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Why Modi Deserved To Be Heard

Gaddafi was invited to speak at LSE. Its students survived. So what was Wharton scared of?

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Modi Vs Wharton

Let me get straight to the point. Institutions of higher learning are not meant to be political battlefields. They aren’t supposed to be assembly lines which churn out MBAs and MScs and PhDs with the homogeneity of a ginger-bread man cookie-cutter. They should ideally be forums to unlearn stereotypes and give nuance to opinions. Which is why, it is very disappointing that Wharton has cancelled Narendra Modi’s speech.  No, I’m not a NAMO-bhakt. This isn’t in defence of Modi, but in defence of free speech.

When it comes to the freedom of speech, there isn’t that one moment which you can pinpoint and say “THIS is when I started believing in the freedom of expression”. It’s an evolutionary process, which hopefully begins in school where accidentally or by design you learn to make your peace with contrarian opinions which vary in severity to your own personal belief system. Which is why educational institutions should give space to all voices, no matter how hated, contrary or politically incorrect. Listening to Modi speak isn’t an endorsement of his views, it’s a chance to validate your own opinions and to support them with a first-hand experience.

As a graduate student at the London School of Economics (LSE), I attended a lecture given via video link by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in December 2010 (watch it here, here, here and here). We were told that the Colonel would be speaking on Libya’s position in the world. The auditorium was packed a good 20 minutes before the talk began and it was quite apparent that for many of us, it was the most interesting “lecture” of our academic lives. Does that mean that those of us who attended the lecture supported non-democratic governments? Nahhh, we just wanted to see what a dictator had to say.

Watch the videos carefully. It focuses only on the audience and their reaction is telling. The sheer ridiculousness of the Colonel’s ramblings means that he was subjected to disdainful chuckles and derisive laughter. He didn’t answer a single question in any meaningful way and his comments were outrageously (and unintentionally) funny. He accused Thatcher and Reagan for conspiring against Libya, he offered condolences to a (baffled) Pakistani student on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s execution, and when asked what he thought was Libya’s position in the world, he explained its geographical position. When an audience member asked him two separate questions, one on the Lockerbie bombings and the other on Tony Blair’s help in the image makeover for Libya, he mixed up the two and asserted that Tony Blair had nothing to do with the Lockerbie bombings and that it was a conspiracy (?!). He said Obama was a good president because he is “not a Yankee” (again??!!). The pièce de résistance of his “talk” though, was his “map according to Gaddafi” – an atlas that formed the backdrop and showed how Gaddafi believed the world would politically evolve into unions of states and would have no space for individual national identities, at which point an annoyed student from Azerbaijan got up and asked that since his country was clubbed with Russia, was the Colonel implying that it would be annexed? Moral of the story? If what you say does not resonate with your audience, they have the ability to reject it.

My faith in democracy is as strong as ever, thankyouverymuchforasking. One hour or one speech is not enough to indoctrinate students. Yet, there is a certain nuance to my opinion on dictatorships now. Before Dec 2010, I thought that they were bad because they suppressed self-determination and were a violation of basic human rights. While I still believe this, there is a second reason to my opposition to non-democratic governments – despots who are in power lose touch with reality, become delusional and pose a threat to the entire region that they’re in.

I’m not comparing Modi and Gaddafi as leaders. What I am comparing are situations in which two polarising figures were asked to address a body of students seeking an education. Modi should have spoken at Wharton not because he necessarily needs to be heard, but because students have the right to question those who want to lead them.

Not everyone disagrees or agrees with Modi’s politics for the same reasons. Yet, the journey to forming an opinion for or against an issue is much, much more important than the final opinion itself. The Whartons and LSEs of the world are meant to nurture mature views, not reinforce pre-conceived notions. I would much rather engage in a conversation with a person who says he would/would not vote for Modi for reasons X, Y and Z rather than someone who says he won’t vote for him because he’s a monster or will support him because…you know development/growth/randomeconomicindicator. The talk at Wharton should have been an opportunity to question Modi on his politics and his economics. He should have been told that he can’t cherry-pick the questions to suit a propaganda – that he would have to answer any question, no matter how uncomfortable which any student may have to ask him. It’s not clear if these terms were laid out, but had they been unacceptable to him, that itself would have said a lot.

