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Mainstream, VOL LII No 50, December 6, 2014

Divisive Politics and Attack on Secular Polity

Sunday 7 December 2014


Recently BJP President Amit Shah told a party rally at Kolkata that the leadership of the Trinamul Congress was involved in the Khagragarh (Burdwan) blast and that the Saradha chit fund scam money had been sent to Bangladesh to finance terror activities in West Bengal. On Wednesday (December 3, 2014) the Union Minister of State for Personnel, Jitendra Singh, told the Lok Sabha in a written reply that the investigations being carried on by the Central probe agencies had not, so far, found any evidence of a link between the Saradha scam money and the Burdwan blast. Cornered by the TMC MPs, who demanded that Shah tender an unconditional apology for his baseless allegation, the BJP responded by claiming that the probe had not given any clean chit to the TMC either. The probe was still continuing, the BJP members pointed out.

True enough, the probe is continuing. Why then did the BJP President make a public allegation of involvement of the TMC in the blast? Jehadi terror is too serious a threat to the country to be used as a convenient stick to beat one’s opponents with. The seniormost leader of the organisational wing of the party that rules India today should speak with a far greater sense of responsibility and transcend his political identity. The jehadi threat from across the border has assumed such serious proportions now that even the United States lately warned Pakistan about terror activities being conducted from its soil.

In Jammu and Kashmir, where State Assembly polls are being held in stages, intermittent shelling by the Pakistani Army along the border is going on to facilitate the infiltration of armed terrorist. The terrorist threat has to be met unitedly. In fact, a national threat like terrorism demands national unity in the same way that a foreign aggression does. Unity against terrorism, irrespective of political differences, is the need of the hour, not divisive politics. Unfortunately, it seems that six months into power, the BJP is still to realise that it rules India and is not an Opposition party. It can no longer afford to indulge in communal and divisive politics.

The public speech by the Union Minister of State, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, that there were two classes of people—those born of Ram (ramzadon, a word she coined apparently as an antonym) and those illegitimately born (haramzadon)—was not only in bad taste, it was outrageous for any political leader, far less a Union Minister. She has been roundly condemned by all parties, except the BJP, which took the absurd plea that as she was new to Parliament she had made a mistake. Also that after she had tendered an apology, the matter should be treated as closed.

First, one does not have to be a Member of Parliament to know that abusive language is impermissible in any decent and civilised society. Secondly, she had used the abusive word not in the House but outside it at a public rally. Thirdly, an apology in such a case is patently inadequate. To treat the matter as “closed” after a mere apology will amount to condonation and set an extremely bad precedent for the future.

The PM, who was missing from both Houses on previous days, came to Parliament on Thursday (December 4) and made statement on the issue. He referred to the Sadhvi’s apology and maintained that she had already said she was sorry if she had hurt the sentiments of any person, and the matter should rest at that. What was missing from his statement was a categoric assertion that such pronouncements should not be allowed to be made in future and if they were made strong deterrent action would be taken. This was totally at variance from what the Opposition leaders have been saying: her admission of guilt was enough to conclude that she had violated the oath she had taken in the name of the Constitution; and thus her presence in the Council of Ministers had become untenable—so she must tender her resignation either voluntarily or face the ignominy of being sacked by the PM. There was no other option left for the head of the government but to take that step.

[In this connection it must also be pointed out that what Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said at a rally in Jalpaiguri in North Bengal on Wednesday falls in almost the same category as that of the Sadhvi’s utterances and was definitely unbecoming of a CM.]

But it is not enough to condemn an individual for his or her offending statements. One has to go into the root of such behaviour. What the Sadhvi had said was reflective of the training she received and the values that were inculcated in her by her party that raised her as a political activist. There are many more who subscribe to that philosophy of hatred and support the divisive and communal politics of venom-spitting (as was seen 22 years ago when the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya was demolished by the Sangh Parivar hoodlums around this time that is, on December 6, 1992). What the Minister said is known. But what others of her ilk are saying day in and day out outside the glare of publicity and the atmosphere of hatred they are creating cannot be ignored either.

Not to be left behind in this competitive communalism, a little known ‘leader’ of the Hindu Mahasabha, an organisation that presently exists only on paper, has made certain highly abhorrent remarks about women, remarks that betray a mindset not very different from that of the Taliban who tried—but failed—to kill Malala Yusafzai of Pakistan for boldly asserting the right of women to education. This gentleman has sought to ban coeducation in schools and colleges, impose a dress code on girls that he thinks is necessary for not ‘exciting’ menfolk, and debar women from using mobile phones.

The more such people occupy positions of power and authority, the more the danger they will pose to our secular polity and take the country backward.

December 4 B.D.G.

[As we go to press, news has come that legal luminary and retired Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, a leading crusader for human rights and civil liberties, passed away on December 4 afternoon. We offer our sincere homage to his abiding memory. — Editor ]

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