My take on Hasan Minhaj’s show ‘Patriot Act’ on Indian elections

I came across Hasan Minhaj’s show Patriot Act’s video on Indian elections on YouTube. Hasan Minhaj is a popular American comedian of Indian origin with a large following. Minhaj was the featured speaker at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Having known this, it made me curious and I started watching it.

I found his act full of bias against Modi and a one sided view on Indian elections. So I thought I should offer a counterview.

Minhaj starts by talking about recent fight between India and Pakistan after the Pulawama attack. He gives only a one sided account of events. When it comes to speaking about India’s official position, he downplays it with jokes. But he reiterates Pak calling India’s retaliation to Pulwama terror attack as Eco-terrorism, an attack only on trees and not on terror base. He omits India’s action of downing a F-16 fighter jet which lead to our soldier being captured by Pak. He omits our destroying Balakot terror camp, which has been substantiated by an independent Italian journalist Francesca Marino, who saw 40-50 killed terrorists’ bodies there, as well as satellite images of damage corroborating the same.

Minhaj claims Modi’s victory was built on his ‘rags to riches story, charisma and economic promises for the poorest’. He very conveniently chooses to ignore Modi’s 15 year successful stint as CM of Indian state of Gujarat where he led his state to highest growth rate and one of the most industrialized state of the country. And no Modi didn’t declare this himself, this was credited by a central government agency when the opposition Congress was in power at the center. His isn’t a ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ like rag to riches story where he has accumulated wealth but one where he has progressed through, with hard work. Indian electorate didn’t just believe his promises but voted him on the basis of his track record of development in Gujarat.

Minhaj then tries to compare Modi’s slogan of ‘India First’ with Trump’s ‘America first’. Modi’s ‘India First’ had emphasis on keeping the welfare of the country he wanted to lead as his priority. Every country’s leader should have the responsibility to look after their country’s interests, because if they wouldn’t then who else will? I see a problem when a country’s leader believes that their country should grow at the expense of all others, a perception that exists about President Trump. PM Modi’s comments should be construed in context. Because of rampant corruption in the Congress’s UPA II government, the very belief of Indian people in India’s democratic setup had started to waver. Indians needed hope which a charismatic person like Modi through his proven track record of 15 years of Chief Ministership and his speeches with the message of ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’ i.e. ‘Together with all, development for all’ gave. Modi’s pitch for ‘India First’ was not about progressing at expense of others but rather at keeping his government’s focus on India’s best interests being foremost rather than personal interests of corrupt few like the Congress’s dynast family.

Then Minhaj repeatedly makes racist imitations of how the Indian PM was speaking ‘India First’. Minhaj was born in America and so has an Americanized accent, this doesn’t give him the right to be racist about the way many Indians speak English, which may seem accented to him.

Then Minhaj compares PM Modi and President Trump. He claims they both dislike the Press and a visual appears of tweets from Modi and Trump having the words ‘Very Sad’ and ‘Sad’. If you pause at the exact moment you can see Modi’s tweet says ‘Congress’ 1 point programme is to facilitate the Son Rise in Delhi. The nation is secondary…only the son’s career must be safe. Very Sad.’ (PM usually says that for Congress, India’s interests aren’t first, Gandhi’s career growth is first) And Trump’s tweet is about ridiculing a TV show. How are these two tweets comparable?

Then he accuses both Modi and Trump of ridiculing their opponents on Twitter. Is there any politician who doesn’t use Twitter to politically criticize their competitors, and what’s wrong with that, unless you are making personal derogatory remarks about opponents, something which PM Modi never does? Most people in the world know, that PM Modi maintains political and civil decency to everyone, including his opponents.

Minhaj’s next accusation is that both Modi and Trump are strong man with rabid fans. What kind of a charge is being a strong man? And how can a politician control the kind of his fans. A leftist unqualified journalist in the guise of a comedian, calling a Rightist PM’s fans rabid just shows his frustration. PM’s supporters may feel the same about him.

Then he accuses Modi of not having a press conference so that he never has to answer about any controversy. All Indians know Modi is a Prime Minister who has given one of the largest number of interviews as an Indian PM to a wide variety of news channels, including many those are believed to be among his critics such as India Today and News18. There is not a single major issue or controversy over which the PM has not made his views known, either through interviews, speeches, social media or any other platform.

Then Minhaj accused the Indian PM of maintaining a silence on 2002 riots, which is again a lie. Many a times Modi has been asked in interviews about the same, and his answers are there in the public domain, there for anyone to find out. He has maintained that he tried his best to control the riots and used the security forces the best he could. Some people wanted him to apologize for the riots, but he maintained he did everything possible to stop them and was on his duty full time. If he was wrong then he should be punished, he said, how could an apology help? This built his image as a strong Hindu nationalist instead of Hindu apologist, something that many Congress leaders of the time were, who believed they would be seen as backward if they were openly Hindu. India’s courts instituted Special investigation Team to look into Modi’s response to riots and after lengthy investigations, accepted that he had done no wrong. Truth was there for everyone to see. But what can be done about someone who can see but was pretending to be blind?