There is nothing more disappointing than a university quelling an unpalatable point of view. Heck, it’s the one time in your life when you want to challenge and be challenged, offend and be offended and bare yourself to the widest spectrum of ideas without real world consequences. It’s called gaining an education. What exactly are those opposed to the speech afraid of? That Modi will brainwash students? Or that it signals some sort of an endorsement of his politics? Oh come on! Give the students some credit! They probably have a collective score of 9734287489347 on their GRE/GMAT and are more than capable of deciding whether or not they want to support Modi.

A few weeks after Gaddafi’s talk, the Arab Spring engulfed Libya – but not before it rapped LSE on the knuckles. Houghton Street, the main street which houses the LSE, saw vociferous protests by students against the college’s links with Libya, the “extra support” which Saif Gaddafi (Colonel Gaddafi’s son) got for the completion of his PhD and for the donations which it accepted from the regime. The Woolf Inquiry was set up to independently assess LSE’s association with Libya subsequently, the then Director of the LSE, Howard Davies had to step down on account of the school accepting a GBP 1.5 mn donation from the country. So here’s what, it wasn’t a speech that was an endorsement of Gaddafi’s views, but unethical donations, which was rejected by the students. In fact, the Woolf report states of the lecture that:

The LSE does not consider its lectures give a platform to objectionable speakers, because it has a strict rule that it will never allow an event unless the speaker is willing to take questions and the LSE does not allow the speaker to handpick the audience. (Pg: 115)

Somewhere along the line, we’ve come to interpret “listening” to mean “agreeing”. Yet if you don’t listen, how do you know what you’re disagreeing with? I once asked an octogenarian holocaust survivor (again, at the LSE) what he thought of holocaust-deniers and whether he thought they should be banned. He said that people denying the holocaust isn’t going to make him stop believing – that he knew what had happened. In fact, he wouldn’t support a ban because the world could then see how ridiculous and bigoted they were.

His logic is appealing – free speech is not a scarce resource. It is a public good. It cannot be allocated according to a perceived benefit to society. Anyone with an opinion to air is entitled to it, including the Modis and Rahuls or the Owaisis and Togadias of the world.  Listening to ideas or thoughts which I find distasteful or disagree with, is the price I pay for my freedom. Yes, there are some serious questions and concerns about Modi’s ability to lead the nation, but they aren’t going to disappear by clamping down on his public appearances.

Learning to accept intellectual discomfort is a vital part of the university experience. Those who don’t learn to deal with it are paying tuition fees just for a degree, not for an education.

The views expressed by the author are personal

Contact-priya1

 

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More from Priya Kale


  • Amith

    But your argument falls flat. There was no space for a debate here. It was a speech (like in SRCC) as confirmed by a UPenn professor. It is no secret that this platform was going to be used as part of his well-orchestrated PR campaign. It is perfectly rational for members at Wharton not to allow a man, with such serious charges, to utilize the brand of Wharton to project himself. And if Wharton didn’t want to be seen as endorsing Modi, then so be it. This is quite a bad case for free speech.

    • TheGlobeTrotter

      Exactly!

    • raghu

      CHARGES?……….WHAT CHARGESS? ….AND WHERE AND WHICH COURT IS HEARING THESE CHARGES?

      Well seems like Fascism is all over irrespective of IDEOLOGY,RELIGION,FAITH………..And your one among LIBERAL FASCIST

  • John LeGrasse

    Of everything I have read on this issue so far – this piece – the one by Priya above – is truly makes the most passionate, unbiased and articulate argument for free speech. I am probably going to read this piece 5 more times today and miss all my other deadlines (but deadlines be damned!).

    By committing this grotesque form of speech-muzzling, the Upenn professors have revealed their intolerance of alternative voices and thus condemned themselves forever to their unidimensional cocoon of jaded political correctness. I remember as a young boy of 15, I went to hear Pravin Togadia near Shivajinagar in Bangalore. As he thundered to a 4000+ audience that Hindus must surge, and rise and uproot Islam from India – I felt cold, numb amusement as if I had heard an eloquent beast (with a bad case of laryngitis) – no I didn’t wring the neck of the first Muslim I encountered on my way out of there. More recently, I obsessively saw some 20 odd youtube clips of Owaisi doing his thing. I was deeply impressed by his oratorial skills; if you see these clips, you can easily tell that his believing audience feel the experience that a death-metal fan would when he hears the tremolo picking of Trey Azagthoth or the ferine gurgle of Chuck Schuldiner. I can also tell you with utter conviction that Owaisi can walk all over Obama in an elocution competition if they could both speak in their native tongues. The number of Hindus I have killed since? An astounding ‘zero’, could you believe that?

