“Earlier you felt ashamed of being born Indian,” said India’s prime minister to Indians in China but “Now you feel proud to represent the country.” Narendra Modi repeated this sentiment in South Korea as well people wondered, he said, what sins they had committed in their past lives to be born Indian.
This was news to many Indians. Indeed it was news to me as well. Certainly any thinking person would admit that there were many things wrong with the way India works now or past practices. But that’s not quite the same as being ashamed of the idea of India or of being Indian. As chief minister of Gujarat for instance Modi talked incessantly about the pride of 5 crore Gujaratis. Can one assume therefore, that while he was then proud of being a Gujarati, he was not so proud of being an Indian? Is his pride about himself based only on his ethnicity or on his power of getting elected?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is greeted by the Indian community on his arrival at the ROK Airbase, in Seoul, South Korea on Monday. Pic/PTI
It is entirely possible, I concede, that I am making unfair assumptions about Modi. Maybe he was always proud to be an Indian but everyone else he knew wasn’t...
But then, Modi has made unfair assumptions about me as well. He has decided that I am ashamed of being Indian. Or has he?
Perhaps he is only talking about the Indians who do not live in India, either out of choice (the world is a lovely place where you can be better educated and make more money than you can in India) or necessity (there are better places in the world than India in which to make more money than you can in India). Governments always love these people because of the money they make. And Modi is spilling the beans a little because these are the people who always claim that they are “proud” Indians and so on. Is that why he says all this when he’s abroad — I have to clean the rubbish left behind, all people wondered what sins they had committed and so on?
But, of course, you and I both know what he’s saying. He’s saying that all the people who voted for him in last year’s general election are now proud of being Indian because the Bharatiya Janata Party won and he became prime minister. All those 31 per cent of the Indian electorate who voted BJP/Modi are no longer ashamed of the way they were before. I’ll turn it around for you. Since 1947, people like these 31 per cent and their forefathers were ashamed to be born in India because this political party was not in power. What do we do with the mathematics — the BJP was born in 1980 so can it safely be said that every Indian who voted before that was doomed to be ashamed?
Modi himself was born in 1950 and even as he may or may not have grappled with crocodiles as a mere babe, he could not have become prime minister in 1950 because of the evil laws of this nation we are so ashamed of. Yes, our politicians may behave like silly little children sometimes but they have to be silly adults before they can stand for elections. Doomed twice, those 31 per cent of voting Indians it looks like. And no wonder we’re in such a mess that the prime minister has to go abroad to applaud us for our good taste in loving India only after He became PM!
The shame then is on all those Indians who live in India, incidentally who did not vote for Modi and the BJP in the last general election. You continue to not be ashamed of India and you do not even have the good sense to go somewhere outside India, make a lot of money and dance and sing about how proud you are to be Indian in the US, or Canada, or Germany, or China, or Korea, or wherever. You, part of the 69 per cent who always lived in India and were not ashamed, you’re the problem. I see you now. Watch out.
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona