'While the government must be relentless in its efforts to curb unruly elements to ensure secular harmony and protect its goal of national development,it must not lose the moral high ground by giving in to the antics of the anti-nationalist lobby.'
'They must be countered and relegated to the dustbin of history,' says Vivek Gumaste.
Try as hard as I can to discern an iota of rationality, a whit of fair play and a speck of morality in the welter of intolerance related protests rocking the nation, I fail miserably.
Instead the more I dissect the issue, the more I delve into its intricacies and antecedents the more morally repugnant and logically untenable the whole jamboree appears.
The current campaign led by writers, academics and scientists is not a sincere altruistic attempt to uphold the tenets of human dignity or safeguard their practice. It is a crass rampage of ideological triumphalism that revels in ridiculous hyperbole (comparing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to Islamic State -- courtesy historian Irfan Habib), indulges in inordinate hype, reeks of despicable double standards and smacks of unadulterated bigotry
In the polemics of Indian literati, moral outrage is a selective and arbitrary expression defined not by the degree of depravity but by the identity of the victim, the perpetrator and the reigning government; it carries a distinct anti-Hindu, anti-Bharatiya Janata Party bias.
The muted response by a certain section of the Indian intelligentsia to the ethnic cleansing of Hindus from Kashmir and the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 is a standing testimony to this unabashed differential treatment. Perusal of recent events (listed below) lends further credence to the continuance of this ingrained perfidy.
September 25, 2015: In Yavatmal, Maharashtra, a Hindu police constable, Amol Manohar Badukale standing duty outside a mosque is repeatedly stabbed by a Muslim, Abdul Malik Razzak to the cry of 'Tumhari government beef ban karti hai, toh yeh lo (Your government bans beef, so take this).' The national media fails to acknowledge this incident promptly; weeks later a report surfaces (Indian Express, October 21).
October 9: Prashant Poojary, a 29-year-old flower vendor, involved in a campaign to close illegal slaughter houses is brutally hacked to death by six Muslims in Moodbidri, Karnataka. Again our media scribes fail to deliberately take note. Finally, on October 25 almost 16 days later, the Indian Express runs a report branding the victim as a Bajrang Dal activist as if being a Bajrang dal activist makes him fair prey for decimation.
September 28: In Dadri UP, a Muslim suspected of slaughtering a cow is set upon by a mob and killed. All hell breaks loose instantaneously. The news makes the headline of each and every newspaper, becomes the focus of heated television debates and writers line-up to return their national awards. Till today the saga continues with selected scientists and film personnel jumping on to this bandwagon of manufactured protest.
All three incidents are acts of violent intolerance that are equally horrendous; the quantum of injury is also similar: Two deaths and one near death. Logic and morality would dictate an identical response, yet the reactions are varied: A shrill pandemonium bordering on hysteria in the Dadri case versus a telling silence in the other two.
I would hate to believe that the identity of the victim was the determinant; nevertheless it is the only plausible explanation. Let us face it: Hindu victims are less likely to find sympathy in the warped ideological narrative of this intellectual cabal.
Far more dangerous than a few isolated incidents of hyped up intolerance is what I call the rise of intellectual dishonesty; a language that threatens to turn upside down the traditional paradigm of right and wrong; right and wrong are no longer defined by impartial ethical standards but by the slanted parameters of a twisted secularism in which the Hindu is always the fall guy.
Can proponents of such inequitable values be our moral guardians? This charade must be stopped in its tracks. We need to subscribe to a non-negotiable and universal concept of propriety that is blind to the caste, colour or religion of the victims in order to ensure a truly egalitarian democracy.
Neither can honest moral dissent be dampened by the specifics of the party in power. But our writers beg to differ; their vitriol is reserved for a select few. In 2013 when Narendra Dabholkar, the anti-superstition crusader, was shot dead in broad daylight in Pune, Maharashtra, there was hardly a whimper of protest; not a single writer handed in their awards. The reason: Sonia Gandhi's Congress was the ruling party both in the state and at the center.
Taking victimisation to a new high, this ghastly murder is now being resurrected and clubbed together with the M M Kalburgi case to give it a semblance of a series of atrocities to further impugn the Narendra Modi government; an example of rank skullduggery that defies temporal or logical validity.
There is no denying that the slaying of the Kannada scholar Kalburgi in Dharwad, Karnataka, is a reprehensible act that warrants outright condemnation. However, with the criminal investigation still in its infancy and no definite pointers, the liberal establishment's haste to convict Hindu outfits (and the BJP government by proxy) via a media trial with the reversed injunction that Hindu groups are always guilty unless proven innocent makes mockery of the basic rule of jurisprudence.