    Even if one were to pay heed to the childish argument of Mr. Amith here that Modi’s speech would have been a PR campaign, what success would he have achieved? And with whom? Would he have vigorously waved a saffron jhanda or a trishul? Put everyone under a virtual spell of saffron magic? Peddled baloney about how Gujarat is set to conquer the world? And would that have transmogrified the malleable Wharton mind into that of a rabid Hindutvawadi? Or are the Upenn brigade pathetically unsure of their own convictions and fear that far more superior arguments exist elsewhere in the world?

    Or, and this is the most troublesome question, did they in fact fear that their desperate caricature of a demon from hell would be shattered by the sound voice of reason?

    We will never know – for Wharton has done what would have been expected from the fatwa-passing godsquadders, or book-burning Bajrangis.

    • Amith

      His speech would have not changed anybody’s mind with a speck of intellect left. And it is of no interest to me or his petitioners probably in what he had to say. The point is they had an objection that he would be one of the plenary speakers in the conference. To be given such (what is projected as a) prestigious platform for a man with a questionable background esp. when you know he is using this platform to advance his political campaign for the top job is what many people find unacceptable. What Modi says is inconsequential but the fact that he was invited carries a great propaganda value. Media would have been splashed with congratulatory messages. One needs to congratulate the members of Wharton for not allowing them to be used as pawns to whitewash Modi’s indelible record.

      • John LeGrasse

        “His speech would have not changed anybody’s mind with a speck of intellect left.” – my friend, after saying this, I should have thought that you wouldn’t betray that you didn’t have a mind to begin with and were unblemished by any trace of intellect, but you do exactly that.

        “And it is of no interest to me or his petitioners probably in what he had to say.” – Err, I thought the point of a forum is what different people have to say about different things. So what is it with you and your petitioners? You guys think this is a fashion parade? Is that why you want to see Amul Baby’s puppy face there instead of Narendrabhai’s gravelly white beard? In fact, if the contents of his speech would not have been the instrument of “propaganda”, what would be then? Modi’s side-parting?

        “The point is they had an objection that he would be one of the plenary speakers in the conference.” What the devil is a plenary speaker now? Is that what you call the Congitard speakers left on the forum now?

        “To be given such (what is projected as a) prestigious platform for a man with a questionable background esp. when you know he is using this platform to advance his political campaign for the top job is what many people find unacceptable.” What do you have against his background now? That he is the son of a chai-wallah as opposed to the Congiloons on the forum whose illustrious lineage can be traced to shiny lackeys of the G-solar system? “A political campaign for the top job?” He hasn’t once mentioned that he is a contender for it! Hell, even if he were to, why would he do that when giving a virtual-talk at an economic forum of a firangi university? Surely, he is more shrewd than that, Sire?

        “One needs to congratulate the members of Wharton for not allowing them to be used as pawns to whitewash Modi’s indelible record.” Members of Wharton being used as pawns? You don’t mean “members” of the other kind do you? (hint: like your priapic self) ;) Stop smoking that gutter-weed right now, son. Clearly, it’s not helping you contain your vomit.

        • Qwerty

          Guest, you crack me up man !!! “Stop smoking that gutter-weed right now, son”. Priceless !!! That was worth a deep belly laugh. Thanks !!!

      • Shobhit

        Well, if you were to think about it, Modi reaped (or may reap) the benefits here. He is yet again, under the spotlight, and assuming that the speech was a PR exercise, he got a greater PR value by not being able to give the speech.

        Also, a speech at a business school will not whitewash his “indelible record” by any means. Laloo gave a speech at Harvard (If I’m correct), does that mean he has been exonerated from his active misrule in Bihar. Does he become more or less important in the average middle class psyche? Of course not. If I may use Gaddafi again, he even spoke at the UN general assembly. I’ll give that the speech was utterly foolish but again, it was just a speech. It didn’t establish any new perceptions and didn’t change any opinions. You are attaching too much importance to the perceived notion of the gullible mob. This is no Rome and Modi is no Marcus Antony.

        And before you decide to point out that Modi and Laloo cannot be compared (I wouldn’t have put Gaddafi in here anyways, just wanted to make a point), I will make a preemptive response anyway. Their prime job was to administer good governance, in which they failed at certain points in their political time line. Whatever might be the nature and reason for these lapses, the key point is that they failed. And in my eyes, they are equally guilty. The shades of grey may be darker in one, but they are still grey.

  • John LeGrasse

    Of everything I have read on this issue so far – this piece – the one by Priya above – truly makes the most passionate, unbiased and articulate argument for free speech. I am probably going to read this piece 5 more times today and miss all my deadlines (but deadlines be damned!).

