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2019 election and the brown man's burden

By Colonel ANIL A ATHALE (retd)
May 28, 2019 11:24 IST
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'The anti-India biases of the Western elite can be attributed to the unease these privileged nations feel at the rise of Asian nations like India and China.'
'But what ought to shock all right-thinking Indians is that many of our own countrymen/women have joined this chorus,' says Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi offers prayers at the Sai Baba temple in Shirdi. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

One of the most absurd yet enduring images of the Lok Sabha election campaign was the coverage by the much vaunted BBC.

While India was debating the electoral sweep as well as the earlier exit polls carried out by multiple agencies, what did the Beeb do?

Well, it caught hold of -- hold your breath -- a woman 'Vedic astrologer' who was pontificating on her 'science' and predictions!

Another favourite of Lutyens Delhi, The New York Times published biased articles on the election.

Time magazine published an article by a person of half-Pakistani parentage describing Narendra Damodardas Modi as 'divider in chief'.

In 'Agent Orange: Under Narendra Modi, India's Ruling Party Poses A Threat To Democracy', The Economist magazine cautioned that India is 'too combustible a place to be put into the hands of politicians who campaign with flamethrowers'.


The nastiness of The Economist comes as no surprise to a historian. I recall the gleeful remark in the same weekly on January 24, 1966, in the wake of the crash of the Air India Boeing 707 Kanchenjunga (in perfect weather) on the slopes of Mont Blanc in which India's leading nuclear scientist Homi J Bhabha was killed: 'India's nuclear dream lies shattered on the slopes of Mont Blanc'.

This crash had all the hallmark of an assassination carried out by an intelligence agency. The reasons for the crash have never been satisfactorily investigated/explained.

The Western obsession with persisting with an image of India as land of snake-charmers has a long history. The Western media completely ignored the reality that the world's biggest electorate (900 million) has exercised its free choice in elections that were largely free from violence.

Unlike in many 'developing' countries, the mandate was accepted by the opponents. But instead of highlighting the stupendous achievement, the Western media has only carping criticism to offer.

As someone who has been a participant in various seminars in the West, this comes as no surprise. I recall a time in 1991 when in the USA, the image of a starving India was etched so firmly the fact that in the same year India gifted 2 million tonnes of wheat to Russia, where riots over bread had broken out, was totally unknown.

Possibly even in the 21st century, the false image of a 'starving India' still persists.

I must narrate a story told to me by a three-star general of the Indian Army. In the early 1990s he was invited to the US Pacific Command for a visit. He was at that time in charge of the army's College of Combat in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh.

At the end of the visit an American casually enquired about the general's travel plans. When told that he would fly into Delhi and then take a connecting domestic flight to Mhow, the American officer asked in wonderment, 'Do you have internal flights in India?'

The Indian general (actually my late cousin), who had a great sense of humour, replied with a straight face, 'You know, actually I am worried about my parked elephant at the airport. I hope he has been fed properly in my absence.'

The anti-India biases of the Western elite can be attributed to the unease these privileged nations feel at the rise of Asian nations like India and China. But what ought to shock all right-thinking Indians is that many of our own countrymen/women have joined this chorus.

The 'comprador' elite of Delhi was shell-shocked by the election verdict. One does not have to be a psychoanalyst to see how flustered these worthies were watching the results. Post the results, many of them have vanished from their own channels.

Even a century after the discrediting of Rudyard Kipling's theory of the 'white man's burden', the 'Gunga Dins' and 'Uncle Toms' of our country are seen clutching at straws in the Western media to justify their angst at Indian election results.

One reason for this vehemence against India is the chaotic political conditions in major Western nations. Britain is in a mess over Brexit and the US is being ravaged by Donald J Trump on almost a daily basis. The French have been plagued by the 'Yellow Vest' protests for months.

In India and Modi, the Western liberals see a reflection of their own fears!

It is another matter that no two persons and ideologies could be more different than Trump and Modi.

One comes from a privileged background and is unashamedly anti-poor while the other comes from a background where his mother was a domestic worker and he himself sold tea!

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd) is a military historian.

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