Then Minhaj plays a clip where Opposition’s Indian National Congress Party’s leader, Rahul Gandhi, goes and hugs Modi forcibly, while he’s sitting on PM’s place in the Indian parliament, trying to portray he loves everyone. Minhaj then makes fun of how Modi hugs world leaders but was reluctant then. But he easily skips over the next part of the clip where Rahul Gandhi winks at his friend after the hug, which exposed Rahul’s insincerity and mischievous intention to the public.

Minhaj then clumsily mentions how BJP officials didn’t respond to his calls for interview but Shashi Tharoor did. His sincerity in contacting a senior BJP leader is itself questionable, seeing till now, how he takes into account only a one sided biased view. On the other hand his very choice of inviting Shashi Tharoor to give interview was also surprising, given Indians know him to be an alleged wife murderer with pending criminal cases. Was there no other political leader left in India with a clean image to interview? You can easily see how there is an effort from Minhaj’s side to portray India as a banana republic with only tainted politicians and even questions India’s judiciary at another point.

Then Minhaj asks Shashi about a rightward shift in politics in India. He speaks as if it’s a very bad thing which has happened. When Congress wins, there is a leftward shift in politics in India and when BJP wins there is a rightward shift in politics in India, there’s nothing unusual about it.

Then starts Shashi Tharoor’s fear mongering of how this was an election for India’s soul and how a BJP reelection would damage that. Same fear mongering was used in 2014 about how after BJP’s victory, India would become inhospitable to certain sections of society. Modi had always categorically denied this and swore to work for all 1.3 billion Indians without any kind of discrimination. People trusted Modi and nothing like an attack on India’s soul happened these 5 years, which Indians who live in India have noticed.

So Minhaj tries to paint a false image of an intolerant India in the minds of Americans, many of whom believe him, because of lack of adequate information on work being done by PM Modi. Minhaj then seems hugely impressed by Shashi Tharoor’s motherhood statements, which every Indian politician makes, regarding a united India without any discrimination.

When Sahshi Tharoor is asked about corruption scams under Congress Party regime, Tharoor doesn’t take even one moment to paint whole of India as corrupt, saying no party is virtuous, whereas the truth is, there is no proven case of corruption against the Modi government. Not all Indian politicians are corrupt and not all have varying degree of murder charges on them, unlike what is alleged by Minhaj.

Tharoor then puts the onus on electing corrupt politicians on Indians themselves and says every democracy gets the politician they deserve, as if Indian electors beforehand know the corruption scams these politicians are going to be involved in.

Minhaj says unemployment has been on a record high as per data. But the truth is there is no mechanism to record the number of jobs in informal sector, including self-employed people in India, which accounts for the vast majority of total jobs here.

Minhaj then alleges Demonetization was a failure and farmers are most affected by demonetization, but is it true? Uttar Pradesh (politically most crucial and largest Indian state) state elections happened months after demonetization and everyone knows UP has one of largest number of farmers. UP voters gave BJP over a three-fourth majority, puncturing Minhaj’s farmer discomfort by demonetization claim.

Demonetization helped in bringing money into the formal banking system and its intention was never to permanently drive money out of Indian economy’s circulation.

Minhaj then shows a clip of a farmers protest. The protesters are making anti Modi government statements and are wearing red caps and shirts of AIKS. AIKS stand for All India Kisan Sabha, which is the peasant body of Communist Party of India (Marxist) i.e. CPI(M), a political party which is ideologically diametrically opposed to Modi’s BJP. Will you expect their members to support BJP?

The he next shows another clip of yellow shirts clad people having flags saying ‘Jai Kisan Andolan’. This is a front of Swabhiman Abhiyan of another Modi hater politician Yogendra Yadav. Does Minhaj have any credibility left now? Did he expect anti Modi political party’s members to sing praise for him or give genuine feedback on his work.

Minhaj then starts another front against Modi accusing him of trying to disenfranchise Muslim immigrants illegally settled from Bangladesh in Indian state of Assam. Why the hell should illegal foreign immigrants have a vote in India? Has all logic evaded his brain? National Register for Citizens (NRC) has been created to identify these illegal immigrants who bring with them fake currency and indulge in criminal activities. Their sole purpose is to outpopulate locals and take over the control of their state. Many opposition politicians supported them because they became their vote banks. Why should action not be taken on them?

He implies he feels sympathy for these to-be-disenfranchised illegal immigrants, and jokes that people will accuse him of supporting them because he is a Muslim like them. He tries to close a door on future criticisms of him by making this statement, but why would he want enfranchisement for illegal immigrants, voting isn’t a human right but a civil right, for legal residents of a place.

Minhaj says Modi being a member of RSS should be alarming because an RSS ideologue’s book ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ mentions Muslims, Christians and communists as threats. This book was written in 1960s. Not even 20 years had passed since India’s partition on religious lines, where the Muslim majority states of East Bengal and West Punjab separated from India. It was a time when Christian missionaries were rampant in illegally converting the poor and tribals in far flung regions such as North East and South India, using inducements such as jobs, money and even by force. In the Cold war era world, with huge amounts of money being pumped by the Soviet Union and its use of KGB to create satellite states, communists were considered a threat throughout the world.

