The speech Modi was delivering in Chennai was part of a further ‘mainstreaming’ of his image, part of the somewhat successful attempt to make the English-speaking middle class forget his role in the riots of 2002 by re-presenting himself as an efficient administrator and engineer of economic growth. ... [T]he IIT Chennai meeting — hosted by the foundation named for and started by the eminent scientist, M.S. Swaminathan — was intended to further a technical mission to make ‘Every Village a Knowledge Centre’. Before Modi could speak, two women went up to the stage and held up a placard which read: “Mr Modi, We disapprove”. Later, they told a reporter that “we came to protest his government’s policies. He could not stop the Gujarat communal riots, his handling of the Narmada dam issue is deplorable, and recently he stopped the screening of the Hindi film Fanaa”.
... [I] ... believe that what Enakshi Bhattacharya and Nandita DasGupta did at Chennai last week was salutary. It was also very brave — for unlike the typical left-wing protestor, they could not seek the anonymity of the crowd, and had much to lose — namely, a career that was hard-won as well as highly prized.
As the elected chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi has a right to be present at meetings organized by the Union government or public sector institutions. However, when it comes to meetings hosted by private or autonomous institutions, an invitation to Modi is a privilege, to be gifted or withdrawn as per the courtesy of the host. These have to judge not just his office, but also his record in office. And that includes not just his collusion in — some would say active sponsorship of — the riots of 2002, but also his continuing attempts to stifle the free expression of opinion in his state, as in the last illustration offered by the two IIT ladies — the shocking ban on the film Fanaa, enforced because one of its actors thinks that those displaced by the Sardar Sarovar dam should be decently rehabilitated.
The link to the Telegraph story on this 'incident' is here.
* * *
Thanks to Pradeepkumar for the link to Guha's column.