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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 15, March 28, 2009

How do We React to Varun’s Outbursts?

Thursday 2 April 2009, by Chandra Sen


Before the country gets into the real election mode, we, secular Indians of all persuasions, have been shocked into silence by the fulminations of young Varun Gandhi. Some veterans, in whose minds his father Sanjay’s deeds during the infamous Emergency still remain fresh, were quick to draw a parallel between the father and the son. However, for all his arbitrary use of extra-constitutional authority antagonising large segments of the people as also veteran political leaders and administrators, Sanjay Gandhi never went on record making such vituperative statements directed at minorities regardless of whatever he had in his mind. That a grandson of Feroze Gandhi, not to speak of Indira Gandhi, and a great grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru could make such unalloyed communal pronouncements (comparable to Guru Golwalkar’s diatribes) was unimaginable. But the reality cannot be obfuscated by any amount of denial or wishful thinking.

As Siddharth Vardarajan succinctly explains in The Hindu,

What the whole of India saw and heard in the flailing of his arms, the hysterical movement of his lips and his coarse, insistent promise to cut and kill Muslims was reality TV stripped of the comforting gauze of distance. “This is not the ‘hand’ (of the Congress), this is the hand of the lotus. It will cut the throats of Muslims after the elections,” he said, using a pejorative that plays on the fact that Muslims are circumcised. We all saw it, heard it and recognised it. That is why the Election Commission rejected Varun Gandhi’s unproven claim that the clips were somehow “doctored” and found him guilty of violation the code of electoral conduct...

He also demonised Muslim names and said Hindus ought to fear encountering Muslims at night. In any democracy worth the name, a politician would be arrested and prosecuted for making such a speech. In a country where such speeches have been used to incite actual violence against Muslims, he would immediately be barred from standing for election. And even if he were able to take refuge under the labyrinthine legal process to postpone the inevitable for several months and years, his party certainly has a moral and political obligation to stop him contesting under its symbol.

And the ML-Update, the weekly newsmagazine of the CPI-ML (Liberation), observes without equivocation:

The Election Commission’s right to advice against fielding a particular candidate may be legally debatable. But that issue apart, the BJP’s open endorsement of Varun’s candidature ends the fiction formerly put out by the BJP that it had ‘distanced’ itself from Varun’s venom. The so-called distinction between the ‘mellowed’ Advani, the ‘mature’ Modi and the ‘newcomer’ Varun stand irrevocably demolished. By defending and fielding Varun, the BJP has proved that the communal fascist words spewed by him are in fact the BJP’s real manifesto.

Whatever Varun subsequently said is immaterial. But even while trying to deny the utterances he purportedly made, the young man went out of his way to emphasise the need to promote the cause of Hindutva and defend Hindus facing threat from ‘others’.

All this goes against the grain of what secularism means for all of us, or, to be precise, what we had been taught in the flames of the freedom struggle by all the stalwarts of the national movement—Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Bose, Maulana Azad, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

Since the BJP has decided to defend the young man to the hilt, Varun Gandhi and the party he represents thus need to be socially ostracised and a befitting reply to such outbursts given in the impending battle of the ballot.

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