The Aug. 12 episode of Man Vs. Wild is not must-watch TV for some.
Host Bear Grylls has been touting the episode featuring Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, tweeting that people around the world will “get to see the unknown side of” the leader as he “ventures into the Indian wildness to create awareness about animal conservation & environmental change.” He even called it an “honour” to have the politician on the show. However, critics are having a hard time seeing Modi heralded as a great conservationist.
People across 180 countries will get to see the unknown side of PM @narendramodi as he ventures into Indian wilderness to create awareness about animal conservation & environmental change. Catch Man Vs Wild with PM Modi @DiscoveryIN on August 12 @ 9 pm. #PMModionDiscovery pic.twitter.com/MW2E6aMleE— Bear Grylls (@BearGrylls) July 29, 2019
A long thread by Kavita Krishnan, an activist, feminist and journalist who has been outspoken about the leader, who is a far-right Hindu nationalist, listed reasons why the show “should have researched” before having Modi as a guest. The first post in the thread has more than 2,700 likes and 1,500 retweets.
Dear @BearGrylls - here's a thread on Modi & forests/environment. You should've researched this stuff, btw, before letting your show become part of Modi's image building agenda.— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) July 29, 2019
Examples included that Modi’s government allowed 170,000 acres of forest in Central India to be destroyed.
Modi Govt has given Modi crony Adani license to mine & destroy 170,000 hectares of dense forests in Central India. By amplifying his unverified claims of having lived in forests, you're helping him cover this up https://t.co/I3E1Pzx8ug— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) July 29, 2019
It also pointed to a BBC article about Modi-backed pal Gautam Adanis’s controversial coal mine project in Australia, which critics have said is “destroying” the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Adani, a funder & backer of Modi's Islamophobic genocide for over a decade, is now backed by Modi in destroying the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, as this BBC report details https://t.co/TqLyXZzB9F— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) July 29, 2019
This article, from India environmental journal Down to Earth details more of the Modi administration’s “assaults” on the environment.
In the comments, people shared other stories debunking Modi as a champion for the planet.
Another critic compared the show spotlighting Modi as a conservationist to “inviting [Donald] Trump to a show on climate change.”
@BearGrylls and @Discovery if your aim was to gain eyeballs for your show, you did well, but promoting #Modi as a conservationist is like inviting #Trump to a show on #ClimateChange https://t.co/vR8UGEeVeT— Jumana Naguthanawala (@JumanaMN) July 30, 2019
Here are of the other reactions to Modi being on Man vs. Wild, including a call to boycott the episode:
Not sure if you are aware of the state the environment and the wildlife is in India. And if you are aware then you are nothing but another sycophant. Off my TV menu from now!!— Syed Usman (@Sydusm) July 29, 2019
Dear @BearGrylls how droll that you got to shoot an episode in the "wilderness" of the boutique Corbett park.— Shomona Khanna (@alterlaw) July 30, 2019
We will console ourselves by watching reruns of your show when all our forests, our indigenous peoples, and our biodiversity have been gobbled up by your new BFF.
Sadly, this wasn't meant as a joke. @Discovery @BearGrylls - Really bad move. Who will you host for a great wilderness adventure next? Assad? Putin? Trump? Boycott Discovery Channel. #BoycottDiscoveryChannel @FriedrichPieter @ashoswai @cjwerleman @Shudraism https://t.co/ExzNPaPRgA— Christine Gralow (@realchrissyg) July 29, 2019
Didn't expect this from you Bear Grylls.— Umar Farooq (@Umarstar) July 30, 2019
Others accused Krishnan of having her “own agenda.” However, there was criticism well beyond her post, as noted above.
Modi, whose government has controversially been trying to deport some 40,000 Muslims, was among those honoured with the U.N.’s Champions of the Earth Award last year. His “pioneering work” in taking “environmental action” was cited, including his pledge to eliminate all single-use plastic in India by 2022.
In the trailer for the Discovery episode, Grylls and Modi go rafting and make a spear with the host saying at one point, “You are the most important man in India. My job is to keep you alive.”
The British adventurer, who has appeared on the show since 2006, has not publicly responded to the social media criticism yet — nor has the show.
Grylls has shared the screen with politicians before. Former President Barack Obama appeared on Running Wild With Bear Grylls in 2014.
By Suzy Byrne, Editor, Yahoo Entertainment