BJP's politics, hate, militant intolerance insulting India

How will our country confront this?

 |  4-minute read |   03-02-2016
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Remembering Mahatma Gandhi on January 30 has become an empty formality of laying wreaths and two-minute silences. Between the UN and India we celebrate so many "days" in our calendar - each has become an insignificant ritual with speeches.


For me, there will always be two Gandhis: The personal Gandhi who was difficult, smoothly autocratic, and took control of people’s lives - including benefactors like Hermann Kallenbach and Madeleine Slade; and the political strategist who changed the face of the Independence movement.

Suppose, I ask, I confronted Gandhi with my views, how would the Mahatma have responded? He might have ignored my words. Or, he would have become angry, but chosen the path of discourse - without hate.

India has drifted into becoming a society primed by hate and violence, which is splitting up the greatest experiment of a multicultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual society the world has ever known.

In 2015 Assam governor PB Acharya said: "Hindustan is for Hindus." He should be removed - along with the partisan governor of Arunachal Pradesh, who is a BJP man. Salman Khurshid and Mani Shankar Aiyar are called unpatriotic. A sedition suit is filed against the Sarbat Khalsa. Journalist Santosh Yadav is arrested under Chhattisgarh’s terror laws.

The story of MF Husain should haunt our conscience. A manipulative abuse of the "law" exiled him. The law can be used and abused. Hindu fundamentalists are past masters at abusing it - just as they demolished Babri Masjid with pride and impunity.

Institutionally, BJP sympathisers are put in places like the Censor Board, which censors a kiss as if it were unknown to humans. FTII in Pune has been drawn into an intransigent deadlock. The BJP government has taken over as many institutions as they can to promote Hindutva.

Mindless censorship, which I have documented in my book Publish and be Damned, has become progressively worse. The Shiva Sena banned Rohinton Mistry’s book, Habib Tanvir’s Charandas Chor was on the hit list in Madhya Pradesh.

Why silence Jaswant Singh on MA Jinnah, or Joseph Lelyveld on Gandhi, or Wendy Doniger on Hinduism or Jaishree Misra on Rani Jhansi or Vaasanthi on J Jayalalithaa, or the BBC on Nirbhaya?

Films like Sadda Haq on terrorism in Punjab were liberated by the Supreme Court. Censorship is not just governmental, but also social. Films on Sikh leaders in Punjab, or those starring Aamir Khan in Gujarat. My list is huge.


What we are faced with is not censorship, but militant intolerance, which includes not just intimidation but cruelty and murder. At one level we witness moral policing and uncivil interventions (blackening Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face at the release of Pakistani politician Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book).

On another level, uncivil society dispenses humiliation, violence and murder. What shocked the nation was the murder of distinguished rationalist, writer of 80 books and historian MM Kalburgi on August 30, 2015. It was one of those days when a part of India died.

He reminded Lingayats that they were distinct from Hinduism and attacked idolatry and jangama priests. Do we murder people for their views?

Just before that, on August 20, 2013, Narendra Dabholkar was killed. To complete the trilogy of madness, Govind Pansare was murdered on February 20, 2015.

His daughter-in-law thought all these crimes were connected. Within days of Kalburgi’s murder, on August 31, 2015, Bhuvith Shetty of the Bajrang Dal tweeted: "Then it was Ananthamurthy and now MM Kalburgi. Mock Hinduism and die dogs' death. And dear KS Bhagwan you are next.”

Of course, he publicly claimed that the Bajrang Dal was not responsible for the crime.


All this seems to have triggered off what has been called the "intolerance" debate. Intolerance is a mild word for the viciousness that is being celebrated. The return of awards by Sahitya Akademi awardees was right. It is absurdly unjust to say that it was a publicity stunt.

They were targeting the muted Sahitya Akademi for not taking a stand.

Shashi Deshpande quit the Akademi’s committee. But, the return-of-award protests were not only linked to the Sahitya Akademi. Punjabi writer Dalip Kaur Tiwana, the Padma awardee, returned her award, as did eminent scientist PM Bhargava. Why? Because of Narendra Modi and the BJP’s evasive statements and condemnation.

Even Enoch Powell’s "River of Blood" speech in 1968 led to condemnation and expulsion by the Tories. Here, the rivers of blood did flow. The BJP’s politics insults humanity and decency by not fully condemning its fundamentalist supporters.

How will India confront this? Nobody believes India’s polity and society are equipped to deal with all this peacefully or wisely. It is fast becoming a country of communalism, hate and violence. The problem is not just state censorship. The poison is being inducted as a virus by Hindu fundamentalists.

We are troubled by cartoons published abroad, not by what we have become. There has to be space for discourse. Not just rational discourse, but even emotional discourse.

But while anger is a legitimate response, an undercurrent of hate and violence is not.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)


Rajeev Dhavan Rajeev Dhavan

Supreme Court lawyer.

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