Name and fame which elude some people when they are alive come in plenty after they die. One such is Gauri Lankesh, the activist-journalist, who was murdered brutally by some unidentified persons in Bengaluru last week. Let me condemn this murder in no uncertain terms. Murder of any person, irrespective of who or she is or what he or she does, in a civilised country is a despicable act if it is outside the procedures established by law( judicial pronouncements, measures in self-defence and enforcement of public order by the security forces). The murderer and his or her associates must be dealt with under the country’s laws as sternly as possible. There is no scope for any debate on this.
And yet, if we have carried out Gauri Lankesh on our cover, it is essentially because her death has been terribly politicised. It is my firm view that an overwhelming majority of those who claim to be Lankesh’s friends and admirers are shedding only crocodile tears; for them her murder has come as a huge opportunity for demonising the Hindus and the Narendra Modi-led government at the centre. One has been told that when she was alive, Lankesh had only 400-odd twitter followers; but within two days of her murder, her followers’ number grew to be more than 6000. People following someone dead!
Similarly, Lankesh has been described as a relentless anti-establishment crusader by her cheer-leaders. But then, the fact remains that at her funeral she was given a 21-gun salute (highest honour reserved usually for the President of the country or a visiting head of the state/government) by the Karnataka government. Karnataka Chief Minister and Home Minister now say that Lankesh was one of their close friends who met them regularly and that the Karnataka government had decided to release advertisements for her magazine.
But then this is not all. Lankesh proudly proclaimed herself to be an activist and journalist. In fact, more than a journalist, she was an activist of extreme Left-hue. She was very close to Maoists, though she justified her proximity in terms of bringing them to the national mainstream. She was an avid Hindu-hater and was on the lead to declare Lingayts in Karnataka non-Hindus. Above all, she literally abused Modi and BJP-led government in Delhi, day in and day out in her writings. Her views on North East and Kashmir did not differ much from what Pakistan and professional India-bashers said.
In a democracy such as ours, everybody has a right to dissent. If Lankesh had that, even though selectively against the Hindus and the Modi government, nobody was doing her any favour. Notwithstanding what the critics say, the fact remains that ever since Modi assumed office in Delhi, reams of newsprints and immeasurable free air have been used to demonise Modi and the BJP by the dissenters. And almost all of these dissenters active in public domains are doing very well in their respective fields.
Against this background, it is simply unfathomable if these dissenters, within half an hour of Lankesh’s murder, found out that Modi is responsible for her murder and the murderers are Modi’s followers. And they want everybody to believe so. Within half an hour, they investigated, found the guilty and now they want the ”guilty” to be prosecuted immediately and given the sternest punishment by the court in another half an hour. What is really worrisome here is that at the forefront of these so-called dissenters are some of the leading newspersons. They have least concerns for the authenticity, facts, laws and the established journalistic practices. They mistake bravado for courage and persistence.
For instance, Lankesh’s case is now linked by them to the killing of M. M. Kalburgi, the so-called rationalist from Karnataka, two years ago. He was a fighter against superstitions, prevailing mostly in Hinduism. He was an opponent of the idol-worships, something that made him enemy of many Hindu extremists. He was unfortunately gunned down in August, 2015. But then he was not the first such rationalist to die in India. Four years ago , in 2013, a Maratha rationalist , Narendra Dabholkar, the founder-president of Maharashtra-based Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti—an organisation set up to eradicate superstition, was also killed, but his killers remain at large.
The notable aspect in these condemnable murders is that they took place in two states under the rule of the Congress party. The Congress is in power in Karnataka and the Congress was in power in Maharashtra in 2013. The only difference now is that while the Congress ruled the central government in 2013, now it is under the so-called rightist (which is actually not the case as the Bharatiya Janata Party too swears by one variety of socialism) BJP and led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But then the fact that is to be remembered is that under India’s federal distribution of power, law and order, that is, Police, are under the control of the state government, not the central government. Why is it that the Karnataka government has not been able to find out those who killed Kalburgi? But still, its chief minister is a hero for our dissenters!
These basic facts are important to understand the sheer hypocrisy, dishonesty and double standards involved in the massive hue and cry among a section of India’s literary personalities and performing artists in the name of “dissent”. They are too selective in their tirade. Did they protest at Delhi’s Press Club(as they have done in the case of Lankesh) when on 8 June, 2015 Shahjahanpur-based journalist Jagendra Singh, who had been set ablaze on 1 June allegedly by goons of state minister Ram Murti Verma (under Akhilesh Yadav as chief minister), died of burns? Singh had been writing extensively about Verma’s alleged involvement in corruption, land grabs and illegal mining. Such attacks are aplenty in other states as well.
One remembers in this context the mob violence in Maharashtra against the prominent regional newspaper Lokmat about two years ago. Spearheaded by Congress legislator Shaikh Rashid, Muslim protestors attacked multiple offices of the paper, just because it had carried a cartoon showing various currency symbols pouring into a piggy bank whose snout carried an image from the jihadist group’s flag: A white seal with black Arabic lettering that reads “Muhammad is the messenger of God.” The paper quickly apologised for the “offence”, but Rashid continued threatening and demanding an official inquiry into the newspapers alleged transgression. What explains the studied silence of our eminent journalists talking of the virtues of dissent? None of them uttered a word of condemnation when noted Islamic scholar Maulana Masoodi (a great proponent of liberal Islam) and Sarvananand Kaul Premi were brutally gunned down by the fundamentalists in Kashmir. None of them ever dared to protest against the then Congress government in Delhi and the Communist government in West Bengal for hounding the asylum-seeker Bangladeshi novelist Taslima Nasreen.
If anything, the above examples only prove that those who dominate our intellectual discourse on the importance of tolerance are, in reality, most intolerant themselves. When they criticise, it is freedom of speech; but when they are criticised it becomes intolerance. When they question the Hindutva, it become secular; but when some question some Islamic practices, they become communal. Such are their double-standards! The latest victim of this duplicity is one of our regular contributors, Col. RSN Singh. Also a regular expert during evening prime times in various news channels, Col Singh has been, over last one week, under a boycott by the channels, thanks to the threats from Islamic fundamentalists and Muslim leaders. Singh had apparently said during a TV debate that under the changing times, Muslims should protest when anyone in the community marries a minor girl younger than one’s granddaughter by citing the example of Prophet Muhammad. Singh has been taken to task for hurting Muslim sentiments!
It so happens that the secularists and leftists who dominate India’s educational and cultural infrastructure have tolerated more incidents of banning and restrictions on ideas than anyone else. In fact, they are more intolerant of others’ views. And yet they call themselves “Left/Liberal/Secular”. Under non-BJP regimes, they were enjoying many perks and privileges of plum posts in government-institutions, literary and political awards, free accommodations and foreign-junkets. All these have stopped under Modi. No wonder why they are deliberately building up perceptions that India is under a fascist government.
All this is not to suggest that one should remain silent on the incidents of communal lynching and targeted killing. But to magnify them and spread the communal poison all over the country through so-called dissent and project to the outside world that India is burning under Modi is crass hypocrisy and unethical. Oppose Modi and his policies by all means, but please do not make Modi-bashing a “fashionable phenomenon”. And do not degenerate to be political vultures over those dead.
By Prakash Nanda