OpinionsIntolerance in India: A Propaganda or Reality!- I

Intolerance in India: A Propaganda or Reality!- I



By Dr. Jaipal Singh

(This article first appeared in Boloji.com – a portal dealing with on current affairs, social ethos, parenting, poetry, and a study of the diversity of India. We are reproducing it in sequence of three for information of our readers)

The Jinn of intolerance which was last set loose in 2015 after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India in the NDA Government in May 2014, was corked back in the bottle but not before taking a heavy toll in terms of looming controversy, disparage and communal disharmony. The omen shows that the Jinn is eager to come out again and, with some individuals and groups appearing eager to set it loose now that the next General Elections are soon due in a few months' time. The strange paradox of the Indian nationality is that the pseudo-secular and pseudo-liberal individuals camouflaged as true secularists and liberals play this dirty game to earn name and fame, some religious communities and groups earn dividends, the political parties actually harvest the crop while the common man bears the brunt and loss.
In 2015, it had started with a few isolated communal incidents but the real spark was the Bollywood actor Aamir Khan's comments during a journalism awards ceremony on rising intolerance in India when he said that that he was “alarmed” at the rise in acts of intolerance in the “last six to eight months” in India, adding that his wife Kiran Rao had even suggested leaving the country. On one hand, he was trolled with a barrage of criticism and insults on social media; on the other hand, he was joined and supported by a section of politicians, filmmakers, writers, scientists, artists and others turning out against the ruling dispensation in the country. This climaxed into the opposition led agitation to discredit the Central Government and several awards being selectively returned mainly citing rising intolerance in the country. Two cases quoted at the time were the Dadri lynching in Ghaziabad, UP linked with the cow slaughter and beef-eating and the assassination of the scholar and writer MM Kalburgi by two unknown assailants posing as students.
The net outcome of the events was that the country and present political regime received adverse publicity and flak nationally and internationally. As many as thirty-nine novelists, essayists, playwrights and poets had returned their Sahitya Akademi awards citing that the Akademi “kept silent” when their freedom of expression was “under attack” in the backdrop of the murder of the fellow writer Kalburgi and the “communal” atmosphere in the country following the Dadri lynching. These killings were linked by them to right-wing activists and organizations though the later investigation did not establish this. Certain groups were known to oppose the deceased writer for his criticism to the founder of Lingayat Religion and idol worship in South, and allegedly he was involved in some property dispute too. Later, the Hindi poet VP Tiwari, who was also the president of the Sahitya Akademi from 2013 to 2018, blew the lid off the Award Wapsi movement, stating that it was a politically motivated campaign organized by Marxist-leaning writers to defame the Modi government in the run-up to the Bihar Assembly election, and he indeed lost election. Tiwari even cited exchanged text messages, letters etc in support of his claim.
Unfortunately, this is the stark reality in India: many award winning writers, artists, players etc. have political leanings and ideologies, earn name and fame under the patronage of their political mentors and perhaps return the favour back when so required. Pronounced intellectuals and liberals have their own influence on the contemporary society through their role and contribution to the arts, literature and other fields, and exercise a vast influence as common people largely take them as unbiased and accomplished torchbearers. Then there is no dearth of individuals, organizations and communities which on one hand constantly pose as if they are being victimized while simultaneously engage with anti-India and anti-government campaign.
What is the Recent Controversy About?
Naseeruddin Shah is a noted and accomplished film and stage actor who has been equally successful in the Indian parallel and commercial cinema during the last five decades. The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan awards for his contributions to Indian cinema and Indian audience have always endorsed and appreciated his work without any discrimination. Few days back, he entered into an ironical debate on social media on 18 December hitting currently the most popular and successful cricketer Virat Kohli, simultaneously adding a jibe that he had no intention of leaving the country:
“Virat K is not only the 's best batsman but also the world's worst behaved player. His cricketing brilliance pales beside his arrogance and bad manners. And I have no intention of leaving the country by the way.”
It is not clear what was the dire need or compulsion for this unsolicited remark when the Indian captain and lead batsman is engaged with Aussies midway through the Team's Australia tour and was it really necessary to make it more provocative by adding salt “…have no intention of leaving the country by the way.” It is unbelievable that Shah, if he has little interest in the game, would not be aware of the mind game and pressure tactics that Australian players traditionally employ inside and outside field against the rival team as well as Virat's matching skill, responses and fan-following as also the popularity of cricket in India. One may ponder either way about Shah's intent but for sure, it neither worked nor generated enough interest or heat in the media. Notwithstanding, the din of controversy had not died down and Shah shot yet another salvo triggering a far more contentious debate on 20 December.
