-- Thomas Jefferson.
Gradually an unprecedented streak undoing the constitutional spiritthrough executive orders is gaining ground in the corridors of power for the sake of immediate populism and political gain. This is not only against the egalitarian norms of inclusiveness and accommodation but is leading dangerously to further and bitter fragmentation of polity.
This is also supported (as a unintentional result) by peoples' inertia in asserting their rights and pushing for corrections in government policies. Except for the sponsored and hired crowds, there is hardly a visible spontaneous demonstration on issues affecting civil life. More than 17,000 farmers committed suicide in 2006 alone, but not a single district, leave aside a state showed its anger through any bandh or silent procession. Lethargy on the civil front is a sign of an imminent upheaval that erupts with a suddenness of a pouncing tiger. People feel hopeless and cheated; hence nothing shakes them or excites to rise and say a big no to the masters of the power games.
They used to do it; India has seen unprecedented movements and agitations in the past that authored a new course of public action and constitutional behavior changing the colour of politics forever.
We had mass leaders in political as well as non-political realms enjoying the peoples' unflinching trust. Now the “fast food” culture in the public domain has devoured the element of trust and mutual respect. The language spoken from public platforms has gone down and the credibility of mass organisations in the public eye was never this low. It's impossible for any organisation to appeal for a single important issue that touches their hearts and have a crowd of thousands gathering on its own. It was not so in the Sixties and even in the Seventies. Till the Eighties, bandhs and strikes were spontaneous signs of public dismay and disapproval. Remember the time of Punjab terrorism. Not any longer.
It's because the governance has become insensitive to the public sensibilities and more of a tool to satisfy petty goals and achieve localised ambitions. The pan-Indian outlook is diminishing not only from the political corridors but also from the media houses. Both had been pillars of a wholesome idea called India. Now Bulandshahar, Kochi, Guwahati and Rajkot have become more significant to the news coverage needs and concerns of the movers and shakers because localized sentiments – fashionably interpreted as 'niche markets' bring more votes, money, increased circulation and give a ticket to govern. We have swapped India with ghettoes of our goals miniaturizing the republic's principal nature and cohesiveness. This wholesome idea is quintessentially constructed by an active participation by its constituents. That very element of participation has become invisible.
Maybe it has gone into a shell of disgust and disillusionment suspecting every single public person's credibility. Hence people select their own programmes to see a more credible leader from among them, a more enjoyable and amenable character to admire and trust. It's like avoiding a direct conflict out of utter disregard before the final hour arrives when a credible leader would emerge to offer a window to accumulated angst of the masses.
We celebrate Republic Day, but the contemporary scene of the republic says it all. All the power and money is centralized in the hands of a chosen few – not more than a hundred people controlling the fate of a thousand million commoners calledpraja !
Taslima Nasreen's agony, a shrinking Hindu population and a geographically shrunk India post-1947, the majority being snubbed for being assertive over its civilisational icons, patriots living as refugees and loans, jobs and educational opportunities being doled out on religious criteria – all this is un-republican . A Hindu-Muslim divide is the prerequisite for any secular polity thriving on fragmented minds. If I write anything that affects Hindu sensibilities, it must be construed as 'anti-Muslim' and against minorities without even reading the text!
Indian masses are feeling and sharing the agony of Sarabjit Singh, but not the secular state power which takes pride in entertaining the “pardon Afzal Guru” crowd and losing sleep over Dr Haneef.
The one big step this mighty government of India took from the colonial age precincts of South Block was to request the visiting French President not to honour Taslima on Indian soil.
From the day she wrote Lajja , a wonderfully moving novel on assaults on Hindus in Bangladesh by Islamic fundamentalists, Taslima has become an eyesore to the “secular brigade” and intolerant Muslims. So, anything was used as a tool to harass her in a world largely dominated by men.