    By committing this grotesque form of speech-muzzling, the Upenn professors have revealed their shocking intolerance of alternative voices and thus condemned themselves forever to their unidimensional cocoon of jaded political correctness. I remember as a young boy of 15, I went to hear Pravin Togadia near Shivajinagar in Bangalore. As he thundered to a 4000+ audience that Hindus must surge, and rise and uproot Islam from India – I felt cold, numb amusement as if I had heard an eloquent beast (with a bad case of laryngitis) – no I didn’t wring the neck of the first Muslim I encountered on my way out of there. More recently, I obsessively saw some 20 odd youtube clips of Owaisi doing his thing. I was deeply impressed by his oratorial skills; if you see these clips, you can easily tell that his believing audience feel the experience that a death-metal fan would when he hears the tremolo picking of Trey Azagthoth or the ferine gurgle of Chuck Schuldiner. I can also tell you with utter conviction that Owaisi can walk all over Obama in an elocution competition if they could both speak in their native tongues. The number of Hindus I have killed since? An astounding ‘zero’, could you believe that? Hell, I have not even pinched the bottom of a Hindu since!

    Even if one were to pay heed to the childish argument of Mr. Amith here that Modi’s speech would have been a PR campaign, what success would he have achieved? And with whom? Would he have vigorously waved a saffron jhanda or a trishul? Put everyone under a virtual spell of saffron magic? Peddled baloney about how Gujarat is set to conquer the world? And would that have transmogrified the malleable Wharton mind into that of a rabid Hindutvawadi?

    Or, and this is the most troublesome question, did they in fact fear that their desperate caricature of a demon from hell would be shattered by the sound voice of reason?

    We will never know – for Wharton has done what would have been expected from fatwa-passing godsquadders, or book-burning Bajrangis. This, in deed, is a Fahrenheit 451 moment – as tragic as any other.

    • An NL columnist

      Goddammit, John LeGrasse, your comment is as brilliant as Priya’s essay! In the interests of keeping your opinions about my future articles on NL as objective as possible – so you can box my ears if I deserve it – I’m withholding my name and posting anonymously.

      • John LeGrasse

        Thank you for your kind words, NL Columnist. If you guys keep springing these gems I will be compelled to box your ears just so that I can hold down my job and not spend the whole day here :)

    • Priya Kale

      Thank you for your very kind words John Legrasse! The Fahrenheit 451 comparison is very apt. This paranoia about PR campaigns is frankly, patronising. It assumes that the masses can’t be trusted to make the right decisions.

    • Indian

      “Or, and this is the most troublesome question, did they in fact fear that their desperate caricature of a demon from hell would be shattered by the sound voice of reason?”
      Brilliant

  • Ashok Jahnavi Prasad

    Whatever the merits of the initial invitation,there can be a total consensus that Wharton handled it with a degree of ineptitude beyond belief! US universities and their students have had a very long tradition of interacting with international politicians some of whom carry a burden of a flawed legacy.This is not seen as an endorsement of their stated positions as the discussion is generally quite robust. Citing a few names here-Hendrik Verwoerd who interacted with the Columbia students, Park Chung Hee interacted with the Berkeley students, Anastasio Samoza interacted with the Texas State University students and let us not forget Ferdinand Marcos who not only interacted but was conferred honorary doctorates by University of Michigan and University of Hawaii. Even though I have not been a supporter of Modi,I just cannot figure out why he could not have been heard if the others were.Even his fierce critics would agree that Modi is head and shoulders above some of the unsavoury dictators one regularly comes across in the American university campuses!

    • John LeGrasse

      Well put, Sir. Even those who feel that Modi’s development saga is more hype than substance (like myself) would agree that it is better to hear him speak and then punch holes in his economic model than to put the kibosh on him. One ought to admire Shashi Tharoor for a rare show of spine when he said on NDTV, “I think it is far better to debate his record and views rather than to try and suppress his voice by disinviting him. Once they had invited him, they had a duty to hear his point of view.”

      Give a fool rope enough and he’ll hang himself. Of course, if he isn’t a fool, he might whip you with it.

      • Akash Mukherjee

        Or you might allow some people to make speeches at SRCC. In which case, they’ll hang Afzal Guru without even getting their hands on the rope! ;-)

        • John LeGrasse

          Akash Mukherjee – the Uncrowned Lord Emperor of the Firstpost comments section? You, Sir, are a sensation :)

        • Rex

          Wassup!!!