Karwan-e-Mohabbat, an alleged movement claiming chronicling hate crimes in the country, uploaded a short video wherein Shah is seen talking as under:
“I feel anxious for my children because tomorrow if a mob surrounds them and asks them whether they are Hindu or Muslim, they will have no answer… The poison has spread; it will be very difficult to put this genie back into the bottle… There's complete freedom to take the law into one's own hands. In some areas we see the killing of a cow receiving more importance than the lynching of a police officer… These matters do not scare me; they make me angry. And I want that every right-thinking person should feel angry, not scared. This is our home; who dares to evict us from here?”
(Relevant text translated from spoken Hindi/Urdu)
Shah's outburst was apparently in response to a recent incident in Bulandshahr, UP wherein after recovering cow carcasses in the nearby field, the agitated villagers gathered to protest against the illegal cow slaughter on 3 December 2018. The agitation escalated in riot leading to on the spot death of a police officer and a civilian youth. The issue attracted more publicity and controversy after it was politicized through the intervention of the opposition parties. Investigation revealed a far greater conspiracy of inciting communal violence in the area and several people have been identified and arrested from both the communities for the murder of the police officer and cow slaughter.
As anticipated, the Hornet's nest stirred up by Shah has generated sharp reaction from politicians as well as common people. While the principal opposition party was prompt to endorse and support Shah's remarks, some leaders in the ruling dispensation reacted by calling it unnecessary and motivated. A senior Producer and Director from Bollywood said that Shah has spoken his heart and he has not said anything wrong. A prominent ruling party leader retorted that Shah has also joined the gang in slandering the country where 80% Hindus gave him celebrity status never questioning or caring about his religion. He earned name, fame and wealth but now has joined the conspiracy to slander the country. It is true that none in the country has ever questioned his home or threatened him to evict from where he stands.
Shah's current anger or fear reminds me of an episode in July 2015 when he actively pursued and signed a mercy petition to the President of India for Yakub Menon who was convicted and sentenced death penalty for his role and participation in Mumbai blasts of 1993 which claimed 257 lives and 713 injuries of innocent civilians on a single day. His death penalty was upheld by the highest court of India after due hearing of his appeal and subsequent review petition. The mastermind of this terrorist attack was Dawood Abraham and his accomplices Memon brothers actually facilitated and executed the terror plan. The mercy petition was signed and moved by some retired judges, leaders/sitting MPs of the left and left-centric political parties, members of the legal community, intellectuals, human rights activists and cinema artists like Naseeruddin Shah and Mahesh Bhatt, arguing finesses of legal jargon and outlets in Memon's favour. After the mercy petition was rejected by the President, a 3-judges Supreme Court bench was made to hear a fresh appeal after the mid-night by the same activists before Memon's hanging although earlier during the day the same bench had already heard and dismissed the appeal.
There was not even an iota of doubt about the involvement of Yakub Memon in the conspiracy and execution of the crime as also his continued contact and cooperation with the Pakistani ISI till July 1994 yet his sympathizers were more enamored with his conduct and cooperation with the investigating agencies after his arrest. Ironically, even some eminent people associated with judiciary also tend to forget or ignore that the judgment about the quantum of punishment of a convict is based on the sustained evidences, gravity and circumstances of the crime and not merely the conduct of the cornered accused. Later his death was publicized as a political hanging by the same people. When the heart of such secularists, liberals and intellectuals throbs for people like Memon, who will stand and wipe tears of a thousand families of thus died and injured? Also people like Shah do not appear afraid or angry with those inflicting terror on the nation but get agitated with stray events of crimes elsewhere to blame the nation and particular political dispensation.
Incidentally, the coveted national award of the Padma Bhushan was bestowed on him in 2003 by the government of the same political party which is indirectly being targeted by him now on the election eve. His real intent in raising aforesaid controversies is still not clear as some celebrities and influential people do it just to hog limelight while others to further the interests of their ideology or in support of favourite social or political dispensation. In the instant case, murder of a police officer was involved and it is well known that the police and security forces handle such cases with utmost vigour and sometimes with vengeance. Immediate action was taken against the accused of the alleged murder leading to several arrests and, as it appears, an in-depth investigation has pointed a conspiracy in cow-slaughter leading to arrest of more suspects. In such a scenario, the locus standi of Shah itself is questionable when he makes allegation “killing of a cow is receiving more importance than the lynching of a police officer.”
To be Continued……..

(The Author is retired ICS officer having varied interests in , literature, art and . He also had a brief stint as a Lecturer in a post graduate institution. Currently, he is engaged in Advisor capacity with a Central Autonomous Body and a Public Enterprise.)


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