Shehla Rashid, a former student leader at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), once a bitter critic of the BJP-led central government has said that the people belonging to the ‘left and liberal ecosystem’ criticized the government for imposing lockdown during COVID-19 for the sake of it.
The activist and academician said that she was surrounded by an “echo chamber” and the people critical of the government questioned her for ‘supporting’ the Centre’s decision to impose lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview during the ANI Podcast with Smita Prakash, which aired on Wednesday, Shehla Rashid opened up about her turning into a PM Modi fan from a critic.
“So two things, first of all, I started supporting some of the executive actions in 2020, which is the pandemic year. At that time I had supported the lockdown and because I hadn’t made any overtures towards the government. I was still surrounded by an echo chamber that immediately shut me down. They were like why are you supporting the government? It was then that I realised for the very first time in 2020 that a lot of the criticism that ‘we’ do of the government is for the sake of it. And that’s where I come again to the point of polarisation that just because PM Modi is doing something and we have to oppose it,” Shehla Rashid told ANI adding that the ‘we’ here means the left, liberal ecosystem or the people who are critical to the government.
She also said that the Centre at that time had no choice but to impose a lockdown.
“I was very much part of that echo chamber yet I still saw in countries like Sweden etc, where the governments did (impose) lockdown but the people protested against it citing citizens’ rights, democracy etc. And in the US, where the Trump administration did not (impose) a lockdown. (But) the teachers (in US), you must have seen, saying that you are sending us to the death row by not shutting down. So what was the choice with the government in 2020 to shut down or not shut down. I feel that the government had no choice but to lockdown,” she added.
Ms Rashid is an activist, researcher, and academician who gained prominence in 2016 for advocating the release of then JNU Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested on sedition charges. Recently, she made headlines for a notable shift, applauding the central government for the ‘improved’ situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Moreover, when asked about the reality of discrimination against Muslims in India, she said that Muslims as per academic experts classify themselves as the second largest majority instead of a minority.
“Dr Tanveer Faisal, who is a sociologist pointed out in one of his papers that the Muslims in Delhi reject the classification of minority and they say that we are the second largest majority. The Muslims as per academic experts classify themselves as the second largest majority instead of minority,” Ms Rashid said.
She said that the communalism in the country didn’t come when the Bharatiya Janata Party government came to the Centre but its history can be traced 70 years back.
“Is there communalism in this country, yes. 70 years back we were partitioned on a religious basis. So we cannot say that communalism began when the BJP came in 2014. We have been partitioned on religious lines and it was a bloody partition by all accounts. There has been communalism and there will continue to be communalism. At the same time, the problem with the critical orientation is that we only focus on the negatives. We forget to celebrate the positives,” she said.
The activist said that India is a humongous country and there have been incidents of mob lynching and unfortunate statements made against Muslims in the past.
“Yes, they hurt you as a Muslim, but as a Muslim do we keep focusing or harping on that narrative on the negatives? I don’t think so because we’ve lost years doing that. This is our country as much as it is anyone else’s country,” Shehla Rashid said.
She said that Muslims should feel lucky that they are in this country and not anywhere else in the world.
“Union Home Minister Amit Shah during his visit to Srinagar told Kashmiris that it is their country and they can live and go wherever they want. These were his exact words. And we should take a moment and acknowledge that we are living through a historically very important phase. We should be lucky that we are in this country and not anywhere else in the world right now. Because there is peace, there is development and we’ve just overtaken our former colonizers, the United Kingdom as the fifth largest economy,” she said further.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)