          • Akash Mukherjee

            Hehe! :-) I don’t use this profile anymore man, since it got blocked on FP! Follow the new one! :-)

          • Maqboolfida

            And which one is that? You were sorely missed on FP today and every other day!

  • goldenhorde

    I don’t think Modi has the moral high ground when it comes to freedom of speech. Have you forgotten, he banned Jaswant Singh’s book on Jinnah in his state

    • John LeGrasse

      And by refusing to hear him, Wharton is now on a level with Modi so far as moral ground on free speech goes. Ignominious enough, Sir?

      • goldenhorde

        You just don’t get it, do ya? It’s not about free speech. In Modi’s case it never is. It’s about Wharton reluctance in indulging someone , whom they perceive as a mass murderer. Now you may agree or disagree with that perception, you certainly can’t say they have no right to their opinion.

        • John LeGrasse

          Yo Troll-dude, 2 hours ago it was about “moral high ground” and “freedom of speech” and now suddenly, it’s not about free speech at all and it’s actually about indulging mass murderers? What will it be about in your next comment? About how Madam has cut off your bakshish? If you keep shifting the goal-post at this rate, it might just land on your head, now go troll somewhere else.

          • John LeGrasse

            Firstly, you’re a troll. Lastly, full stop.

          • Arvind

            You got fully exposed with the last words – “cow piss”. You are a paki jehadist who want a ban on salman Rushdie, and is upset about a ban on Jinna book. You guys never believed in freedom of expression and therefore stop commenting here and go and preach in your hatred filled blogs.

          • goldenhorde

            MUAHAHHAH………Thats not trash talking, thats just barking. Go home kid………

          • shaktifabian

            fake bleeding hearts like you are here there and everywhere raising controvorsies were none exist o great secular bleeding heart please be informed that the largest casaulties in independent india of policemen happened during the gujrat riots

          • Indian

            “What I said was Wharton probably banned him because of their perception of his”

            But that is not true. In fact Wharton invited him because of their perception of him. It were some trolls from Upenn(none from wharton) who threatened and wharton caved in.

        • Qwerty

          goldentroll, I take it this “perceived mass murderer” also murdered more than 250 Hindus while he was on his rampage right ? Is it that Hindu lives don’t count and therefor it is not necessary to find out who killed them ? Are you not forgetting that the train was set alight first ? That is some “perception” indeed ! Maybe its your cranium that is so far up your arse that you can’t get let facts into your brain. Nellie, Bhagalpur and the anti-Sikh to name a few don’t resonate with you because they happened under a Congress dispensation. Maybe you don’t get it but very many people are sick of THE DYNASTY and its corrupt and criminal hangers on. If Modi offers even a marinally cleaner option than the current lot of crooks and criminals Governing India right now he is welcome to run the country and his “development model” flaws be damned !!!

          • goldenhorde

            Mr Qwerty, I’m not the one who’s labelling him as mass murderer. What I’m saying is thats what the guys at Wharton probably think. Also are you suggesting that Chief Ministers should turn a blind eye towards rampaging mobs seeking vigilant justice??Just to remind you, thousands of men women and children burnt, hacked or shot to death by Hindutva mobs had nothing to do with Godhra. ARe you saying if one is wronged by one person, its alright to kill another person of same of same community in the name of JUstice? If thats what Modi stands for, he should come out and own it like a man rather than hiding behind meek excuses and bringing up Congress’s misdeeds from three decades ago.

          • Qwerty

            goldenhorde, you have no way of knowing what the guys in Wharton “think” – unless of course you are their Father Confessor. I am NOT saying that the Muslims killed had something to do with burning the train.They are just as innocent as the hundreds of Hindu’s killed. I think the exact number of Hindus killed is 254 which is about a third of the total killed. However, all I read and hear are how the Muslims were killed and how many. Not a word in the print or electronic media about the Hindu dead. It’s as if they don’t exist or that they lives are totally meaningless and irrelevant so anxious are the ‘secular’ apostles to show Modi in a bad light. Turning to Modi’s actions as a Chief Minister during the riots well, that’s easy, just compare that to Rajiv Gandhi’s actions during the anti-Sikh riots and his infamous quote: “When a mighty tree falls the earth trembles. What do you want Modi to “own up” to ? Did Rajiv or any member of the Gandhi family own up to anything for the anti-Sikh riots ? Nope ! It was left to Manmohan Sigh to do so and recently at that. Manmohan Singh did not “own up” he apologised. Did Modi kill anyone that he has to own up? It is a matter of record that he summoned the Army in short order and despite the sustained vilification campaign by the likes of those professional “secularists” Arundhati Roy and Teesta Setalvad none of the “charges” against him have been proved. I am assuming you are aware of the legal maxim “Innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt” . You say Modi brings up ‘Congress misdeeds three decades old’ ? Hell “Godhra” was a decade ago too !!! It’s not as if it happened yesterday but you “secular” chaps can’t let it rest can you?

