Prime Minister Modi finds himself the object of rousing welcomes wherever he goes; so the sight of 400 odd protestors outside Vancouver’s oldest gurudwara and a temple may not exactly be how he imagined his three day trip to Canada would wind up.
In an unexpected resurfacing of the ghosts of the past, protestors shouting slogans and holding placards accused Modi of being a fascist, a right winger and genocide perpetrator. The human rights advocacy group ‘Sikhs for Justice’ even filed a petition to Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay requesting him to charge Modi for aiding genocide and inflicting torture under the Canadian Criminal Code and the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
The Indian Prime Minister, on his part, was busy signing deals for 3000 metric tonnes of uranium, defence, security and space co-operation and singing paeans of India and Canada’s friendship. For those who follow Modi on Facebook, the uranium deal may not have come as a surprise as he had already announced plans to source uranium for India’s nuclear plants adding that he was the first Premier to do so in forty years.
What Modi says is always and understandably paid attention to. Whether it was his comment on Sikhs being brothers, Hinduism being a way of life, media persons being ‘bazaaru’ he invariably catches the ear. The fact that Modi is an eloquent orator is undeniable. He unquestionably knows how to keep the undivided attention of his audience irrespective of place or context. The trip to America, offered ample glimpse of Modi’s ability to structure speeches gauging the pulse of masses. At New York’s Madison Square grounds, Modi wooed NRIs with statements like, “You may not have voted, but when the results came out, I am sure you all celebrated.” His speeches are peppered with the praise of India, potshots at predecessors and a stark reminder of his achievements. Sometimes, references to his humble past also feature in this verbal concoction.
But even the great orator has moments of silence. Surprisingly, they only occur when questions of human rights surface. Whether it is the Gujarat riots, vandalism of churches or the rape of a nun in West Bengal, the voice of the Prime Minister is barely heard. Is the head of the country too busy to address concerns of the common man who voted him to power with a thumping majority? Are business deals more important than the well being of Indian citizens? Is it enough that countries “Make In India” while people bleed in India?
The assemblies of protestors that greeted Modi at the gurudwara and temple in Canada have re-posed these questions to the Prime Minister. Will the honourable Premier address these questions or inexplicably lose his voice is what remains to be seen.