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Bullying intellectuals, submissive BJP

By Ravi Shanker Kapoor
August 17, 2012 20:25 IST
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It is time those who claim to champion the cause of Hindus became a little more assertive and took on the peddlers of moral equivalence and exposed their lies, says Ravi Shanker Kapoor.

The most important part of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L K  Advani's speech in Parliament on August 8 was not in which he used the word "illegitimate" -- and withdrew it after Congress president Sonia Gandhi vehemently protested --  but the one in which he bowed to the diktats of political correctness. He said, "The violence in Assam should not be seen as a communal incident. Let no one regard it as a Hindu-versus-Muslim affair or a tribal-versus-non-tribal one. The basic issue is between Indians and the infiltrators from across the border."

His statement is emblematic of the BJP's acceptance and internalisation of the Left-liberal narrative that reduces all issues to the vacuous and the trite. Always mouth platitudes, never discuss the real issues, and never talk about religion -- these are some of the commandments any participant in public debate has to adhere to. Decades of haranguing (accompanied with rebuke by liberal intellectuals that it is 'communal', bigoted, etc.) dished out to the saffron party has ensured that it has fallen in line. So, even the tallest BJP leader refuses to call the present crisis in Assam as "a Hindu-versus-Muslim affair," despite the fact that it is nothing but a Hindu-Muslim matter.

That the continuous inflow of Bangladeshi Muslims in Assam is at the heart of the disturbances in the eastern state is a truism for all those who rely on empirical evidence, commonsense, and reason; it requires a very high degree of intellectualism to blind oneself to the ugly realities occasioned by massive infiltration. Unfortunately, such intellectualism pervades the higher echelons of the opinion making establishment. We have legions of duplicitous 'experts,' media Brahmins, professional radicals, and garrulous academics who are blind to such realities and who situate their blindness in outlandish theories.

If you hurl the charge of racism at any Dutch person, "he will give you whatever you want," wrote Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-Dutch author and politician who has critically examined Islam. In India, the dreaded words are 'communalism', 'hate speech', 'hate language', etc.: you just have to utter these terms to tame any public intellectual. BJP members, in particular, are terrified of these verbal bombs. They start waxing eloquent about their 'secular' credentials, they point out that they are not against the Muslims. They lose their concentration and the track of argumentation; they also usually lose the argument.

Consider the case of BJP MP Tarun Vijay. A few months ago, he was participating in a television talk show discussing the plight of Rinkal Kumari, the girl who was abducted, forcible married, and converted to Islam and in whose case the Pakistan Supreme Court ordered that she be sent to her 'husband.' Vijay said, "What was the alternative before Rinkal Kumari? To accept, to kneel before those who raped her continuously for days? She was a girl who told the Supreme Court that she will give her life but never convert to Islam because she loves her Hindu religion most. Pakistan has become a huge torture cell for Hindus because of the religious hatred… I have been visiting Pakistan many times… I had seen how Hindu women are too afraid to even wear mangalsutra. And the Hindu priest in the Karachi Shiva temple and Hanuman temple, they support the half-scull Muslim caps to protect their identity. And they do aarti and pooja with that half Islamic cap..."

No sooner had he finished the statement than a panelist pounced on him, saying that "the kind of hate language that you are using is in fact responsible for the kind of prejudice that is so entrenched in both our countries." By the way, the panelist was an Indian, not a Pakistani.

Now, comparison between India and Pakistan is a horrendous instance of moral equivalence: on the one hand, there is a secular republic where the rights of minorities are constitutionally defined and politically protected, where the minorities (except the Muslims) do better than the majority community in terms of human development indices; and, on the other, there is an Islamic state, which is doctrinally, foundationally, constitutionally, politically, culturally, and religiously anti-minority. Yet, the liberal panelist equated the two countries and maliciously accused Vijay of using hate language.

And what did Vijay do? Did he demolish the obnoxious arguments? No, he meekly surrendered and hid behind we-are-all-brothers-and-sisters claptrap. "I never used the hate language. In fact, I have been frequently visiting Pakistan and, perhaps, I would be having more friends in Pakistan than… [the fellow panelist] would have."

So, you see, he is a regular secular, liberal guy! In fact, he is more secular than the fellow panelist, if having a large number of Pakistanis as friends can be a yardstick of secularism.

BJP leaders have to acknowledge the fact that there would always be demands on them to bend, to accommodate more of the liberal drivel: the more you appease them, the more aggressive they become. Vijay did not say anything offensive, yet he was hauled over the coals. More recently, Advani very timidly raised the subject of infiltration by Bangladeshis; he even made it a non-religious matter. But the liberal establishment is not placated. Congress leader Digvijay Singh called Advani's comments as "ill-timed." Singh went on to say that Advani's comments "are like adding fuel to the fire."

It is time those who claim to champion the cause of Hindus became a little more assertive and took on the peddlers of moral equivalence and exposed their lies. This is possible only if they have the courage to speak the truth. Satyamev Jayate, after all, is more than a television showed anchored by a film star; it's our national motto.

The author is a freelance journalist
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