        • Priya Kale

          wharton dis-invited him. They weren’t reluctant to begin with. Apparently not one prof from the B school itself endorsed the petition. The question is not if they have a right to their opinion (which they do), but if that right was subverted.

          • goldenhorde

            But Ma’am, do you think Modi’s followers have a moral high ground to rage against suppression of free speech when Modi himself took away Jaswant Singh’s right to an opinion in his state??

  • http://www.facebook.com/santosh.gairola Santosh Gairola

    It is becoming clear that this whole saga turned out to be a big farce, a joke on Wharton itself. But I find this ‘type of’ article bad.
    Patronizing, at worst.
    Though I give the benefit-of-doubt to Ms Priya, for it was her personal experience. But bringing Gaddafi in comparison is just offensive.
    Gaddafi has his own right to say what he has to say, but apple should/could only be compared with apples. If I can, I would bring George Bush. ‘Guantanamo Bay’ was happening right under his nose. Here too, while Modi ‘claims’ that he did the best he could (you can sure contest that), whereas Bush was justifying his deeds.
    Again Modi or similar others, are administrators. They make bad decisions, they make mistakes. It is the academic institution, which is supposed to fix/guide that, in one way or another. Academic institutions do not enjoy the same liberty of making such mistakes.

    “What exactly are those opposed to the speech afraid of?” Asked Priya
    Then reply, “That Modi will brainwash students? Or that it signals some sort of an endorsement of his politics?”

    I think it is something else.
    It is the fear that the whole web of perception, built so meticulously, by this ideologically driven gang, might wither away.

  • Amarnath Wanchoo

    I think Modi has been the biggest gainer in this episode of Wharton canceling the invitation to him. This single action has increased his appeal to the general public many folds.

  • rhuhf

    what about #obama #blair & #bush whose orders & policies have resulted in deaths of 1000s of innocent muslims in middle east & afpak region muslims around the world consider them war criminals. while blame on modi is that he didn’t call the army fast enough.

  • K Kumar

    This is the most nuanced piece I have read about this entire controversy. The most ridiculous stands are by the, well, modi-bhakts, on how it is “an insult to India” and so on and on. Modi is not India. Some of them even went to the extent of saying that other invitees (like Arvind Kejriwal) should also withdraw, and that people still attending will lose credibility, and such nonsense.

    People should understand that the basic problem here is of freedom of speech and giving the other party an opportunity to talk and not things like “its an insult to India”. Obviously, it’s important that Modi’s speech should have been followed by a question session too, else it would have just been any propaganda speech.

    • Priya Kale

      thank you. Agree with what you’ve said.

      • K Kumar

        Looks like we are entering a new version of “Indira is India. India is Indira”, with Modi this time. Talk about history repeating itself !!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kashinath.vaishampayan Kashinath Vaishampayan

    Thanks for this piece. Although a cogent critique that hits harder and makes lots of sense; beauty is – It is not shrill. I especially appreciate the end piece – “Learning to accept intellectual discomfort is a vital part of the university experience. Those who don’t learn to deal with it are paying tuition fees just for a degree, not for an education.” But alas, who can educate our so-called English yapping Cambridge / US Educated?? I am referring to going nowhere Panel Discussions on all English TV channels. They collectively seem to be paranoied and their common sense seems paralised, since they do not realise that their hot air works for – NAMO instead of against him. And I am sure, NAMO is smart enough to thank them as and when he emerges a winner and the so-called political pundits shall keep blowing hot air…to no avail. Thanks once again for unbiased analysis of this situation.

  • http://twitter.com/Pawan_Ra0 Pawan Rao

    Mrs. Priya Have you bothered to go through piles of interview in Modi’s youtube channel before coming to conclusion that he hasnt taken uncomfortable question?. For sample I would urge you to go through http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7W61h2hpRo, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aW3kudEa6-M, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-egGR6LwNA . He has time and again answered Journalist. Even when he talks of developmental agenda people have again taken him back to 2002. If he wasnt hounded so much by the media he would have been more open to interviews. There is a limit on how much a person can take. He wasnt recently singled out for malnutrition problem in Guj and media has tried to debunk the story by telling that there is no place for Human Developmental aspect in his policies, this has been totally shattered by http://www.firstpost.com/economy/guess-which-state-improved-most-in-malnutrition-gujarat-650087.html . Now please widen your research on Modi before telling there are SERIOUS concerns on his ability. I always keep the conversation civic and factual, hope I dont get tagged as troll by you.

