“When PM was not speaking, you were unhappy, when he spoke, you want to say this is what he should have spoken,” veteran Bollywood and theatre actor Anupam Kher was quoted as saying by television news channel Times Now.
Further, news agency ANI quoted Kher as saying: “They cannot handle it that a chaiwalla has become the prime minister of this country.” Here, the actor was referring to the many incidents of litterateurs and artists returning their Sahitya Akademi awards to protest the growing intolerance in the country, especially against the backdrop of the Dadri incident and the killing of rationalist M M Kalburgi.
However, Kher’s voice or views were not the only prominent line of thought that was doing the rounds on social media. Taking on both the PM and Kher on microblogging site Twitter, among many, was Congress leader and former Union minister Sachin Pilot. He retweeted a post which read: “@AnupamPkher Lets not talk about Desh Bhakti on Social Media and be hypocrites in the real world.”
Pilot was also quoted as saying in a report by The Indian Express: “I believe it is not appropriate to wash your hands by saying the new government has no role to play.” His reference here was to Modi’s statement where he tried to absolve the Centre of all responsibilities in the incidents like Dadri and the Kalburgi murder.
Dadri lynching incident, the controversy around cancellation of Pakistani Ghazal singer Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai, among other things. The PM had referred to these incidents as “unfortunate” but also said the government at the Centre had nothing to do with these.
Modi had also charged the Opposition of using minorities as a vote bank by raising the bogey of communalism. “The Dadri incident or opposition to Pakistani singer is undesirable and unfortunate. But what is the central government’s relation with these incidents,” Modi had told Bengali daily Ananda Bazar Patrika.
While his statement was widely viewed as his succumbing to increasing pressure from Opposition and academics returning their honours like Sahitya Akademi awards and Padma Shri, Modi, in his brief interaction with the daily, hit back at his opponents accusing them of polarisation.
However, Modi also came under attack from an unlikely quarter for an unlikely reason. The Shiv Sena, an ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, ironically, attacked Modi for going soft. Sena leader Sanjay Raut called his statement unfortunate, claiming that the world knew Modi through Godhra and “for the same reason we respect him”.
ANI has quoted Raut as saying, “If the prime minister has made such a statement, it is really unfortunate. The Narendra Modi that the world knows is by Godhra; for the same reason we respect him. If the same Narendra Modi has called the controversy surrounding Ghulam Ali sad, it is unfortunate. I feel this is the statement of the country’s Prime Minister, not of Narendra Modi.”
Prominent journalist Rajdeep Sardesai expressed his views on the Dadri, Ghulam Ali and Sahitya Akademi incidents through his facebook post, saying: "My song for the night was 'Yeh Kahan aa Gaye hum': a classic from Silsila. It typifies my mood. He also said, "I truly feel a growing sense of impotent rage. Intolerance has always existed in this country, only never before has extremism been legitimised so brazenly by powerful sections of society."
Also, Madhu Kishwar, professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, and editor Manushi Journal, said in her tweet: "Modi ji, itni daant dapat khaane ke baad aapne Dadri incident condemn kiya.You should have been the first one to condemn it as dastardly."
Modi ji, itni daant dapat khaane ke baad aapne Dadri incident condemn kiya.You should have been the first one to condemn it as dastardly— Madhu Kishwar (@madhukishwar) October 14, 2015
The talks and talk-backs hotted up further with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley joining in with a long post of social networking site Facebook on Wednesday evening, attacking the academics’ stance and labelling theirs’ a “manufactured revolt”.
Jaitley questioned why these academics were silent when, a few months before the Modi government took charge, there were incidents of burning of churches across the country. He also asked: “Did the writers speak against the Sikh killings of 1984 or the Bhagalpur riots of 1989 ? Was their conscience not shaken by the corruption involving lakhs of crores between 2004 and 2014?”
Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) October 15, 2015
On the academics, Kher questioned their stance through this tweet: “I think this is mostly to discredit the PM. If they want to return why not return everything?”
Meanwhile, Jaitley’s Facebook post was widely circulated and garnered a lot of support. While the post itself had received more than 1,000 comments by early Thursday morning. Some went on to suggest that those who wanted to return their prize money should do so with interest on a compounded basis.
“Mr Jaitley, these people who are returning their awards, please ask them to also return the PRIZE MONEY with compound interest and then we’ll really know how sincere and hurt they are about an unfortunate event that all sane people condone,” said one in a comment on Jaitley’s post on Facebook.