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Why is Anupam Kher not defending India?

By Amulya Ganguli
May 30, 2016 16:25 IST
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'The valiant upholder of national honour is strangely silent when African envoys are complaining about the insecurity of blacks in 'tolerant' and 'incredible' India,' says Amulya Ganguli.

Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh meets with African heads of mission during the Africa Day celebration in New Delhi, May 26, 2016. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI

IMAGE: Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh meets with African heads of mission during the Africa Day celebration in New Delhi, May 26, 2016. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI


Where is Anupam Kher when the country needs him most?

Unlike at the time of award wapsi by a section of the secular intelligentsia when the non-resident Kashmiri organised a protest march against the putative anti-nationals in Delhi, the valiant upholder of national honour is strangely silent when the African envoys are complaining about the insecurity of the blacks in 'tolerant' and 'incredible' India.

Only Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma has taken up cudgels on behalf of the country, referring to his own experience of being discouraged to go out on morning and evening walks in South Africa to avoid being attacked.

The ever active Minister of State for External Affairs, V K Singh, has described the attacks on the Africans as 'minor scuffles', including apparently the tragedy of the death of a 23-year-old Congolese.

As is his wont, Singh has again targeted his pet hate objects -- the 'presstitutes' -- accusing the media of playing up the incidents and calling for a probe into their motives.

Amidst all this hullabaloo, Kher is playing deaf and dumb. Yet, he was off like a shot to Srinagar to stand by the students of the National Institute of Technology from the mainland during their stand-off with Kashmiri students after the latter had cheered the Indian cricket team's defeat in the World T-20 semi-final.

On their part, the external affairs and home ministries have understood the gravity of the situation, arranging for special police patrols to ensure the safety of the Africans.

The greater experience of the bureaucrats as well as their non-partisan mindset have told them that it gives the country a bad name if an attempt is made to brush instances of targeted violence under the carpet on the plea that such attacks also take place in other countries.

Failure elsewhere does not justify failure in India, especially when the attacks on blacks reflect a much wider malaise than the inadequacies of the police and encompass a distressing social phenomenon.

It is evidently beyond the capacity of some of the ministers to comprehend the seriousness of the matter. Moreover, there is also apparently an undercurrent of an inferiority complex in the government and in the saffron brotherhood about their ability to run the country.

Hence, the tendency to dismiss signs of dissent as 'manufactured,' as Arun Jaitley did when some recipients of the Sahitya Akademi and other awards returned their awards.

There was no official or political initiative to understand the reasons for the disaffection. Instead, the expression of discontent was seen as political in nature.

A similar mentality is also behind the insensitive reactions of Mahesh Sharma and V K Singh. To them, any criticism, whether by the BJP's opponents or by foreigners is essentially in bad faith and, therefore, has to be summarily dismissed.

The media, too, is a victim of this attitude. The English language press has long been the bete noire of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar because of the belief that Modi is not their favourite, especially after the 2002 Gujarat riots.

This saffron dislike of the media is probably one reason why Modi doesn't address press conferences and prefers a one-sided talk show on the radio.

Ironically, the Chinese, too, have found the media 'too sensitive' for their criticism of a commercial which showed a black man emerging white from a washing machine.

The Indian ad agencies and media cannot be accused of anything so crude. But preference for fair complexion can nevertheless be seen from the matrimonial columns of newspapers and in the ads for fairness creams.

The penchant for fairness can be attributed to the Aryan-Dravidian divide which followed the entry of Aryans from Iran around 1500 BC, which pushed the darker-skinned Dravidians towards the south and resulted in the caste system which is known quite unabashedly as the varna vyavastha or the colour arrangement.

It's a long way from 1500 BC to the 21st century, but the intensity of prejudice against dark-skinned people hasn't died down.

The subject has been further complicated by the Sangh Parivar's refusal to accept the Aryan migration theory on the grounds that India is their original home.

Hence, the Parivar's designation of the Adivasis or original inhabitants as vana-vasis or forest-dwellers.

The migration theory is rejected out of the fear that its validation will make a Hindu as much of an outsider as the Muslim, thereby knocking the bottom out of Savarkar's thesis of India being the punyabhumi (holy land) and pitribhumi (fatherland) of only the Hindus.

Indian history is much more complex than what is taught in the RSS shakhas.

Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs.

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