- Discovery Channel India/YouTube
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared on an episode of “Man vs. Wild” alongside the survivalist Bear Grylls on Monday night.
- The episode appears to be an untimely publicity stunt as the Indian government limits 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.
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi 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.
On 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 like 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 there have been offered satellite phones for 100,000 rupees ($1,400) so they can keep reporting.
This crackdown came after the Indian government earlier this month removed a constitutional provision that 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 think that India’s move would allow Indian Hindus to alter the state’s ethnic and religious makeup.
- Mukesh Gupta/Reuters
Indian security forces have also sent thousands more troops to the region, 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 hospitals because of faulty phone lines and the police blocking ambulances from moving around.
The Guardian described 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 were stockpiling medicine and food to prepare for further disruptions amid the Eid al-Adha festival 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 the UN for help to mediate the Kashmir crisis, while India has maintained that this is a regional issue.
- REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
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 and 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 2014, India’s Economic Times reported last year.
The BJP also hires hundreds of thousands of people to recruit voters via phone and door knocks, ultimately helping build “the most extraordinary personality cult in modern Indian history,” the Indian politician and prominent Modi critic Shashi Tharoor said.
And earlier this year, Rajini Vaidyanathan, the BBC’s South Asia correspondent, even likened Modi rallies to those of US President Donald Trump.
The strongman image, a persona adopted by world leaders throughout history, has been deployed to great effect by Modi’s counterparts Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Putin has taken advantage of numerous publicity stunts to assert his macho image, famously riding shirtless on horseback while on holiday in Siberia.
Bear Grylls’ press team has yet to respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.