As Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated his mother’s centenary birthday on June 18 at her home in Gandhinagar, “Abbas” began trending on social media.
That was because Modi, in a long blog post dedicated to his mother, wrote about how his parents had taken in Abbas, the son of a family friend who had passed away.
In the blog post, Modi further wrote that his mother considered Abbas among her children and that “every year on Eid, she used to prepare his favourite dishes”.
Soon, more details emerged of Modi’s childhood friend-sibling. The Indian Express, quoting Modi’s younger brother Pankajbhai, reported that Abbas, now 64, had worked in the Gujarat government a Class-II officer until his retirement
Later, journalist Deepal Trivedi posted a photograph on Twitter of a man she claimed was Abbas and wrote that Modi’s childhood friend now lived in Sydney, Australia, with his son.
Given the anti-minority ideology of the hardline Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh organisation of which the Indian prime minister has been a member for decades and his Bharatiya Janata Party’s government’s actions targetting Muslims, the internet reacted with a flurry of memes, jokes and movie references galore to the saga of Modi and Abbas.
In line with the numerous Bollywood films produced to support the government’s agenda as well as biopics and television shows on Modi, some Twitter users suggested a new movie idea. Many memes related to Akshay Kumar, who has acted in a series of “nationalist” films aligned with government-related schemes and propaganda.
Another mocked director Vivek Agnihotri, whose most recent film The Kashmir Files about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley was heavily promoted by the government, the ruling BJP and its leaders. Scroll.in has reported on how the film had stoked violence against Muslims in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone in the first week of April.
Journalist Swati Chaturvedi referenced the violent protests against the new Agnipath scheme for short-term recruitment into the armed forces that broke out on June 15. She also pointed out the irony of Kumar making patriotic and nationalistic films even as he holds Canadian citizenship.
A Twitter user chose to reference a famous 1977 movie, and its message of secularism and harmony.
Someone also photoshopped Modi and Abbas sharing a meal into another famous movie scene.
One Twitter user helpfully supplied yet another photograph of the elusive Abbas – Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
Journalist Man Aman Singh Chhina referred to the disparaging remarks made by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal about Prophet Muhammad at the end May which drew condemnation from Muslim nations.
The BJP had quickly distanced itself from Sharma’s comments and suspended her and Jindal. Chhina also pointed that the 2002 Gujarat riots, when an estimated 1,000 Muslims were killed, took place under Modi’s tenure as chief minister.