Casting aspersions on an entire profession or a set of players in society based on the actions of a few is not democracy.

That is a very loaded and dangerous question Mr Prime MinisterPTI
Voices Demonetisation Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 16:09

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked a series of questions on demonetisation on his personal app. They relate to issues the country is grappling with, black money, ways to curb it etc.  There is however one loaded question. Question number 9 asks this. “Do you believe some anti-corruption activists are now actually fighting in support of black money, corruption and terrorism?”

Of little importance to this piece is who, or which set of organisations and individuals, this question is aimed at and what political mileage is expected or not expected from this. Narendra Modi is a consummate politician and an excellent communicator and surely appreciates the import of this query. This one conflates issues at a time when there is already a deep division in the country about demonetisation, terrorism and the role of civil society (NGOs) in nation building. Demonetisation has unfortunately also been called a second surgical strike even as the first one (taking out terrorists across the border) continues to rile. You can be an NGO who opposes the government, you can be an anti-corruption activist who disagrees with demonetisation (that ‘some’ is a fig leaf) and you can fight black money without necessarily endorsing the government’s methods for taking on terrorists.

The correct thing would have been to declare who those ‘some’ anti-corruption activists are or not mention it at all in a survey as important as this one. The ‘some’ introduces a dangerous option that could give discretionary powers to a few without explaining what they are, but we can draw our own conclusions. Yes, there are NGOs working against the interests of the country, yes, many are funded through dubious sources but none of this necessarily makes them supporters of terrorists. Besides, there is already a process underway to introduce responsibility, transparency and accountability in the NGO sector.

The other issue is Narendra Modi asking this set of questions on his personal app. While there is a difference between him and the office he holds, it would be easy to mix the two. Where does Modi the person end and Modi the Prime Minister begin? The Donald Trump version of this question would go something like this: “As a true American, do you think blacks, Mexicans, illegal immigrants and some white people are actually thieves?” Casting aspersions on an entire profession or a set of players in society based on the actions of a few is not democracy.

(Note: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author.)

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