Thursday, 1 September 2016

Saviours of democracy and secularism in India


(This article was written after the Dari incident last year. The issue raised are always relevant. The proclaimed intellectuals, from Amartya Sen to Aamir Khan, remained silent when innocent persons were massacred in Dacca on July 4, 2016.)




They are preferred by intellectuals
Even after thousands of years of civilisation during which numerous saintly persons like Buddha, Christ and Gandhi preached nonviolence and tolerance, humans have remained biggest enemies of their own species. They have been killing each other on all sorts of pretexts, for gains ranging from purely temporal to what is claimed to be spiritual or religious. Not just strangers, even closely known persons and blood relations have been killing each other. Perhaps, the human DNA, not very much different from the DNA of many other species, evolved over millions of years to provide for ‘murderous genes’ for survival has not changed much. No geneticist can tell us when such ‘murderous genes’ would become dysfunctional and disappear in the human race. (Please do not misunderstand me. I am not referring to any individual’s DNA.)

Notwithstanding presence of ‘murderous genes’ in human race, there are always exceptions who get disturbed by violence. I think, such persons have been blessed by nature. By God, you may say if you prefer to use this term. Their DNA is different.  It is good for the society. It is good for the civilisation.

The latest example is the return of literary awards by writers. They say it is their way to register their protest against some ugly incidents in the recent past, from the murder of scholar M. M. Kalburgi on August 30 to the murder of a very common person known as Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri on September 28.

The history of India is also history of communal violence. Every year hundreds of communal riots, mostly on small scale, take place in different parts of the country, mostly in certain pockets though. Sometimes, riots result in killing of persons on both sides of the religious divide, sometimes in killing of persons of one particular community. Since 1946, there have been 10 very serious communal riots in the country. The list does not include communal riots at the time of partition in 1947. The last most violent communal riot took place in Muzaffarnagar, UP, in 2013 in which  at least 48 persons, Hindus as well as Muslims, were killed.

Every such incident is a blot on civilisation and must be condemned. The writers, intellectuals, politicians, social activists and ordinary persons, all have every right to protest against violence and social injustice. However, the million dollar question is, why do our intellectuals and politicians register their protest only selectively? Is their DNA choosy? Does anyone remember name of any intellectual returning his award in protest against massacre of thousands of Sikhs after Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 or after communal riots in Assam in July 2012 in which more than 80 people were killed and more than 1 lakh had to take shelter in relief camps?

Killing of humans by humans on the religious grounds is not the only crime. History of independent India is also full of incidents of crime committed in the name of saving the country and in the name of social justice.

In June 1975, Mrs. Indira Gandhi imposed dictatorship in the name of saving democracy but actually to save herself and her dynasty. She kept thousands of persons including several writers and journalists perceived as her opponents in jail without trial. How many literary figures returned their awards to Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s government? Mrs. Gandhi had arrogantly announced, “Not a dog barked.” Even the performance of the Supreme Court, in the words of Soli Sorabjee, was deplorable. Today, almost all the newspapers and TV channels are vying with each other to debate lynching of an innocent man in Dadri. After the Emergency was declared by Mrs. Gandhi in 1975, some 50 newspaper editors gathered together and marched to her house, not to protest against murder of democracy, but to tell her that censorship was not strict enough to rein ‘counter-revolutionaries’.

When V.P. Singh ‘Mandalised’ Indian politics that resulted in several deaths, no intellectual stood up to tell the rulers that their policy of ‘divide and rule’ was worse than the ‘divide and rule’ policy of the British government.  

The instances given earlier do not cover the Indian intelligentsia with any glory. Today, on the Dadri issue, the so-called intellectuals are very much in the company of Laloos and Owaisies. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is not off the mark when he asks whether the protest against lynching of a man at Dadri ‘is real or a manufactured one.’  

In India one cannot be an intellectual or secular unless he/she condemns BJP and Narendra Modi. That’s why I say that the intellectuals are very much in the company of Laloos and Owaisies.

The protests by literary figures, almost all of whom have faded from public memory, would serve no purpose. Those who indulge in crimes against fellow humans may not even be aware of what these worthies are doing. No government in any democratic country can stop every murder in the country. Every government has to face sudden outburst of communal violence. It is most unfortunate that we have also example of government of the day giving free hand to killers, as the Rajeev Gandhi government did in 1984. What the government can do and must do is to apprehend the culprits and get them suitably punished for their crime. But the punishment is in the hands of the courts which convince us that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.

If the intellectuals  are really worried about the society, there are several burning issues which need their intervention. India is home to one third of the hungry in the world. More than 194 million Indians are starving. India is home to one third of malnourished children in the world. About one fourth of under-five deaths are in India. I will consider a person truly intellectual if he tells the government that ‘please do not waste money on award functions, in fact on any such function, when millions of our countrymen are starving.’ 

I may be criticised for saying something which is not practical but on the Dadri issue I do not find the so-called intellectuals very much different from Laloos and Owasies. Laloos and Owasies are also very 'angry'. All of them have their own reasons.

Devendra Narain
October 15, 2015