Thursday, February 2nd, 2023 06:47:09

Right Cause, wrong method

Updated: November 5, 2015 3:24 pm

The way the issue is being touted, it is clear that political thinking and ideology too have been part reasons for the return of awards. Significantly, many of the returnees were signatories of the petition asking the US not to give visa to Modi to visit America. This, however, in no way lessens the crime of the mob that killed a man in Dadri

It is both a bit of tongue-twister and needs high IQ to appreciate the underlying meaning so one will demystify the above title through a quote: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance to even those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of an intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed and tolerance with them. We should therefore claim in the name of tolerance not to be tolerant to the intolerant.

How true ! There has been a sort of flood of writers, all considered secular,returning the awards—Sahitya Kala Akademy—given to them for their literary contribution. Until the writing of this piece, 40 had returned their awards in protest of the Dadri lynching of a 52-year-old Muslim man who allegedly killed a cow to eat its meat—beef. Some also protested the killing of senior Kannada writer MM Kalburgi in Karnataka.

All these writers are secular and most left-oriented and thus liked by the ‘secular’ governments, most led by the Congress. So now they being intolerant is no surprise. The surprise is those who were tolerant seem to have lost their tolerance. This is possibly due to the fact that unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.

Compare the Dadri incident to what happened in Lucknow a little over 10 years ago. An anicent Hanuman temple in the older part of the city built decades ago had a courtyard in the front which on Tuesdays would be jam-packed with devotees. Its priest Pandit Sharma was respected by not only Hindus but by Muslims as well. He celebrated Eid and never used a loudspeaker during Moharram or roza days.

One fine winter’s morning, Sharma and Raza Sahib, head of a nearby mosque, were sitting on a chowki discussing celebrations for Diwali, when suddenly a big portion of calf meat, with portion of the head of the calf hanging landed in the courtyard with a loud thud.


An half a dozen devotees who were present almost ran away. Pandit Sharma without any alarm or fear asked Raza Sahib to call some Muslim youth to clean the place. All things were removed and the courtyard cleaned and then Gangajal sprinkled. No mob collected to lynch any Muslim or any communal riot situation developed. What has changed in little over 10 years. The tolerant suffering intolerance and secularism meaning tilt towards minority community lost tolerance and became intolerant. This is plain-speaking but without justifying the lynching, an inhuman and beastly murderous assault.

The surprising part is that despite some of these writers are wellknown people like Nayantara Sehgal, because of being niece of Pandit Nehru and daughter of Vijaylakshmi Pandit, and Ashok Vajpayei, famous for his role in setting up Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, but there has been no public reaction.

But as it happens, a controversy erupted with both sides having heavyweights to spar. On a serious note, it brings in the issue of tolerance and the intolerant. And as it is usual in our country, politics and religion, on which Karl Marx said, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”, have created a greater worry. The only saving grace is that, as noted before, there has been no mass reaction.

The way the issue is being touted, it is clear that political thinking and ideology too have been part reasons for the return of awards. Significantly, many of the returnees were signatories of the petition asking the US not to give visa to Modi to visit America. This, however, in no way lessens the crime of the mob that killed the man. But to concentrate on the Dadri lynching as the incident is referred to in the media without a care of what kind of sentiments that would be stirring, did not lead to worsening relations between the communities and not the killing of Kalburgi in Karnataka, who was after all a member of their tribe.


The resignations have made no impact. Likewise, when the awards were given there was no impact. A Bookers Prize award boosts the sale of the winning book by at least 200 per cent. It makes film producers take a second look. This was very obvious in the case of Vikas Swarup’s book Q&A which was adapted for a film, and the result is that it became a multi-award winning movie including eight Oscars. The book’s sale soared, by 150 per cent in the US.

Why sales of books awarded by Sahitya Kala Akademi do not go up? The reason is these awards are actually literary ones and appreciated by literati. It makes no impact on people in general. This is why when the recipients returned the awards, it made no impact..

Only the media highlighted the return of awards, because for reasons understandable, both the returnees and the media aimed at showing Modi as a communalist. Did they succeed? It depends how much people got upset at the ‘renunciation’. Well not one person, not even a small seminar lamented that awardees were so hurt at the Modi’s ideology that they had to return the awards.

The mob that gathered was in Uttar Pradesh. These ‘martyrs’, about 40, out of at least 1400 awardees, aimed at blaming their pet aversion of Narendra Modi. They ignored the fact that law and order is a State subject, as one said Modi was not daroga of Dadri.

Hysterical Irrationalism Of Rational Writers


Dadri incident of a mob murdering a man, who was rumored wrongly to have eaten beef, was the trigger point. It happened in UP, where Samajwadi Party is ruling. But everyone wanted Modi to apologise. Earlier, a writer Kulbargi was murderd in Karnataka where Congress government is ruling. Such unfortunate incidents have nothing to do with Modi

The kind of mass hysteria generated by returning of awards to Academies of art and literature by about 40 writers is a strange phenomena in a country faced with numerous economic and social issues. The same country which they debunked is standing erect when Europe and China are reeling under the cyclone of economic decline. Still our selected writers felt the need to debunk the government when it deserved least the kind of abuse being hurled on Narendra Modi. The reason advanced by them touches around secularism that they champion and prevailing fascist environment in which freedom of expression has been chained. Salman Rshadie, who faced banning of his book on fanatic Muslims’ demand and was exorcised from Jaipur literature conference, has now discovered ‘thuggish violence’ in the country. He did not experience any pang of losing freedom and being silenced by secularists at that time and he did not make any adverse comment about the government. Now he too tweets aloud from Landon on this fascism. What has gone wrong with these professed rationalist and secularists?

