Discovery Channel India/YouTube
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared in an episode of "Man vs Wild" alongside survivalist Bear Grylls on Monday night.
- The episode appears to be an untimely publicity stunt as the Indian government continues to limit Kashmir’s access to food and the internet for the ninth consecutive day.
- Since Modi became prime minister in 2014, his government has spent more than $700 million on cultivating his strongman image.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appeared on "Man vs Wild," the British survivalist Bear Grylls’ show, while his country continues to choke off Kashmir’s access to food and the internet for the ninth consecutive day.
In the episode, broadcast by Discovery Channel India on Monday night, Modi built makeshift rafts and discussed growing up in a poor family as he and Grylls crossed a river at the Jim Corbett National Park in northern India, The Guardian reported.
While it’s not clear how far in advance the episode was filmed, its Monday airing seems an untimely publicity stunt as Modi’s government continues to cut off Kashmir from the rest of the world.
Discovery Channel India/YouTube
Indian security forces have blocked off most major roads, and cut off phone and internet lines around the region — a common strategy to prevent large protests and the spread of information critical of authorities.
Some journalists on the ground have been offered satellite phones for 100,000 rupees ($1,400) so they can keep reporting.
This crackdown came after the Indian government removed a constitutional provision that had guaranteed the independence of the Jammu and Kashmir region to make its own laws, and prevented outsiders from buying property or seeking government jobs in the mostly-Muslim region.
Critics believe that India’s move last week will allow Indian Hindus to alter the state’s ethnic and religious makeup.
Indian security forces have also sent in thousands more troops to the region, which is already one of the most heavily-militarized areas in the world.
The roadblocks have prevented food supplies from entering the region, and sick people are struggling to get to hospital due to the faulty phone lines and police blocking ambulances from moving around.
The Guardian cited a man named Syed Asim Ali as saying that his family in Srinagar, the largest city in Jammu and Kashmir, had been eating dried vegetables because of the food shortage.
Other residents have been stockpiling medicine and food in preparation of further disruption amid Eid al-Adha, a key festival in Islam, which takes place this week, The Associated Press reported over the weekend.
Pakistan — which also claims Jammu and Kashmir as its own territory — has appealed to the US and UN for help to mediate the Kashmir crisis, while India repeatedly maintains that this is a regional issue.
The cult of Modi
Monday’s "Man vs Wild" episode appears to be another attempt by Modi to build his cult of personality in the country and drum up nationalistic support.
The strongman leader has participated in multiple photo ops to boost his image — as well as that of his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party since becoming prime minister in 2014.
His government has spent more than 52 billion rupees ($728 million) in pro-BJP ads and social media posts since the 2014 financial year, India’s Economic Times reported last year.
The BJP also hires hundreds of thousands of people to recruit new voters via phone and door knocks, ultimately helping build "the most extraordinary personality cult in modern Indian history," according to Indian politician and prominent Modi critic Shashi Tharoor.
Rajini Vaidyanathan, the BBC’s South Asia correspondent, even likened Modi rallies to those of US President Donald Trump earlier this year.
The strongman image, a traditional persona adopted by world leaders throughout history, has been deployed to great effect by Modi’s counterparts, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Xi Jinping, China’s president.
Putin has taken advantage of numerous publicity stunts to assert his macho image, famously riding shirtless on horseback while on holiday in Siberia.
- India accused the BBC and Reuters of lying about large-scale protests in Kashmir, even though they were recorded on video
- The phone and internet blackout in Kashmir is so total that locals reportedly don’t know India rewrote their constitution
- Pakistan cuts off all trade with India after it abruptly revoked Kashmir’s quasi-independence and cut off the internet