Tell the Truth, John Oliver

John Oliver recently aired a piece on Modi and his policies in India. While Oliver’s past shows have been enjoyable, because they were understood to be well researched and based on facts despite a distinct political bias.

The poor quality of research by your team on this piece (such as using misleading facts, selectively editing video clips that ignore context, and disregarding any facts that counter your perspective) has been disheartening. What is more intriguing is that the majority of your video sources are clips from Al Jazeera, a network with a known history of inciting extremism and violence [29][30].

The entire show revolved around building a powerful story around Modi through presenting facts in the form of news clips and videos. Since your teams research was sorely lacking, this post presents the basic research they should have done and also presents actual facts.

What follows is a number of very easily refutable points. Please note, it only took 2 days to do this research. Hopefully your team can learn to do some basic research after reading this instead of binge watching Al Jazeera and wasting HBO’s money.

2002 Sectarian Riots

At 9:48, a news clip is shared which makes the claim that violent riots broke out in 2002 along sectarian lines, and Modi being Gujarat’s CM (Chief Minister, equivalent to state governors in the US) was blamed for it. This eventually led to Modi’s visa being revoked, effectively banning him from entry to the US.

Question: Did riots break out spontaneously?

Answer: No, they were triggered by the burning of coach S6 of the Sabarmati express, in which 59 Hindu pilgrims (women, men, and children) were burned alive by a Muslim mob. The courts have accepted it as a pre-planned conspiracy, and have convicted 31 people including the main accused, Yakub Patalia [1].

Question: Is Narendra Modi guilty of allowing people to die?

Answer: The show excludes the fact that a 10 year long investigation, monitored by the Indian Supreme Court, was done to assess Modi’s role in the riots and carnage. He was found innocent, and absolved of all accusations and charges in 2012. However, Oliver and the team excludes this fact and effectively shows Modi as guilty of masterminding the riots. Keep in mind that during the investigation, the government was controlled by the United Progressive Alliance, who are opposed to the BJP and Modi. [2]

Another implicit assertion made was that Modi had not done enough to control the riots.

Question: Did Narendra Modi not take adequate steps to curb the riots?

Answer: In addition to a boosted police response, the Gujarat government had immediately requested additional troops from three neighboring states, which was ignored by the CMs of neighboring states. These chief ministers were members of the Indian National Congress party [3] [4](2:25 onward), the main opposition party to the BJP.

Question: What is this list used to revoke Modi’s visa?

Answer: In the end, to buttress their claim that Narendra Modi was guilty, Oliver cites that the US had revoked Modi’s visa. However, Oliver fails to mention the absurdity of the list being used as a basis to revoke that, and how there has only been one name ever added to the list. Ironically enough, this was explained on Last Week Tonight by Fareed Zakaria [5](3:02 onward).

Oliver and team didn’t even attempt thorough research, and have either relied on preconceived biases and narratives or have twisted the facts in a deliberate attempt to paint a picture which fits in their ideological framework. In doing so they have ignored, or deemed irrelevant, the judicial process and authority of a sovereign nation.

Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC)

At 13:38 an edited clip is shown from BBC implying that the NRC will strip millions of Muslims from citizenship. It further claims that millions of poor people do not have proof of identity.The BBC clip claims that

“A nationwide NRC is to be implemented where everyone will be asked to show their documents. Those not able to show it will be termed illegal, (and) only non-Muslims will be then awarded citizenship”

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register of all Indian citizens whose creation is mandated by the 2003 amendment of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The act was passed unanimously in Rajya Sabha (upper house) on 18th December 2003 and Lok Sabha (lower house) on 22nd December 2003. It was backed by prominent opposition parties including Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal and AIADMK [10].

Question: Are Muslims, or the poor, of India lacking documents proving their citizenship?

Answer: A total of 1.23 billion Aadhar cards have been issued for the estimate 1.32 billion residents of India [6]. The Aadhar card is itself issued on the basis of a number of documents a list of which can be found here [7].

Question: Will a person who does not have documents be excluded from NRC?

Answer: Oliver’s claim that people who do not have documents will simply be excluded from NRC is markedly incorrect because not having the proper documentation will be allowed to bring a witness to corroborate their status as legal citizens [8].

Other than that, applicants also have the option to present documents such as refugee registration certificate, birth certificate, LIC policy, land and tenancy records, citizenship certificate, passport, government issued licence or certificate, bank/post office accounts, permanent residential certificate, government employment certificate, educational certificate and court records.

Question: Is a nationwide NRC ready to be implemented as a policy ?

Answer: No. A nation wide NRC draft has not been prepared yet and the list of documents that will be needed for NRC has similarly not been decided [9].

