Indian media’s translation of Modi’s words for Muslims, ignorance or pure mischief?



Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently quoted Deendayal Upadhyaya’s views on the controversial subject of votebank politics while speaking on the occasion of the RSS ideologue’s 100 birth anniversary. However, Modi’s usage of the Hindi word parishkar for Muslims has become a subject of controversy.

While some English newspapers such as The Times of India and The Indian Express translated the word parishkar to mean empowerment, others including The Telegraph and Business Standard mentioned the word “purify”. The divide was not limited to newspapers. Digitally native website The Quint ran the headline “Purify Muslims, Modi says quoting Deendayal Upadhyaya”.

Indian media

On the other hand, NDTV’s news report went with the headline “Don’t rebuke Muslims, empower them, says PM Modi at BJP conclave”.

Writing on Twitter, Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Abhiyan accused the media of covering up Modi’s insulting words towards Muslims. CPI(M)’s General Secretary Sitaram Yechury also attacked Modi’s choice of words.  


Journalist Om Thanvi edited Jansatta, the Hindi daily of The Express Group, for sixteen years. Reflecting on the controversy, he stated that the “word Deendayal Upadhyaya had used was in Hindi, Modi only quoted him”.

He explained that the word parishkar can have six derivatives i.e. refinement, purification, rectification, revision, correction and amendment.

“In the context of what has been said, the correct translation would be purification,” he added. Hence, Thanvi held the translation of parishkar as empowerment to be incorrect though he later on suggested that the first choice should be refinement. He also pointed out that the BJP happened to be an “all-Hindu” party at the time when Deendayal Upadhyaya made the following remarks.

“Had Deendayal Upadhyaya spoken about empowerment of Muslims then the BJP would not have been an all-Hindu party of those times,” he said. According to Thanvi, earlier the BJP had no sadbhavna towards Muslims since they thought that the community was backward and used to live in an unclean manner. Things have changed now with BJP becoming more accommodative of Muslims with members of the community finding place in the government, he said.

Besides being a newspaper editor, Sidharth Mishra of The Millennium Post has carefully studied the philosophy of integral humanism propounded by Deendayal Upadhyaya. As per Mishra, integral humanism is premised on physical as well as spiritual well-being.

“Integral humanism was an answer to the leftist ideology of radical humanism by MN Roy,” he said. Stressing that since the ideology was meant to counter the left, leftist forces contest it. “What the BJP has adopted from integral humanism is antyodaya which is empowerment of people at the lowest rung of the ladder,” he said.

Mishra felt the need for evaluating Modi’s speech from the appropriate context. Upholding the correction translation of the controversial term to be empowerment, he said, “I think the context was to empower Muslims.” However, he maintained that the speech was open to interpretation but it seemed like the left was indulging in convenience of interpretation.