there was Arifa Jan from Kashmir and Vijaya Pawar from rural Maharashtra, who are empowering women by reviving local crafts; there was Kalavati Devi from Kanpur who is working to eradicate open defecation, and Veena Devi from Bihar’s Munger village who became a sarpanch.

Like a bunch of good thoughts, this was a bunch of women who could inspire us to do better, try harder, go higher. And personally, I am glad that tomorrow’s headlines will be not only about them, but also about you, our dear leader, and how you provided your incredible platform to seven incredible women on International Women’s Day.

For as much as you like to ride the headlines, we, your followers, also love to see you up there, charming us with positive stories. Frankly, it’s much better than all the depressing news about failing banks, the tanking economy, dwindling jobs, the rising death toll in communal violence unleashed in the heart of Delhi...

And so, let every day, including Women’s Day, be a day about you and what you are doing or plan to do for the people of India.

With respectful pranam,

Your faithful devotee.

(Shuma Raha is a journalist and author based in Delhi. She tweets at @ShumaRaha. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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