Thus the implicit claim that NRC has already been decided as a policy is also false. The show has also taken no efforts to give context of NRC and have tried to portray it as a draconian measure. Thus it becomes imperative to understand what NRC is.

Question: Why is NRC needed?

Answer: A modern nation and its government need an account of citizens so they can provide adequate services. Since its inception, India specifically has been dealing with illegal immigration from neighboring countries. These migrations have been primarily of 2 kinds.

Immigration due to religious persecution: A lot of Hindus and other minorities have constantly fled from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan because of constant religious persecution [11]. The Hindu population in Bangladesh has reduced from 23% to around 8% [12], and the sharp decline has been similar in Pakistan as well. These communities need refuge and protection, which is done through CAA.

Migration due to economic opportunities: A lot of illegal immigration has also happened due to economic opportunities. This creates an burden on the economy of an already struggling country and each country has its own rules around this. The discussions of CAA and possibility of NRC has prompted some illegal Bangladeshis to return back to Bangladesh [13].It also results in a change in demography thereby having serious political implications. [33][34]. In addition, the large influx of Bangladeshis affects Assamese culture leading to the native Assamese people feeling marginalized in their homeland.

Question: Are detention camps being built to imprison Muslims?

Answer: The detention camp which is shown in the clip is the one created in Assam and under the orders of Guwahati High Court given in 2008, under the Congress government [14]. To understand this, one also needs to know in detail what the Assam NRC is.

Assam NRC was carried out after a Supreme Court order in 2013, a year before Modi government was sworn in. In Assam, one of the basic criteria was that the names of applicant’s family members should either be in the first NRC prepared in 1951 or in the electoral records by (or before) March 24, 1971 [15].

Assam has a history of protests and movements against the mass influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants during and after the Bangladesh Independence War (1971). This culminated in the signing of the Assam Accord (1985) between the Government of India (headed by Rajiv Gandhi) and agitators [15].

Question: Does CAA take away citizenship of Indian Muslims?

Answer: No. Oliver’s implicit assertion is that CAA and NRC combined kicks Muslims out. Here, he has once again conveniently omitted the term “illegal immigrants” and made it sound as if it will happen to Muslims who are Indian citizens.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to fast-track citizenship for persecuted minority groups in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The six minority groups that have been specifically identified are Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis. The Bill aims to change the definition of illegal migrants [16].

The distinct need for this was also advocated by former prime minister Manmohan Singh (who was in office as the Congress party candidate) acknowledging that minorities in countries like Bangladesh have faced persecution [17].

One very important point that is always ignored is that CAA does not take away citizenship of any current Indian citizen. It only provides citizenship to refugees coming from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who have faced religious persecution.The CAA cut off date has been determined to be December 31, 2014. New applicants for citizenship will have to prove that they have been staying in India on or before December 31, 2014 [18].

Question: Have protests against the CAA been non-violent ?

Answer: The protests against CAA started off as violent protests including pelting police with stones, damaging public properties, rioting and arson. In December, when the protests started, more than 300 people were arrested for such charges. It was only after the government decided to recover the dues for damage to public property that the rioting stopped.

However, the protestors then moved to a space cutting off the Kalindi Kunj Road (Road 13A[36]), a six-lane highway bordering the Muslim-dominated neighborhood of Shaheen Bagh in southeast Delhi, disrupting day to day life for residents[31]. The initial face of the anti CAA protests, hailed as “Shero’s,” had a Facebook page denouncing secularism and wanting to start an ISIS-like group. The page was later deleted [19].

One of the early organizers of anti CAA protests, Sharjeel Imam was on record inciting Muslims to separate the northeastern states from the rest of India [20].

During a CAA protest rally Ashoka Chakra a symbol of reverence was replaced with “La Ilahi Illalah” by Muslim protesters [21]. In addition, the Om symbol was deformed to look like the Nazi swastika.

Recently during Trump’s visit, to garner attention, protesters once again became violent and resorted to stone pelting and arson. One of the protesters who was identified as Shahrukh can be seen pointing a gun at point blank range towards a policeman who is there only with a stick in his hand [22]. In fact this tactics is not new and has been picked up straight from terrorists books. Back in 1999, terrorists have similarly massacred Sikhs in Kashmir during Bill Clinton’s visit to gain his attention [32].

Multiple other resources detailing the riots and arson caused by protesters in the initial month of December are included below in [23] [24] [25] [26] [27].

Facts being twisted and presented through social media influencers, network celebrities and shows to push narratives has been a norm throughout the history of modern media. However, the level of misappropriation of facts in this episode of Last Week Tonight has been utterly shocking and completely false. The American Hindu hopes that our fellow Americans will start doing their own research and fact checking what they hear, instead of blindly accepting what we hear.


  4. [2:34]
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