  • shaktifabian

    the pick and choose atitude of the so called liberal bleeding hearts in the u s is hard to fathom drug barons from latin america are welcome tin pot brutal dictators fom west asia and africa are feted one should not be suprised if the rogue general from pakistan is given a red carpet welcome but not the thrice democratically elected chief minister from gujrat but after 2014 election this guys will be seen outside narendra modi,s office you gussed it right for an appointment to extend an invite

  • vijay sarkar

    . Mr. Modi is known for his conversant skills.

  • Ashok Jahnavi Prasad

    Vir makes a valid point! He was in the Univeristy a few years after myself I believe and we all went through the dilemma!

    http://virsanghvi.com/Article-Details.aspx?key=910

  • Daa Dee Daaaaah

    Yay! Well done Priya Kale!

    I for one am rather dismayed by my own change in feelings of subjectivity vis-a-vis Modi as a result of this event. My usual unhealthy sense of skepticism is turning into something quite unimaginable – support … OMG!

    The Wharton cauldron of high IQs are no match for incidentally induced reverse psychology!

  • Indian

    Modi called the army within 24 hrs. Riots started on 28th feb. Army was there on 1st march. Modi’s distractors call it 3 days. In fact neighbouring congress ruled states did not send the additional forces as required by him.

  • Guur

    It is unfortunate to mention that Wharton has become a political institute rather than a business management institute. I was watching the debate of Pro.Ghose on Indian national television. He was speaking like a Congress agent with the glims of radical extremists. Known people @ Wharton says that its decision of avoiding Modi’s speech was politically motivated and strongly supported by congress sympathizers @ Wharton.

    Why Modi is important for India?

    Indians are fed-up with the vote bank politics and Modi should be complimented for his secularism definition of “India comes first”. He has a great track record of good governance and administration in Gujarat. The biggest positive change in Indian politics is “debate on development” and the credit goes to Modi for his change.
    Being an aspirational Indian, I will support a leader who talks about future India and not 1970 India.
    Thanks

  • AKM

    To give the devil his due, Modi has milked the episode to the maximum. But please don’t equate a withdrawal of an invitation with suppressing free speech. Disingenuous, to say the least.

    (a) The example of Gaddafi’s speech in LSE ? The anchor herself has repudiated and apologised for the entire episode, not to mention that she claims she was railroaded into it on short notice.

    (b) Like glittering shawls in a madar covering essentially a grave, Mr Modi throws more tawdry bits of economic tinsel over the murders he presided over. No issues. I have but one vote, and if it is not enough, too bad. He is free to speak. There is no “muzzling” of Mr Modi going on out here. An institution whose reputation is widespread if relevance arguable, claims to call “keynote speakers and panelists who are at the forefront of India’s economic and business growth and development”. Which means that Wharton explicitly endorses the reputation of those it invites. However. (and sadly, in contrast to his muzzled home state), opinion of potential attendees was strong enough to get his invitation rescinded. To labour the point : not cut off his tongue, not censor him from Twitter and TV and the world, merely did not allow him to propound from an invitation-only podium.

    (c) The correct analogy would be the throwing out of “Baadshah of rape” singer Yo Yo Honey Singh from the New Year bash he was to gain a nice packet from. No sir, we did not muzzle him. As paying customers, we indicated to the management that they could have his program or our custom. The management (surprise) listened to us. You see, sometimes, the good side wins too.

    As one who has witnessed first hand the riots he presided over and the complicity of the state apparatchiks in the genocide, Yes, Mr Modi is a monster. Unfortunately, he is a Frankenstein of our own disillusionment with the system, our own repressed rages about ‘them’, and our own impotence in battling an increasingly difficult social agenda. It helps that unlike the unabashed (and ludicrous) Sri Ram Sene louts flailing about trying to ban minis and pubs, he couches his bigotry in terms of ‘security’ and ‘development’. Do I wish he could be debated in public ? Yes. (Not happening).

    Am I happy at least somebody has pretended that the perfumery of power does not negate the stench of blood ? No prizes for guessing.

