“Words are the only jewels I possess, words are the only weapons I use, words are the only food that sustain my life, words are the only wealth I distribute among people, Says Tuka Witness the Word He is God, I worship Him with my words.” – Saint Tukaram
We are witnessing different protests across the nation criticising the Modi-led NDA government for its track record on religious tolerance and freedom of speech and expression. In Mumbai, Shiv Sena, political ally of BJP, protested against the book launch of Pakistani leader Kasuri. Pakistan raised concerns about ‘growing intolerance’ and ‘status of minority rights’ in Bharat. Some ‘eminent’ literary personalities expressed their outrage over the ‘attacks on the freedom and secular fabric of Bharat’, by returning their awards. These protests may look different in their content but their intent seems to be the same— create Modi-phobia to save their own space.
Ideological bracketing by secular intellectuals and media has always been flawed in Bharat. They always tried to bracket everyone talking in the name of ‘Hindus’, including Shiv Sena, Hindu Mahasabha or even non-political outfits like Sanatan Dharma and Sri Ram Sena in the same category called ‘Hindutva forces’. Conveniently, so-called ‘ultra-left (Naxals)’ is different from mainstream communist parties. These left liberal intellectuals and literary personalities have now joined hands to further their agenda of ‘ideological intolerance’.
One can understand about Shiv Sena. It is not the first time that the regional party has expressed such outrage against Pakistani team or citizens. It has to maintain an independent identity from BJP as a political party. It is all the more important for the forthcoming Municipal Corporation polls in Maharashtra. Shiv Sena is fighting elections in Bihar with the clear goal of testing the Modi wave. Reacting sharply on PM Modi expressing grief over incidents like Dadri and the protest against the Pakistani singer (Ghulam Ali), clearly indicates the political positioning of the Sena.
Pakistan always preaches human rights to Bharat while violating all standards domestically and internationally. It is not new for them to question ‘secular credentials’ and ‘democratic values’ of Bharat, while being the epicentre of terror. Especially, when Pakistan is losing out on the J&K discourse and cornered on ‘terrorism’, the notorious neighbour would obviously try to encash on incidents like Dadri or Kasuri to wrestle the losing space.
What is most intriguing is the manner in which ‘eminent’ literary figures and intellectuals attempting the same goal as Shiv Sena and Pakistan. The tirade led by Uday Prakash and Nayantara Sahgal, whose political affiliations are well known, is followed by many credible literary personalities without understanding the intent. If they were so concerned about freedom and minority rights, why did they not return their awards during the UPA rule when many such incidents took place? Uttar Pradesh has been the centre of communal incidents for a while due to utter failure of governance. Nobody questioned the track record of the Samajwadi Party government on religious freedom. The double standards on pinpointing the responsibility of governments, is more detrimental to freedom and religious harmony in Bharat.
Saintly poet of Maharashtra, Tukaram talks about words being the jewels and weapons of true proponents of change. ‘Secular’ media and intellectuals are not leaving any chance to question the government policies, which means, unlike Emergency, the freedom of speech and expression is intact in Bharat. Instead of using it effectively, why these literary figures opt for the award returning spree? Do they have any political agenda or they are afraid of losing their ‘eminence’ acquired through political patronage? These are the obvious questions any democratic society would ask. The literary figures should answer these questions raised by many youngsters through social media platforms. Otherwise, they would be equated with Shiv Sena and Pakistan, crying foul to save their losing space, instead of playing a constructive role in nation building.