Minhaj alleges Hindu nationalists have been instigating a culture of intimidation and violence towards religious minority groups wanting Hindu India. Commoner Indians living in India do not believe this fear mongering which is being spread by a desperate opposition and left leaning media houses. The same could be seen when before Bihar elections in 2017, a narrative of growing intolerance in India was created, which vanished into thin air, after opposition victory there.

Minhah then claims Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, is scary because he is a monk with a gun. Yogi says monks are taught in both Scriptures and weapons. People knowing Hindi would know Discipline wasn’t mentioned in Hindi in the clip but Scriptures were. Minhaj uses very clumsily made clips with many gaffes. Monks have long been taught to know self-defense in addition to scriptures in East, be it in India, China, Japan or many other eastern countries. It’s scary only if there are instances of misuse, which are not, in this case.

Minhaj says places’ names are changing from Muslim versions to Hindu like from Allahabad to Prayagraj in India. But he is again clumsy in his research, as the name in Hindi is Illahabad after a conglomerative faith Akbar tried to create, but had no followers. Allahabad was a distorted version of the name. For more than 2000 years the place was called Prayagraj and so it has been restored, over an archaic irrelevant name.

Minhaj claims that not just Muslims, violence against all minorities have gone up, which set me thinking as I couldn’t think of any complaining minority apart from some self-proclaimed Muslim intellectuals. Then he says minority groups called ‘Dalits’ are being targeted. This just proved to me that he has no idea about India and made me wonder where he gets his information from. Dalits constitute a caste in Hindu society and here was an attempt to portray them as different from the rest of Hindus.

Minhaj says religious minorities have been free to deal in cows, which is again incorrect. There is a ban on cow slaughter in many Indian states for long and some states had cracked down on illegal slaughterhouses.

Minhaj reports there were no reported lynching incidents in 2013 as per a BBC News report which is again factually incorrect statement. There are many news articles in public domain to prove this. It had happened before Modi and had continued. PM Modi publically criticized cow vigilantism and made anti-lynching laws and these cases have been drastically reduced for quite some time.

Media had earlier in many instances passed non religion related violence also as communal lynching. Minhaj claims ‘Its gone so bad, that Dalits are routinely subjected to lynching’. This is a lie in itself. Based on one or two isolated incidents, painting a whole nation of 1.3 billion as intolerant and lynching as routine is a crime against that nation. Crime rate in India is below crime rates of many developed countries of the world.

Minhaj concludes that a pattern of growing religious nationalism, violence, disregard for institutions, rampant disinformation, weak and corrupt opposition was seen in all countries having democracy backsliding and implies whether India will join them if Modi is reelected.

Rampant disinformation is what he is spreading. Whether to have the Opposition weak or strong is the will of the people in a democracy. Indian institutions are functioning well despite what he wants to imply. Nationalism is more visible in India as a response of terrorism and national security having gained more importance with Pakistani attacks. This type of trying to create panic and fear among Indian public has failed in past and will fail again.

In the end Minhaj plays a clip of the same left leaning opposition politician with no public support in India, Yogendra Yadav, head of Swabhiman Abhiyan. Minhaj has no idea that this person has no traction in Indian society just like him. Yadav claims something much deeper is at stake in upcoming elections. Will India remain India or not, will India define itself with inclusion or exclusion is what Minhaj wonders, adding it’s much easier to exploit conflict in Kashmir for political gains then address economy and deepening divisions within the country. We don’t need threat of nuclear warfare to flex nationalism as per him.

This threat of nuclear warfare is what Pakistan always plays. National security will remain an important issue in India as only a secure India can progress, despite how much ever Minhaj would want us to ignore it. As far as economy is concerned, we are still the fastest growing major economy in the world and so don’t need his lectures.

Minhaj criticizes the PM in every way possible and finds not even one positive thing to speak about the PM to keep his interaction balanced. Modi government provided electricity to all the 18000 unelectrified villages of India, built millions of houses and toilets to those who couldn’t afford them, provided free cooking gas connections and accidental insurance to poor, insured cheaper medicines, provided crop insurance and income support to small farmers, started Mudra loans for small artisans and workers, increased investments, improved infrastructure, increased ease of doing business, improved foreign relations, strengthened national security with necessary defence procurements and using air strikes and surgical strikes when necessary and enhanced global image of India among other things.

Hasan is a person with Indian roots born in America. But he has lost all touch with India. He jokes he has both Indian and Pakistani friends and which side should he cheer in a India-Pakistan match confuses him. To him I say, you are a person with Indian roots, so in an India Pakistan match you can choose your second motherland after USA which is India. We have friends from all countries, doesn’t mean you are from there. Both of your parents were born Indians. Your confusion reflects in your thoughts. What’s all your confusion about?

The fact is American media is too self-centred. Information deprived American youth resort to such misinformants and comedians for their news on current events around the world. But if you do not have to be a target of their propaganda and not accept whatever fake news is fed by them, one will have to do some research themselves on issues or rely on more trustworthy sources.

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