It’s in the air
The self-styled protectors of cows and other rightwing fringe elements appear to be gaining strength from the current atmosphere which is promoting a distorted version of nationalism with scant regard for the Constitution.
The unusual incident of an active member of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), which rules the country, being lynched to death by fraternal members of his party has left many shocked.
It will go down as the first case of murder in the two decade old violent campaign by self-styled vigilantes to stop cow slaughter in the coastal district of Udupi in the southern state of Karnataka.
The not-so-well-to-do family members of Praveen Poojary rear cows and have pointed out that their son was merely transporting the bovines because he was in the business of ferrying goods. Even if their point is taken at face value, the sad and very unfortunate incident could have very well been avoided. It’s a human life that has been lost.
The 18 odd accused, some of whom belong to the Hindu Jagrana Vedike (HJV), another Hindutva organisation, simply presumed that the bovines were being transported to the slaughter house and decided to beat Praveen to death.
Perhaps their confidence emanated, as past history in this region has shown, from the fact that their party was ruling at the federal level. More importantly, Praveen Poojary’s death reflects the atmosphere created in the country by fringe right-wingers who are seeking to impose their opinions in violation of all Constitutional norms.
Not so long ago, their rigid and violent ways had resulted in the killing of Akhlaq in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Akhlaq was killed on the presumption that he had stored beef in his house. The act was repeated, with a lesser degree of violence, on the Dalits in Una in the western state of Gujarat.
In this case, it was for indulging in their traditional job of skinning cattle. While the aggressors in the above cases clearly speak the language of violence, there are others who have so far resorted to plain coercion.
Like the advertising professional in India’s financial capital Mumbai, who was questioned by an autorickshaw driver about the leather bag that he was carrying. Or, for that matter the current protests against the nongovernmental organisation (NGO), Amnesty International India (AII).
The protests began because AII had brought a few families from the border state of Jammu and Kashmir to point out the undue delay by the federal government in initiating action against the army in cases of excesses. These were cases which were investigated by the state police and sent to the federal government for approval under a provision of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
The AII also included Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to leave Jammu and Kashmir, to present their cases at the event held in Bengaluru, because they, too, faced violation of human rights. During the course of the discussion, some elements shouted slogans demanding ‘freedom’ from the army.
Some members of the audience are alleged to have also shouted counter slogans in favour of the army and the nation. Subsequently, one of the activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP, filed a complaint with the police.
The police took a day to seek legal opinion before registering a case of sedition against AII, the organisation and not any individual, and other unknown persons. It appears that the legal advisor was overwhelmed by the general atmospherics to suggest that a case of sedition be registered.
After all that was what had been registered against Kanhaiya Kumar and other students in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi about six months ago. For that matter even Hardik Patel had been accused of sedition for demanding an affirmation programme for his upper caste community of Patidars in the western state of Gujarat.
The British had used sedition as an effective tool to send Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, to prison as well during the struggle for independence. Some years ago, however, the Supreme Court made it clear that merely shouting slogans does not constitute sedition.
A speech or slogan which incites violence alone can be considered as sedition. But, the verdict appears to have little or no impact on the ruling party or its student activists. It believes that nationalism, as it defines it, is what matters and not what the people have believed in all these years.
The ruling dispensation also believes that its brand of nationalism cannot be questioned as it is beyond the right to freedom of expression. It, however, does not believe that the death of a BJP worker while making bombs in the southern state of Kerala is anti national or the killing of a Praveen Poojary by vigilantes.
The current politics of coercion and the resultant debate is bound to continue. It is bound to be calibrated as and when required by political compulsions until the elections to the assembly in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh is held next year.
It is, obviously, hoping that the nationalism slogan will fetch them votes just like the development plank secured them a massive victory in the parliamentary elections of 2014. This is, perhaps, the only plank it can adopt now that it has alienated the Dalit voters further by encouraging cow vigilantism. The cost on society by such politicking is difficult to assess at this stage.
Indian women excel
It would take another day to assess the television point ratings in India for this week. But, it can be safely said without looking at the exact numbers that millions of Indians watched a 21 year old fight one of the most valiant battles on the badminton court.
P V Sindhu may not have won the gold but she won the hearts of the people with the hope of bettering her performance four years later at the Olympics. But, the most critical and important message that Sindhu and Sakshi Malik (wrestling) have delivered is that it is women power that has saved the country of 1.3bn from a total embarrassment.
Both of them secured medals not only because of their individual hard work but also because they were lucky enough to have good coaches who have groomed them all these years. Pullela Gopichand, among the coaches, will certainly go down in history as the man in whom the nation can trust.
The same would apply to the coaches of Sakshi and Dipa Karmakar (gymnastics) even though the latter did not win a medal. But, what would have been the impact if the various sports bodies had officials who worked for the respective games rather than indulge in politics is difficult to imagine.
At least, it would have prevented the distance runners like O P Jaisha from collapsing at the end of the race because they were not given water to drink after every few kilometers by the officials. This, when runners from other countries were receiving glucose and honey. Can the situation change in the next four years? Hopefully.
The real message from the Olympics has been that educating the girl child and encouraging her to participate and excel in sports can bring results. Women have dominated several fields, there is no reason why they should not do so in sports as well.
Social media has reflected the general mood in the country. One of them said: ‘My housemaid just asked me most innocently ….When is Men’s Olympics starting?’
[The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Muscat Daily or Apex Press & Publishing]