The Indian government may have been right in rejecting a report by US-based ratings agency, Moody’s, which red flagged the “belligerent provocation of various Indian minorities” but his supporters shot themselves in foot when they tried to communalise the report. The report was indeed written by a junior analyst, but some saffron celebrities on social media stressed more on the writer being a Muslim than being junior.
“While Modi has largely distanced himself from the nationalist gibes, the belligerent provocation of various Indian minorities has raised ethnic tensions. Along with a possible increase in violence, the government will face stiffer opposition in the upper house as debate turns away from economic policy. Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility,” the report, published last week, said.
The government tore into that report saying, “It is surprising that sections of the Indian media failed to make a distinction between Moody’s Analytics which is merely a data and analytics firm and Moody’s Investor Services, which provides Ratings services,” it said, which can be taken as a fair rebuttal of a foreign agency that may have crossed its line in reporting on India’s economic scenario.
An unchecked campaign on Twitter by BJP sympathisers, led by journalist Rupa Subramanya, suggesting that Syed is the son-in-law of eminent historian Irfan Habib made it worse. Reacting to this story, Subramanya called it a vicious propaganda and attributed the “son-in-law” comments to other RW handles. “Not just @tavleen_singh but several other RW handles. Rumour some relation could be true which was Singh’s point,” she tweeted.
The insinuation over Syed’s alleged relation with Habib, made days after the Aligarh-based historian compared the ruling BJP’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to terror group Islamic State, suggested that Moody’s report was another blow by these Muslims to discredit the Modi administration.
Then came a number of tweets from people who knew Habib and his family. The vicious air was cleared. Writer Rana Safvi tweeted, “Dear @rupasubramanya i know Saman Habib since schoolgirl. She is married to Amit Mishra a Kabyakun (sic) Brahmin. only daughter of Prof Irfan Habib.”
Habib’s son-in-law, who also works with Saman at the Central Drug Research Institute, came out strongly. “Yet another example of ISIS propaganda by RSS sympathizers: They’ve re-named me, a bees-biswa Kanyakubja Brahmin as Syed Faraz. Why?” he said in a tweet. “Poor Faraz Syed– manufactured victim of Muslim Polyandry! My sympathies, my ‘raqueeb’, tho’ I doubt whether you’ve even ever seen my wife,” Misra said in another tweet.
Habib’s furious daughter, Saman, on the other hand, went on Facebook. “<What a bunch of liars> The sanghis have gone and married me off to Faraz Syed, an analyst for Moody’s who gave that report with a thumbsdown for the Modi govt. The poor chap is being dismissed as “marxist historian Irfan Habib’s son-in-law” among the twitteratti. For all those who care to know, I haven’t ever seen Faraz Syed and am actually married to Amit Misra!!” she posted.
The angry rebuttals may have laid another pointless controversy to rest, but the episode, ironically, proves how intolerant the government is to opinions and studies not palatable to it. By suggesting that a junior analyst, worse a Muslim, can never be fair, the government has only vindicated the writers, artists and filmmakers who accuse the BJP and its affiliates of intolerance.