Dadri incident of a mob murdering a man, who was rumored wrongly to have eaten beef, was the trigger point. It happened in UP, where Samajwadi Party is ruling. But everyone wanted Modi to apologise. Earlier, a writer Kulbargi was murderd in Karnatka, where the Congress government is ruling. Such unfortunate incidents have nothing to do with Modi. But it is true that irresponsible talk lets loose by a few BJP leaders about beef is unnecessarily causing a vitiated atmosphere. No doubt, we are faced with a dilemma that our secular Constitution of India does provide in its directive principles (Article 48) that cow protection is State responsibility. Why did the framers give a tilt to a secular constitution towards meeting demand of Hindus that is majority in the country? Perhaps, they wanted to honour tradition of a culture. But surely these rational and wise men were free to criticise it and attack the government for not going hard on such rumours or acts as there are 3600 legal slaughterhouses and 25 states have framed laws. Modi was not responsible for it as it happened much earlier and cow has been a great emotional issue all the time even during British raj. The provocative utterances against beef eating are not desirable and have not been condemned by these writers.

For a writer to return a state award when grave injustice has been done is justified and has an impact. When Khushwant Singh returned Padma Vibhushan in 1984 in protest against Sikh riots he was much justified and did an honourable thing. No one uttered a whimper when Godhra riots took place or when virtual decimation of Kashmiri Pandits was carried out in the valley of Jammu and Kashmir. Even on declaration of Emergency in India, how many returned the awards? And did Rushdie claim thuggish violence? Poor Taslima Nasreen is running from country to country but no author has returned award protesting torture inflicted on her. Moreover, returning government awards is justified on such matters but not academic awards that are given by autonomous bodies.

These writers must introspect on freedom of expression. Almost all news channels and newspapers are carrying criticism of Prime Minister and no one has faced any action, as earlier only a tweet landed one in jail. Much publicised event of release of foreign Minister of Pakistan’s book was carried out and book was released despite the black ink pasted by Shiv Sena activists on the organiser Sudhender Kulkarni, who kept it on for press conference and amply displayed it. Kasuri went laughing in sleeves as he gave advice to Indians forgetting what happens in Pakistan. A function that would have been thinly attended was brimming to capacity and Pakistani Minister sold his books. Can an Indian writer go to Pakistan and give them homilies? Is there no freedom of expression in the country? When noted Hindi writer and critic Namwar Singh calls writers’ act of retuning award a publicity stunt, he is not very wrong.

A writer must act as the conscience keeper of the nation and rise in revolt when there is repression but there is none and free elections are held. Why this hysteria of carrying out succession of unfounded statements and masquerading as false prophets? Should every aberration be termed as attack on freedom or secularism? We have to think on these issues to cleanse the environment of deliberate scare mongering.

By Prof. N K Singh

(The author is former Chairman, International Airports Authority of India.)

Why Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav has not been asked why police reinforcement was not sent as tension started building up. He did not visit Dadri.What if the incident would have escalated into communal tension? He invited the victim’s family to his Lucknow durbar. Obviously, with UP assembly election nearing, Akhilesh could hardly risk losing support by either side.

Instead of shedding tears in their air-conditioned rooms, could not some of the awardees go to Dadri? Is it the heat and dust that stopped them or they dreaded an ugly reception?

These ladies and gentlemen may swagger in the cities, that too among the educated, but in the larger context if they are somebodies, it will be because of their own statures not because Akademi awarded them. Ashok Vajpayee will be recognised all over Madhya Pradesh because he was an IAS officer and the state was his cadre. Once Sahgal is introduced as Nehru’s niece she will be ‘placed’ instantly. But introduce them as writers of book for which they got the Akademi award, crowd would start moving.

These writers who have given up the awards have power in their writing. They should have used that and if they felt strongly against what they term intolerance, they should have started a campaign writing in the media and travelled giving lectures in universities, chambers of commerce and organised seminars.


These returnees of awards might have taken up a right cause but their method was wrong, Their other mistake was that they did not realise that the intolerance of their class has made over the years the tolerant, intolerant. One can see this, during TV debates and the comments that start pouring in within minutes of someone attacking or criticising majority community or ridiculing India’s Pak policy.

The whole tribe of intellectuals, left and academics who controlled the media and kept the Rightists and the centrists quiet have twisted interpretation of secularism consistently to help the minorities, a section of which increasingly became as intolerant as their mentors.

And a time comes when even a worm turns. Those who continued to tolerate the tantrums of the intolerant could not take it all, and have now realised that they would suffer extremely if they continue to tolerate.

So the equations have changed. The tolerant are now intolerant and countering those who have been the intolerant. This has bewildered them and they are now making wild moves, being afraid of being dislodged from their high pedestal and comfort zone.

They are learning the hard way that their time is over. The tolerant have learnt that in the name of tolerance one should not be tolerant to the intolerant. But at the same time one has to concede that the elements like VHP, Sakshi Mahraj and Sadhvi have been exploiting the fact that BJP is in power in Delhi and they could get away from anything. Significantly Modi took time to comment on Dadri and Shiv Sena driving Ghulam Ali out of Mumbai. While it is wrong to expect him immediately, what he has been saying from the beginning of his tenure is quite sensible, “Hindus and Muslims instead of fighting each other should join together to fight poverty.”

After the incidents in Himachal and Kashmir, Modi would have to   stop the feeling that Talibanisation of his party is being attempted by fringe elements. The writers could have also spoken against quick formation of mobs and then taking law into their hands. A whiff of a rumour and mobs can change their target. They are like loose cannons and all political parties and society’s self-appointed guardians that incite mobs to gather is a double-edged weapon. It could ricochet.

The returnees widen your spectrum and act to have some impact. So far as opinion-makers you have been disappointing.

By Vijay Dutt

Comments are closed here.