The way a state government refused to ensure her security in Kolkata has raised fundamental questions about the state's credentials. This doesn't reflect a republic's ethos. Even Nehru didn't blink before China's serious protests and gave asylum to Dalai Lama and his followers. But these “seculars” of the Left variety who had been agitating on issues like allowing an Israeli satellite to be launched from Indian soil, just to please the Muslim votebank, even if it means compromising with our security with Israel being one of our most trustworthy allies, have shamed the spirit of the republic by standing against a woman writer and organising a brutal dance of death in Nandigram. The ouster of Taslima is a blot on a polity of a society that is otherwise symbolised by the icon of Shakti, the female annihilator of the wicked and restorer of righteousness. That in the land of Shakti, the wicked should be seen winning is a gift of Marx.
Those who were determined to see a woman writer ousted from West Bengal and have her visa canceled for fear of hoodlums and murderers remain silent on the Uttar Pradesh blasts and jihadi assaults on Kashmiri Hindus. They gleefully participated in a ceremony held at Jamia Milia Islamia to honour M F Husain, a painter with a Doctor of Philosophy degree known for selectively painting nudes of Hindu goddesses. This is how politics of secular jihad flourishes. Taslima stands abandoned by all – candlelight demos in her support remain fashionably limited to having their protest registered for the sake of record.
A woman so brave and courageous that she took on hypocritical pen pushers and Mullahs is running helter-skelter amid a thousand million citizens of a democratic republic that boasts of a 5,000-year-old civilisation. None of the secular bravehearts stood up to say ‘Come what may, whether the central government fails in its duty or the Communists in Bengal go in hiding on her safety issue, I shall protect her in India, the land of free thought and Vedic wisdom which gave shelter to all the persecuted in the world from Jews and Parsees to the Tibetans’.
For her outspokenness, the nation's Islamic religious leaders issued a fatwa against Taslima, putting a price on her head. Taslima had to flee from Bangladesh and took refuge in Sweden continuing “to rail against the forces of oppression despite attempts to silence her”. Thus wrote Mathew Kelley in the script of a 27-minute film made on her life and struggles. Another 23-minute film produced by Journeyman Pictures depicts her as a woman writer who has called for more freedom for the women of Bangladesh and consequently had a fatwa issued for her arrest and/or death. Taslima received the Sakharov award from the European Parliament and even West Bengal's Left Front government presented her the Ananda award before Muslims objected to her writings.
You have to be very special while dealing with issues concerning Muslims. It raises inconvenient questions too. Inconvenient to the “seculars”, human rightists, peacemakers and “uncompromising” voices of freedom and equal opportunities and those who “fight” dark forces of obscurantism and oppression, particularly injustices against women.
Question no. one – Would Taslima have been hounded out from West Bengal if she had written against Hindu “communalism” and the atrocities they “perpetrate against minorities”, exactly in the same fashion which has become a signature tune for the Left and secular groups? If Taslima had joined their ranks and agitated against Hindu “lumpens” would she not have been awarded fellowships by Delhi and Kolkata?
Question no. two – Would the Left intellectuals and leaders have kept their conscience at the mercy of jihadi “headhunters” if Taslima was a man? A masculine gender showing off “his” bravado at press conferences and giving a slap for a slap if jihadi “bravehearts”, all men of course, are assaulted in full glare of press cameras and reporters (like happened last year in Hyderabad)? Is being a woman and on top of that a writer, exposing Islamic fundamentalism and atrocities against Hindu women, such a criminal act that Taslima had to be hounded from Kolkata to Jaipur and Jaipur to Delhi and Delhi to nowhere?
Question no three – Wouldn’t Taslima have been considered for a Padma award or a Nehru Memorial Lecture for “communal harmony and international understanding” if she had chosen to lambast the Hindu right and bow her head before the mullahs? Why is that the first requisite to get recognition and comfort in a secular regime?
Faith must be en element to enhance love and tolerance. But if it becomes a principal instrument to hate and divide, there must be something fundamentally wrong with it. Try to revisit it with an inquiring mind. We can't say that issues involving our nation are none of our business. It’s OUR nation. We have got to take ownership and say no to everything that goes against our grain. Peoples' inaction is a dangerous signal. Maybe a storm is accumulating and waiting to erupt unannounced.