A group of 124 academicians, industrialists, former bureaucrats and activists on Tuesday slammed efforts by some US-based academics to criticise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Digital India’ initiative.
Earlier this month, about 100 US-based academics, many of Indian origin, had argued the Digital India programme would be used for “dubious” purposes such as curbing civil liberties in India. They had asked Silicon Valley tech companies, one of the scheduled stops of the PM during his coming visit to the US, to boycott the Indian PM and backed an economic boycott of India.
Activist Madhu Kishwar said many of those academics were “usual leftists” and the “hate Modi brigade”, which was the force behind the US denying Modi a visa when he was chief minister of Gujarat.
The counter petition said those who had signed the anti-Digital India petition had crossed the line between “hitting out at Modi” and “hurting India”. “E-governance and digitisation have produced dramatic results in curbing corruption. When citizens are yearning for it, US academicians are calling for an economic boycott.”
Kishwar said, “We never heard (from them) that Pakistan, which is the mother of terrorism, be boycotted or China, which is conducting human rights abuses in Tibet, be economically boycotted. At least some of us are convinced there are vested interests behind such moves. It is a consistent witch hunt that has gone on for about a decade and I think it is time we stood up and say ‘enough is enough’.”
Countering concern expressed by US academicians over Modi’s alleged culpability for the 2002 Gujarat riots, the group said their views reflected their “scant disregard” for the Indian judicial system, as the Supreme Court has exonerated the PM of all charges in connection with the episode. “We urge academicians to lift the veil of ignorance and grasp the bigger picture. They should stop seeking fame by thriving on misplaced victimhood and false grievances,” it said.
The petition has been signed by intellectuals, scientists, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry President Jyotsna Suri, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry chief Rana Kapoor, Confederation of Indian Industry Director General Chandrajit Banerjee, Agricultural Costs and Prices Commission ex-chairman Ashok Gulati, former Samta Party chief Jaya Jaitley, eminent classical dancer Sonal Mansingh, economist Surjit Bhalla, working and retired professors of premium institutes such as the Indian Institutes of Technology Delhi and Kanpur and Indian and foreign universities.
In the US, a similar petition was signed by about 150 academicians and deans of schools and engineering, medicine, business, humanities institutions. “We, the undersigned, as faculty representing diverse disciplines in the American academy, join fellow Americans in welcoming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to California’s Silicon Valley on his inaugural visit there on September 26-27,” the petition said.
“We are encouraged by reports that 170 million new bank accounts have been opened, accompanied by government-backed catastrophic insurance, bringing hope to the most needy in India. Tying these accounts into the Aadhaar identity document programme could give many citizens their first clear symbol of empowerment,” it added.