Media Slams Shah for ‘Termite’ Remark

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Indian media came down heavily on ruling Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah’s reference to illegal immigrants from Bangladesh as “termites” and “vermin” saying it “deepens divides” and risks “ruining relations” with that country.

It also questioned Shah’s reportedly dishing out the figure of 100 crore “illegal Bangladeshi immigrants” in India.

■ Assam NRC

Many editorials described this claim as preposterous as how could the majority of the country’s population could be categorised as infiltrators. India’s population is 130 crores.

“Unfortunate nations have heard such rhetoric before, from regimes which present a minority as the foe within, which must be eliminated. Politically, the challenge is to neutralise the most powerful taboo, against the taking of human life, by constructing the minority as less than human. Conveniently, vermin do not have human rights,” the Indian Express said in its editorial.

In this context, the daily recalled National Socialism propaganda in Nazi–ruled Germany which branded Jews as sub–humans who were eating at the vitals of the nation”, “posters in occupied Poland depicting them as “typhus–bearing lice” and more recently, the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, which took eight lakh lives, and “inflammatory” speech by Leon Mugesera of the ruling MRND party, in which he urged the elimination of “scum” and “cockroaches”.

 

“Unfortunate nations have heard such rhetoric before, from regimes which present a minority as the foe within, which must be eliminated. Politically, the challenge is to neutralise the most powerful taboo, against the taking of human life, by constructing the minority as less than human. Conveniently, vermin do not have human rights”

 

“Such dangerous precedents should urge the president of the ruling party to temper his speech,” the editorial commented adding “calling them (illegal immigrants) names at this point is scarcely  good politics.”

Besides, it could have disturbed relations with the only neighbour with whom this government has succeeded diplomatically,” the Indian Express said adding “Fortunately, Bangladesh has declined to be ruffled, and dismissed Shah’s outburst as the statement of a party functionary, rather than a government communication.”

The newspaper hoped “that the ruling party will show similar maturity, even if after the event and discourage its leadership’s appetite for such classical exercises in dehumanisation.”

The Times of India, in its editorial, said Shah’s comments about illegal immigrants from Bangladesh went against the positive developmental campaign of prime minister Narendra Modi.

 

Shah’s termite comment has already attracted Dhaka’s ire with the latter describing it as an unfortunate remark. Bangladesh is perhaps the only country in the neighbourhood today that has excellent relations with India. Credit for this goes to the Awami League dispensation in Dhaka

 

“Shah, who has characterised migrants as infiltrators who are ‘termites,’ has struck a contrary note by invoking a politics of fear and paranoia,” it said opining that the BJP chief’s “negative tactic elicits comparison with Trump’s characterisation of Mexicans as ‘rapists’ in the US,” it said.

“If the idea (of Shah) here is to appeal to the base of BJP’s electoral support, then it’s worth noting that Trump’s current popularity is declining and a strategy of appealing only to the ‘base’ is yielding diminishing returns. The core vote along won’t be enough for BJP in 2019” (general elections),” the Times of India editorial commented.

“Shah’s tirade against illegal infiltrators risks being exposed as a gimmick and ruining relations with Bangladesh,” it added.

“In fact, Shah’s termite comment has already attracted Dhaka’s ire with the latter describing it as an unfortunate remark. Bangladesh is perhaps the only country in the neighbourhood today that has excellent relations with India. Credit for this goes to the Awami League dispensation in Dhaka,” the newspaper said.

“But if BJP continues with its anti–Bangladeshi tirade it will harm the Awami League at the upcoming polls in Bangladesh and put the future of India–Bangladesh ties in doubt,” the editorial added.

 

Fortunately, Bangladesh has declined to be ruffled, and dismissed Shah’s outburst as the statement of a party functionary, rather than a government communication

 

“A witch–hut for enemies ‘within’ is not going to help either domestic politics or foreign policy. Its outcome can only be a self–goal for BJP,” it cautions.

A report in the Calcutta Telegraph described Shah’s remarks as dangerous for the ruling Awami League and its poll prospects.

The Hasina government is India’s most trusted ally in South Asia and such mindless rhetoric can only embarrass it, the report said.

The Ananda Bazar Patrika also reported on similar lines, adding that Shah’s remarks could also impact on BJP poll prospects in Bengali dominant areas. ■

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