Last week, when the Time magazine decided to call Prime Minister Narendra Modi divider-in-chief, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra was quick to call the author of the cover story a Pakistani national.
Addressing a news conference, Patra said, “When India’s fortune changes, then some people suffer from discomfort. They start publishing articles etc. One such article we have seen in the Time magazine today. Brothers, do you know who its author is? The author of this article is a Pakistani citizen. A Pakistani citizen calls Modi ji a divider and Rahul Gandhi tweets that article..The only agenda that Pakistan has is to malign the image of Modi ji internationally. So by writing this article, this Pakistani author is making a fake attempt to malign Modi ji.”
Patra’s comments received prominent coverage from the usual suspects in the media, who shared the clip from his press conference on social media platforms. The clip shared by Times Now in particular has been viewed by over 1.24 lakh people. In total his comments social media footprints were in millions.
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) May 11, 2019
But the question arises if Patra was telling the truth. The author of the Time magazine’s article, Aatish Taseer, is the son of pro-BJP Indian journalist Tavleen Singh and late Pakistani politician Salman Taseer, also a former Governor of Pakistani Punjab, who was assassinated in 2011.
Patra wasn’t the only person reacting angrily to the Time magazine’s story by suspecting a Pakistani conspiracy. Veteran actor Kabir Bedi too took to Twitter to express his outrage when he wrote, “How can the World’s Most Famous Magazine Endorse such a Blatantly Biased Attack on Prime Minister Modi by a Pakistani while India’s elections are still going on?”
How can the World’s Most Famous Magazine Endorse
such a Blatantly Biased Attack on Prime Minister Modi by a Pakistani while India’s elections are still going on? https://t.co/fffkeI87Xe
— KABIR BEDI (@iKabirBedi) May 10, 2019
Aatish Taseer’s mother Tavleen Singh reacted to Kabir Bedi’s allegations and clarified that her son was not a Pakistani. She reacted to his tweet and wrote, “Kabir disagree with what he writes. But, you know that he isn’t Pakistani.” Bedi accepted his mistake and apologised as he wrote, “Sorry, Tavleen. I assumed he was Pakistani since he referred to his father as a “Pakistani Muslim”. But I’m glad you disagree with what he writes about Modi. Outraged that @Time puts it on the cover after howling about Russian interference in US elections.”
Sorry, Tavleen. I assumed he was Pakistani since he referred to his father as a “Pakistani Muslim”. But I’m glad you disagree with what he writes about Modi. Outraged that @Time puts it on the cover after howling about Russian interference in US elections. https://t.co/mbzYcrOyI1
— KABIR BEDI (@iKabirBedi) May 13, 2019
Later speaking to Barkha Dutt on Tiranga TV channel, Taseer said that he had a thick hide when it comes to criticism. He, however, made it clear that Patra was putting forward a lie about his nationality. Taseer said, “When spokesperson of the BJP comes out and puts forward a lie, saying that I am a Pakistani when he knows very well that I grew up in India and have been to Pakistan about as many times as you have, that kind of annoys me.”
In which @AatishTaseer talks on the attack by BJP & being called a "Pakistani"for his Time cover story on Modi. "BJP knows this is a lie" he tells me, & "the subtext is clearly Anti-Muslim." Call its a "Dangerous canard"- preview from my interview coming to @newshtn tomorrow pic.twitter.com/IbPXx9Yqwc
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) May 12, 2019
While Kabir Bedi was gracious enough to accept his mistake, will Patra too issue a public apology? Chances are that he wouldn’t, for this may have been part of a clever strategy to deligitimise the Time magazine’s article criticising Modi!