Let us accept for argument sake, that George Fernandes? comment on the Prime Minister is not exactly in good taste. He could have used harsher yet more appropriate language to express his anguish over ?lies? dished out by Dr. Manmohan Singh on the merits of the Indo-US nuclear deal. But to accuse the veteran leader of inciting violence against the head of the government is to manufacture excuses to hang the man you don'tlike for his views and policies. The former Defence Minister refuses to budge from his position and insists with some justification that he only talked of what would have happened in other democracies and communist dictatorship. The part of his statement that has raised Congress? hackles reads thus: ?In China, if a corrupt person is caught, he is shot with one bullet and that bullet'sprice has to be paid by the family of the fellow. Here the country is being taken for a ride. The No. 1 person of the country has lied?. How can anyone interpret this statement – intemperate though it may be described – to incite people to kill the Prime Minister?
George subsequently explained that it was his ?soft? way of demanding Prime Minister'sresignation for misleading the nation on an issue that will have serious repercussions for India'ssovereignty and security. He holds that he not only referred to China but also to US where Clinton was sought to be impeached for telling a lie. Congress leaders who are accusing George of ?unbecoming? language, seems to have conveniently forgotten the insults they heaped on him for unsubstantiated allegations of corruption during the Kargil war and boycotted the then Defence Minister session after session. Further, he has reasons to be deeply hurt by insinuations in the media that his outburst may have something to do with his disappointment over Prime Minister not doing anything to help one of his ?close friends?. George'sresponse to the insinuation is to come out with facts of the case pertaining to his friend, R.V. Pandit. He admits that he had had occasion to speak to the Prime Minister about RV and that the Prime Minister and he shared a ?common concern? for RV's?health and situation?. He asserts with some authority that neither the Prime Minister nor he confuses ?personal and humane? issues with political issues. In the process, he has given a clean chit to the Prime Minister for the latter'sresponse to the problems their common friend faces.
A related issue is the Prime Minister'schildish and extremely offensive allegation that some BJP leaders had held yagnas wishing Dr Singh to die. No one expected the good doctor who claims he never indulges in hyperbole to indulge in such rubbish when the nation is engaged in a bitter debate over India'sforeign policy issues and a sensitive international agreement. Is something troubling the Prime Minister? It can'tbe the BJP. The party has seldom used strong language against him barring occasionally chiding him for being the weakest Prime Minister India had had. Is it his way of telling the people he is ?strong?? Why take it out on the BJP, if you are troubled by the Left parties that are vetoing your policies day in and day out and threatening to ditch the Government? Is he robbing Peter to pay Paul? The Prime Minister owes an explanation to the nation for his undignified and wild allegations against the principal opposition party.
While Congress Ministers and senior leaders have gone berserk demanding prosecution of George Fernandes for his controversial statement, their response to the criminal attack on Taslima Nasreen at Hyderabad by MIM goons led by three MLA belonging to the party is embarrassingly mute. The Congress party has miserably failed to condemn the criminal act of his ally – MIM – and done very little to ensure that the guilty are brought to book. Instead of taking stern action against those who attacked the author in Hyderabad, the first thing the Hyderabad police did was to register a case against Taslima under section 153 (A) of IPC for ?promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony?. The case against her was registered at the instance of the very legislators who led the attack on Taslima, in the presence of media. Dr. N. Inaiah, noted author and Taslima'shost in Hyderabad, has dismissed the allegations against her as ?blatantly false and baseless. He maintains that she spoke just for 10 minutes about the book and didn'tsay a word against Islam or the Prophet as alleged by her attackers. It is unbelievable that her brief speech so enraged persons who were not present in the book release function that they collected a mob and attacked her before she could leave the Press Club – the venue of the function. The attack in all probability was pre-planned to teach her a lesson.
More worrisome and horrid is the fatwa issued by Imam of Tipu Sultan mosque of Kolkotta, S.M. Noorur Rehman Barkati, against Taslima and offering an unlimited amount of money to anyone who would kill her. The Imam and others of his ilk accuse the author of having spoken against Islam and the Prophet and say that the community would go to any length to eliminate her. Muslim fundamentalists want the Government to throw her out of the country. Taslima is at the receiving end for the last 14 years. She had to leave Bangladesh in 1993 after the release of her book Lajja depicting the plight of Hindus in that country. Her book so enraged a section of radical clerics in her country that she was banished. Initially, she took refuge in Europe and later came over to India where she is living since 2002 in exile. It is unfortunate that neither the leftist government of West Bengal nor the Congress-led UPA has taken a serious view of the illegal and revolting business of issuing fatwas inciting Muslims to kill the author for her views on certain Islamic practices and the inhuman policies of the Islamic Republic of Bangladesh.
While a section among Muslims has criticized the fundamentalists for issuing fatwas against the hapless lady, the response from the ?liberal and secular? intelligentsia has been disappointing. The intellectuals, who hold noisy demonstrations and dharnas against Hindu outfits if they protest against those insulting their religion and deities, are not disturbed by what is happening to Taslima who has taken shelter in India. It is a sad commentary on the mindset of those who claim to be liberal and secular.