Democracy blackened

By Vikas Khanna

New Delhi, Oct.13 (ANI): It was a black day for India on Monday. Being a true Indian, my head hung in shame. Lumpen elements not only blackened the face of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ideologue Sudheendra Kulkarni, but also, the soul of India.

Is hosting the launch of book launch authored by Pakistan’s former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri such a sacrilegious act, that Kulkarni should have been be publicly abused and humiliated?

Every true Indian should stand up against such forces that are out to destroy the social fabric of the country.

What is more shocking is the comment made by Shiv Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut? If this can be described by him as a “soft” attack, then will Mr. Raut enlighten us by explaining what does he mean by a “hard” or “strong” attack?

In a way, he has issued a veiled threat to Kulkarni and other like-minded forces. The Sena says that it opposes any engagement with Pakistan as long as it supports terror. Will it then dare to blacken the face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had invited his Pakistani counterpart (Nawaz Sharif) to New Delhi for his swearing-in in May 2014, and later, held talks with him in the Russian city of Ufa? Was Pakistan not supporting the terror then? What do you say, Mr. Raut?

Mr. Raut would do well to remember that elements in Pakistan have been fomenting trouble in India since eighties. They have used terrorism as an effective tool to bleed India. In fact, the entire world is aware of it, and it would be naive to believe that Pakistan would, on its own, stop sponsoring terror.

India will need to talk to Pakistan and exert international pressure on it. The three wars that both nations have fought have not brought about any change in mindsets. There is no other option but to talk to our neighbour, no matter, how it behaves. As former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee rightly said that “you can change friends, but not your neighbours”.

October 12, 2015 would go down in Indian history as one of the blackest Mondays. The ink assault on Kulkarni came barely days after Shiv Sena activists forced the cancellation of a pre-scheduled concert of ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali in Mumbai. Ali has huge fan following not only in Pakistan and India, but across the world. Such acts don’t make us proud, but belittle us, for art and music know no boundaries.

I am glad that Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) is not alive to see the denigration of India for whose freedom he fought his entire life. Sometimes I wonder, would we have been better off under the British! For, our freedom fighters did not struggle for an independent India where intolerance and religious hatred would become the order of the day.

Of late, the assaults and attacks on writers and scholars have increased because they have always believed that they could practice free speech in the independent India. How wrong were and are they? On August 20, 2013, Narendra Dabholkar, founder-president of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, an organisation set up to eradicate superstition, was murdered for campaigning against religious superstition. Exactly a year and six months later, on February 20, 2015, 81-year-old Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Govind Pansare died in a hospital in Mumbai, four days after being fatally shot at by gun-wielding assailants in Kolhapur while out on a morning walk with his wife.

In August 30, 2015, 77-year-old M. M. Kalburgi, the vice chancellor of the Kannada University in Hampi, Karnataka, and a well known academic who was against Hindu idol worship, was gunned down at his residence in Dharwad.

So, the question that arises is where are we headed to? Why can’t there be room for an expression of different viewpoints in a pluralistic society?

Sadly, the state has failed in its responsibility to protect society from these fundamentalist forces who want to implement their own agenda, akin the Taliban.

Several writers have said that Indian culture is increasingly getting Talibanised, and several of them have returned their Sahitya Akademi awards and their number is increasing by the day. But, the state remains unperturbed!

Why have the voices of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Shiv Sena and the Ram Sena, not to speak of the controversial sadhus and sadhvis, become shriller since the present government assumed office? Why have attacks on minorities increased? Why were the comments made by some of these practitioners of hatred politics in the wake of the recent Dadri lynching incident not censored? Why?

While the government of the day talks about economic reforms, development, Make in India and what not, then why can’t it rein in its ministers or parties with whom it shares power, who/which indulge in loose talk? Can we dream of a modern India where one does not have the freedom to speak, can’t eat what one feels like or can’t dress comfortably? If this is the idea of modern India, then, god help us?

The United Nations has taken note of attacks on minorities? U.S. President Barack Obama ticked off India during his last visit to New Delhi. But the government has maintained a studied silence; forget about reining in such fringe elements. Should then it be construed that such forces have the tacit approval of the powers that be? Welcome to the new India!

Vikas Khanna is a senior journalist. The views expressed in this article are his own. (ANI)

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