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Agitations are an integral part of democracy: Critics

Modi labels Capitol siege as 'unlawful protests'

Farmers asked how it could be all right for the PM to comment on US internal matters after his government had castigated the Canadian PM for backing farmers’ right to peacefully protest

Anita Joshua New Delhi Published 08.01.21, 01:06 AM
Farmers protesting against the new farm laws take part in a tractor rally at the Ghazipur border near Delhi on Thursday.

Farmers protesting against the new farm laws take part in a tractor rally at the Ghazipur border near Delhi on Thursday. Prem Singh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined world leaders on Thursday in urging a smooth transition of power in Washington but his label of “unlawful protests” for the Trumpist rampage in the US was seen here as a comment on the ongoing farmers’ agitation.

“Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington DC. Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests,” Modi tweeted as India woke up to news of the storming of the Capitol Hill overnight.


Modi’s choice of words stood out particularly because US President-elect Joe Biden had specifically said the storming of Capitol Hill was not a protest. Asking President Donald Trump to call an end to the siege, Biden had in his address said: “It’s not protest. It’s insurrection.”

The subtext of Modi’s second sentence was clear to Indians across the political divide, given how his government had repeatedly projected its ability to win elections as a stamp of popular approval for its policies, and used it to silence critics.

While Modi’s supporters quickly underlined that one such protest was going on right outside Delhi’s borders, his critics stressed that protests were an integral part of democracy and that what had happened in Washington was an attempt to violently overturn an election result.

The Modi government’s ecosystem has for weeks been maligning the farmers’ movement, which has remained unrelenting but peaceful, and his remark was seen as yet another instance of verbal manipulation by the master of the medium.

The protesting farmers too asked how it could be all right for the Prime Minister to comment on America’s internal matters after his government had castigated Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for backing Indian farmers’ right to protest peacefully.

Reacting to Modi’s tweet, CPIML Liberation general secretary Kavita Krishnan said: “Hey @PMOIndia @narendramodi — white supremacists out to overthrow US Govt is not ‘protest’ — it’s a coup. No ‘protest’ is ‘unlawful’. Farmers’ & anti-CAA protests are peaceful. The white supremacists in the US are the brothers of Kapil Mishra & your Hindu-supremacist brethren.”

Poet Husain Haidry tweeted: “Of course it will be called ‘Unlawful Protest’. That’s what one is scared of the most right now. Also, actual comparison is: RSS members being violent in Delhi when BJP loses in 2024 and Modi has to resign as Prime Minister.”

Haidry was trolled for his optimism.

The sighting of an Indian Tricolour among the American flags and pro-Trump banners held up by the mob that stormed Capitol Hill also became a subject of debate as it drew attention to the commonalities between the core vote banks of the US President and the Indian Prime Minister.

BJP parliamentarian Varun Gandhi attracted flak by tweeting “Why is there an Indian flag there??? This is one fight we definitely don’t need to participate in...,” the debate throwing into relief how Modi had hosted two election-style rallies for Trump: HowdyModi and NamasteTrump.

“Unfortunately, @varungandhi80, there are some Indians with the same mentality as that Trumpist mob, who enjoy using the flag as a weapon rather than a badge of pride, & denounce all who disagree with them as anti-nationals & traitors. That flag there is a warning to all of us,” tweeted Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.

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