Also please explain to me how the BJP government at the Centre is responsible for this murder. As per the Indian Constitution, law and order is exclusively a state responsibility that absolves the BJP of any direct responsibility bar a moral one for these atrocities. It is the Congress state government that is culpable; likewise in the Dadri lynching it is the Samajawadi Party that must be in the dock.
All these instances lead me to conclude that this anti-BJP protest is an ideologically driven witch-hunt sans logic, sans morals and sans evidence; in other words rank bigotry. And this bigotry was in full display when the journalist Rajdeep Sardesai questioned the veteran writer Nayantara Sahagal (Nehru's niece, a Sahitya Akademi Award winner and a ring leader of the 'Crucify BJP project') about her ethical inconsistency. Without offering any reasons or factual corroboration she tersely replied: 'Now there is a Hindutva government at the Centre.'
So we have it right from the horse's mouth. This government is being targeted for not what it did or did not do, but because of the name that it has been branded with. If this is not bigotry, then what is?
India is a vast diverse nation of 1.4 billion people with contrasting ethnicities who inhabit 638,000 villages, 5,100 towns and 380 cities and home to almost every religion in the world.
Therefore when viewed objectively and demographically bereft of ideological baggage, these incidents though unfortunate and unjustifiable are tiny insignificant blips (that have neither increased nor decreased) on an extensive canvas of moderation and lack the capacity to adversely impact the broad narrative of a pluralistic modern India. The inference that intolerance is on the rise is factually untenable.
What irks Modi's detractors is his impeccable performance in his tenure so far. He has stayed away from any controversies, focused on good governance, singularly strived to jump start India's economy and has given much needed direction to a nation.
There have been no large scale riots or terrorist attacks; corruption is on the decline and financial scams are a desiderata.
Therefore a perception of rising intolerance is being manufactured wherein normal aberrations of society are being given a diabolical hue and exaggerated to paint them as harbingers of a dangerous slide into extreme religious fanaticism.
Non-issues have been converted into ugly controversies by hyperbole and distortion; slips of profanity uttered in the heat of an election campaign by low ranking no name functionaries have been given front page billing and advertised as the norm of the party and die-hard historical interpretations of miniscule fringe elements are being posited as the official party line. In short, it is a campaign of unsubstantiated demonisation.
Moreover this protest is not an exercise in constructive engagement to affect a positive outcome. The language of this protest is not dialogue; if it was, instead of sensational resignations and hate filled invectives the writers would have reached out to the government.
The language of this protest is blackmail pure and simple; an arrogant diktat of a privileged clique with an exaggerated sense of entitlement that subscribes to the motto: 'It's my way or the highway.'
So blinkered is this vendetta that even national interest is being sacrificed; the Digital India project is being undermined and no stone is being left unturned to batter the government's image to hamper the increasing foreign capital inflows. Such authoritarian and destructive tendencies cannot be allowed to prevail.
Despite the hoopla the government has not been tardy in its response. On October 1, the ministry of home affairs sought a report on the Dadri incident from the state government of Uttar Pradesh and on October 5 issued the following statement: 'The home ministry today issued an advisory to state governments stating that there is zero tolerance for any attempt to weaken the secular fabric of the nation and exploiting religious emotions or sentiments. MHA has called on the states to take strictest action as per law against such elements without any exception whatsoever.'
The BJP has nothing to be apologetic about. The claim of intolerance is hyped and if any intolerance does exist it cannot be attributed to the government. The wider nationalist sentiment which has never advocated violence or intolerance cannot be bracketed with lumpen fringe elements (who still remain the fringe and not the core) and any effort to do so must be pushed back forcefully.
While the government must be relentless in its efforts to curb unruly elements to ensure secular harmony and protect its goal of national development,it must not lose the moral high ground by giving in to the antics of the anti-nationalist lobby. They must be countered and relegated to the dustbin of history with facts and logic if India is to progress.
For too long have they gotten away with their malicious and disruptive shenanigans. It is time to call their bluff, once and for all.
IMAGE: Filmmakers, from left Kirti Nakhwa, Harshavardhan Kulkarni, Nishta Jain, Dibakar Banerjee, Anand Patwardhan at a press conference returning their National Awards in protest against the government. Photograph: Mitesh Bhuvad /PTI