Fact Check

John Oliver Indulges in Baseless Fear Mongering About Narendra Modi and India

John Oliver

John Oliver’s latest show on Narendra Modi and India was a fantastic piece of fiction. It was so full of its own woolly-headedness that we had to essentially wonder where to begin and where to end on the litany of lies and fantasies that were put out on the Tonight Show as some kind of messianic, gospel truth. Moreover, as proof, the show quoted and produced many bizarre and factually incorrect stories, which only make the claims even more laughable than they already were.

Be that as it may, we would like to focus only on four essential points, since we believe that the entire video only deserves to be deleted from archival records of the channels that host it.

The Truth About Gujarat Riots and Narendra Modi

The utterly lazy and poorly researched track on Narendra Modi being involved with the 2002 riots in Gujarat is laughable to say the least. With the power of optics and malevolent writing, the show tried to paint Modi as the mastermind of the riots, portraying him as some modern-day Nero who deliberately wanted to burn his Rome down.

Truth however couldn’t be further away. A Supreme Court appointed and monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) had found absolutely no connection between Narendra Modi and the events that had followed the ghastly burning of 59 pilgrims trapped in a train returning from Ayodhya in Gujarat in 2002. Moreover, the motivated efforts to still make him somehow answerable are driven by people whose motives are questionable to say the least, as they tried to profit from the agony of the victims of the Gujarat riots – Hindus and Muslims – alike.

Escalating Persecution of Religious Minorities -Really?

It is appalling to see how baseless claims can get away unchallenged on this show. One of them this time around was the claim on violence against minorities increasing sharply. Rhetoric without fact stands for empty words at best, and it would be best to actually look at the numbers for a change.

As per statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau, communal/religious crimes have seen a steady decline under the Modi government. Contrast this with over one thousand incidents in 2014, the year Modi came to power, and one gets a clear picture of how things have changed drastically.

Source: National Crime Records Bureau data

One may be wont to believe that the false perception comes from so called discredited monitors of hate crimes in India, whose methodology and results were questionable to say the least. Thoroughly discredited data possibly being used by the show’s scriptwriters deserves nothing less than brickbats. Hopefully, some of them do face consequences for poor and biased research work.

Fear Mongering on CAA, NRC and NPR Reaches a New Crescendo

People ignorant about John Oliver would feel sorry on the scare mongering he engaged in on the issues of CAA, NRC and NPR, neither of which he seems to have understood or explained properly. Someone needs to have set the record straight, since John quotes those who have brazenly lied and misrepresented the entire issue with a nonchalant attitude. For that matter, the fear mongering on detention centres was the proverbial icing on the cake, making one wonder the intentions of the scriptwriters and the narrator.

NPR – Nothing New About It

The National Population Register (NPR) is a regular exercise of this country, which was first conducted in 2010 when the party that claims to be India’s supposed founder Nehru’s party, the Congress, was commanding the reigns at the Centre. Please note that Narendra Modi was nowhere close to being Prime Miniser of India at the time. Then then Home Minister of India had clearly stated that ‘Everyone must enrol for the NPR’. Introduced by the Congress, the aim of the exercise along with the National Register of Citizenship (NRC) was to ensure that India like many other countries has a record of its citizens.

With the NPR in place, it is believed that all government schemes can be targeted better towards the citizens of the country. Surely, India can do it just like the United States of America, which maintains records on its citizens, or United Kingdom, which has proposed to undertake this exercise.

NRC – Imaginary Fears Projected Without Substance

National Register of Citizenship (NRC) as an exercise in fact is yet to start. The rules of the process are not even out yet. All that has happened to date is a process monitored by the Supreme Court of India, a body distinctly independent of the government, and that too for Assam, where illegal immigration has been a highly contentious issue. The show’s scriptwriters would do well to read our piece on the subject for starters. Suffice to say that the process for the state of Assam as defined by the Supreme Court is long winding and is in no way the final word on the issue, as enough avenues of appeal exist.

Unlike what John Oliver may want us to believe, legal provisions on detaining and subsequently expelling illegal immigrants have been around in India since 1950, when ‘India’s founder’ Nehru was Prime Minister. ‘Detention camps’ have been part of the process, and it was only when the Guwahati High Court ordered more camps to be built that the new ones started to come up. Why has that slipped the notice of the research teams? Or was it deliberate?

A court order is something to be obeyed, and the administration gets to work following the court orders. Where does Narendra Modi come in?

CAA – Raising Questions on Humanitarian Actions

Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is another factual inconvenience. The Act gives citizenship to persecuted non-Muslim minorities of Islamic nations in the neighbourhood of India. In 1947, 16% of Pakistan’s population was non-Muslim; today it is less than 5%. Bangladesh in 1971 had nearly 25% Hindu population; today, it stands at 8%, and it is estimated that 632 Hindus a day left the country between 1964 and 2013. It is these along with other minorities – Christians, Buddhists, Parsis, Jains and Sikhs – who too have suffered untold horror, and who suffer even today. The Nankana Sahib attack, the Mehek Keswani liked abductions and forced conversions, blasts in churches, or be it temple and idol desecrations, they face it all, in addition to being relegated to second class status in their own countries. It is for these, who run towards India, that the CAA act was brought in.

It is a pity that John Oliver and his research team even bothered to read a two-and-a-half-page document to understand what the law was about. Had anyone bothered to understand the history and context behind this legislation, the realization of the Nehru-Liaqat Pact of 1950, the commitment of Nehru and Gandhi to India about non-Muslims left in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and the fact that no one’s rights have been taken away would have been clear. For that matter, no connection between the CAA and NRC is more than clear, except for those who wish to be liberal with the truth.

Misquoting speeches seems to be becoming the norm globally. The manner in which the CAA and NRC were imaginatively merged into one super power instrument by misquoting a speech of India’s Home Minister from a rally. In the rally, Mr. Shah, for the convenience of those who do not actually speak Hindi, the reference of parasites was for illegal immigrants. Any country would deem illegal immigrants as a problem – even United States and United Kingdom do not think very highly of illegal immigrants. We therefore wonder why India should not think of its citizens interests first, and also worry about the issue which it has faced for decades now.

‘Massive and Sustained Backlash’ based on Two Quotes

Massive and sustained backlash was perhaps the most amusing bit of the bizarre rant. The typical two-bit quotes cleverly hide the fact that a large number of people have also demonstrated in response to show their support for the CAA. Lakhs of people came out on the streets across the country – be it Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh – to rally behind the government’s move to accommodate persecuted people. The difference is that while rioters, looters and Islamists have essentially used the pretext for vandalism of state property, the silent majority behind the government’s move has deployed peaceful and democratic methods to express their support for the humanitarian gesture. Perhaps it would be good if some basic research could be done by John Oliver and his team before shooting off from the hip again.

There was a time when John Oliver was perhaps somewhat funny. Sadly those days are long gone. The problem with his content today is that it takes too much liberty with facts.

You can take liberty for humor, but you cannot take liberty with facts.