  • http://twitter.com/bpatnaik143 Bhaskar

    For you guys who hate reading long articles and ending up with no information. Here is the zest. “Modi should have been heard and B schools are supposed to break stero-types(or something like that)”. Now get on with your life there is nothing intresting in this page.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anilshandilyaa Anil Sharma

    Modi is new TRP man of the Live media, only that English media discovered this fact rather too late.If tomorrow any election held meant for online Indian voters only, Modi will become the PM of India with hands down majority.But alas India,s internet penetration is only 10-12%.

    • RajeevS

      You are right. Modi is choice of TRULY educated Indians.

  • Vijai

    Like the “Streisand effect”, I would like to term Mr. Modi’s recent troubles with Wharton’s wonder children as the “JaipurLit Effect”. The govt-college-educated dumb fellows like me who hardly knew of such an event’s existence now do. Whether the knowledge of their existence adds value to our personal growth or not is a different question.

  • musafir

    wonder why a write up on anything to do with Modi have to be balanced for the sake of it, when she clarifies that she aint a NaMo bhakt she certainly want to look balanced and nuanced in the eyes of a niche miniscule segment of population called the “liberals”.Like the many coloumnist who have made a fortune in the last decade by trying to just demolish the image of Modi fails miserably at the altar of reasoning, facts and truth. Otherwise how could she have made a very vague statement in the last para where she cast doubts on the credentials of Modi as a leader, – ” there are some serious questions and concerns about Modi’s ability to lead the nation”. Madam please enlighten us about the “serious questions and concerns”. The reader today in the age of social networking cannot be brainwashed by the media into believing what it wants, gone are the days when we had to look through the prism which the media decided so leave alone the thought of being brainwashed by a politician, people are smart today and they end up making the right choices these days.

  • control

    Disagree ma’am. Flawed logic. Arvind Kejriwal probably gave the same reason at the Wharton Forum arguing against cancellation of Modi’s invitation and it doesn’t makes much sense. This is not a denial of free speech. Denial of free speech occurs when you alienate the right to speak freely, even when the person just wants to express some views in a peaceful manner, without maligning or slandering anyone or without speaking against national sentiments etc. Mr. Modi’s right to free speech hasn’t been denied. Mr. Modi has been only denied to speak at Wharton forum. Mr. Modi can easily go and speak on other platforms. Those who want to listen to him can listen to his views and ideas on some author forum. Ergo, nothing like violation of free speech.

    Next, when you try to force Wharton to invite Modi, when some sections actually don’t want to, for one reason or the other – that actually smacks of fascism. In fact, then you want to force your opinion on them, which is actually a violation of their privilege to invite.

    Lastly, inviting and uninviting is a separate matter, more of mannerisms, and ethicality if something fishy was going on behind the screens. There is no evidence that points to the latter. So, it is a question of mannerisms/courtesy etc. His right hasn’t been denied though.

    The reasons why they could have allowed him are: (1) Having a dialogue with Modi to hear his views because that’s how people can understand each other better. Being dogmatic and having pointed opinions against someone all the time, may just result in a standstill. People should be receptive to new ideas. What you probably are referring to is “free flow of ideas”. I agree totally with that. But its not synonymous with right to free speech. (Read: The Meaning of It All – R. P. Feynman) (2) Mannerisms/ethicality – it looks rather insulting to uninvite.

    P.S. – SC court judgement under R. C. Lahoti and Mr. Bhan in the noise-pollution case, explains what a right to silence is very accurately. The interpretation of freedom of speech under consideration here is somewhat analogous.

  • Sai Deepak B

    I think we should stop considering the western world as the protector of the freedom of speech, or for that matter any freedom, and start thinking in terms of people who can be of use and people who cannot be is use to them.

    I think doing that would at least not make us feel bad that our guy was not invited to speak at Wharton.

  • raj pras

    I too am a believer in free speech, in Wharton but more importantly in India.

    In Modi’s instance ( since your article is about him) had that right to free speech been visible in Gujarat, Modi would have been welcomed at Wharton. It wasn’t, and he isn’t.

    The Indian govt and political system is no shining example of “free speech”. Just look at the list of banned books , its a national disgrace. Universities, are recognised as gatekeepers of freedom of speech in the West. They should not associate with politicians who suppress these freedoms, and this applies to the Congress, BJP, CPM and Shiv Sena. Let crooks know that there is a price to be paid.

    As for LSE, it showed its mercenary colours when it awarded a butcher like Saif Al Islam Gaddafi a PHD for his work in “civil society” in return for cash ‘donations’. Its a tainted body.

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