The Indian government has condemned an article published in The Australian headlined "Modi leads India out of lockdown... into a viral apocalypse", calling it "baseless, malicious, and slanderous".
Arrogance, hyper-nationalism and bureaucratic incompetence have combined to create a crisis of epic proportions in India, with its crowd-loving PM basking while citizens suffocate. This is the story of how it all went so terribly wrong #coronavirus https://t.co/bL8VXkz5RD— The Australian (@australian) April 25, 2021
The article's introduction says it's the story of how it all went so terribly wrong in India with COVID. It came down heavily on the Indian government allowing huge political rallies during elections held in four states and one union territory in the middle of the pandemic.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had addressed big rallies while campaigning for candidates along with Home Minister Amit Shah.
The article said, "Narendra Modi could not hide his delight as he surveyed his cheering supporters. 'I have never seen such huge numbers', he declared".
"The warnings of public health experts fell on deaf ears as Modi and his acolytes preached a message of triumphalism and exceptionalism", it added.
"Even as death and despair stalked the nation, Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party rejected lockdown and forged ahead with mass gatherings. The election rallies and Kumbh Mela festival turned out to be super-spreader events - as public health experts had warned", said the article.
On Monday, India's COVID case count exceeded 300,000 for the sixth day in a row. For the seventh consecutive day, the number of deaths crossed the 2,000 mark. The month of April has claimed 34,595 lives, of which nearly half died in the past seven days.
While the Indian government has registered a swift and stern protest with the newspaper, demanding a rejoinder to be published, a letter was shot off on Monday by the Indian Deputy High Commissioner to Editor-in-Chief Christopher Dore.
Urge @australian to publish the rejoinder to set the record straight on the covid management in India and also refrain from publishing such baseless articles in future. @cgisydney @CGIPerth @cgimelbourne @MEAIndia https://t.co/4Z3Mk6ru3W pic.twitter.com/4bgWYnKDlB— India in Australia (@HCICanberra) April 26, 2021
"While our scientific community is still looking at possible reasons for the sudden surge in infections, including the role of infectious new strains that came from outside India, the article has strangely rushed to blame the surge on the restricted election campaign by the Hon'ble prime minister and one religious gathering", the letter said.
Even as the government is protesting against the article in Australia, it has become a matter of embarassment back home as the government has come under attack by its own lawmakers.
BJP lawmaker Subramanian Swamy, a disgruntled leader of the party, slammed the Modi government over its image abroad.