Friday, March 31st, 2023 23:53:53

The Worm Turns At Last

Updated: November 19, 2015 11:38 am

A counter-movement against the elitist awardees waging war by throwing away their honours has begun, which threatens a second partition within the country based on the concept of tolerance and its opposite

It had to happen. The front page of a national daily reported that “24 more of the film world have returned their national film awards protesting environment of intolerance.” There was on page 15 of that news paper that ‘intellectuals fight back for PM Modi’. It said that alleged protests are ‘much ado about declining clout of a pampered section’.

The first question is what is the intolerance that has frightened a few deserving and not so-deserving writers, scientists and some from the film world to start a movement to return awards and honours awarded to them?

They are furious too, warning us that the BJP (read Modi) government intends to take-over culture. What they possibly mean is that the secular culture could be changed to Hindu culture. This is calamitous for the returnees who happen to be secularists in the Nehruvian mould. This is why they are upset with 2002 riots in Gujarat but suffer a bout of amnesia when one mentions 1984.


Or nearer one, the Muzzafarnagar riots that displaced 4000 Muslim families only a couple of months ago, where were these awardees, their sensitivities were not touched. But any renunciation would have reflected on Akhilesh Yadav and not Narendra Modi, their hate-figure. And this is why these eminent, sacrificing returnees included the Dadri incident into their ‘environment of intolerance’ for which they blame Modi. A state subject was converted into a responsibility of the Centre.

Even our respected President Pranab Mukherjee advised us to be more tolerant and understanding. It’s commendable that we have a caring President. But may we ask, who have shown more tolerance, and who lose cool at the slightest.


The swelling outpouring of angst about alleged calamities being visited by Narendra Modi on India are unlikely to be coordinated, but clearly each one is inciting others. This is a bemusing puzzle.

The reality is that absolutely nothing, tumultuous has happened in India during his 18 months in office. On the contrary, one could make a case that some rather good things have occurred, not least Modi’s purposive foreign forays, which are predictably being trashed by some in the Opposition.

Rahul’s dark foreboding that 22000 would die if Modi came to power—probably the son remembered mother’s mass murderer jibe—has not happened. Rivers of blood are not flowing due to communal disharmony—nor madarsas or mosques- have been bull-dozed.


Anupam Kher who leads the counter to the campaign by almost 50 returnees of awards and honours said in the memorandum presented to the President (signed so far by 36), that a complex India, made nigh impossible to govern and steer, thanks to the most outrageous behaviour of a defunct Opposition and its minions in the media, is also moving forward painfully into a better and more developed future.

The not very distinguished Sahitya Akademi prize returnees, usually those who won preferment for services to the Congress party and its first family, are not really worthy of comment. Others of supposed apparent greater distinction are echoing their complaints too, about endangerment of India’s diversity and tolerance, but closer examination of their personal antecedents suggests commonplace motivation.

One recalls the admonition of Dr. Watson, the Bishop of Landaff, for indulging in the rancour and malignity of disappointed hope!

The one tragic and shameful event that has undoubtedly occurred is the mob lynching of a Dadri Muslim man accused of consuming beef. However, that ghastly episode turns out to be as much about theft of cattle and animus between neighbours as the inflammatory case being made out about Hindu intolerance of beef consumption.


Somehow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is supposed to take responsibility for the behaviour of the mob in a state infamous for its lawlessness and where 5,000 murders occurred in a year. One right-wing worker was killed in Karnataka, a Congress-ruled state, but no one thought of raising their voice, forget about returning any honours.

One thing is getting clear. The returnees have other motivations than being worried about the environment of intolerance. That brings us back to the question what is that intolerance that has disturbed the returnees and who is being intolerant and against whom.

Do they mean the mob that callously murdered a lone man was being intolerant? Surely the mob was frenzied enough to take a helpless man’s life. But do thirty or forty people in 1.30 billion are evidence of environment of intolerance? If we believe what about 40 returnees aver, then we suffered the specific environment for decades, only the intolerant were the ones who now allege the intolerance of which they now seem apprehensive of.


To put this bluntly, the returnees were the privileged lot whose views were never questioned, they were a pampered lot and they brooked no opposition. It is these people who in fact were intolerant and those who are today branded intolerant were tolerant. That means the majority was tolerant. The returnees today are facing ‘worms that have turned’ those who were tolerant to these same element, are now intolerant to their imposing their views. The fear and angst is over this.

Rahul Gandhi expressed fear for the fair play and freedom in the country. Is his fear due to Modi being in power? How much fair play was followed when allotting coal mines, 2G Spectrum, and how much care was taken to stop corruption in Asian Games? Why is it that the TV Channels “free” during UPA rule, never showed crowd at Rahul’s Meetings?

The Kher memorandum also says, ‘A partisan media is also straining to pin responsibility on Hindu extremists for the murder of two writer-activists for their supposed ‘rationalistic’ critique of Hinduism though much of it is plain ugly abuse. ‘Some comments on Hindu idolatry made by one of these unfortunate murder victims were deeply offensive but nothing could justify their murder although they would have merited the death sentence in almost any Muslim country, but let that pass.


‘Yet, their distressing murders, by as yet unknown assailants, are being attributed to the permissive backdrop supposedly created by Narendra Modi’s election as prime minister of India. Kher’s memorandum further said, ‘No arrests have yet been made in the non BJP states where these crimes occurred, but alleged Hindu extremists are already being blamed. And the prime minister is, again, accused of inducing them to commit murder.’ As the Americans say, give us a break!

Yet, the awakening of conscience to condemn supposed failings of the elected government, implicitly repudiating the very legitimacy of Indian democracy, is clearly a tad selective.

There is little record of hand wringing and distraught condemnation of the nation and the supposed dark propensities of the civilisation of its majority before foreign audiences at every opportunity, when the Congress had directly sponsored an astonishing pogrom in its capital city in 1984.

But of course that was the responsibility of India’s ennobled first family and its Cambridge educated scion, not the unwashed hoi polloi majority. Nor were Indian civilisation and its ineffable diversity and tolerance endangered when an entire population was violently expelled from their homeland in the Kashmir valley.

More poignantly, the recent murder of a young man for his love for a member of the minority community, also hacked to death, by her own brothers, was not an occasion for the fraudulent dismay now on selective display. Many more incidents, no less appalling than the reprehensible lynching of Dadri, have not prompted the breast beating that is being used to impugn a prime minister, whose rejection of communal violence is unambiguous.

Quite clearly, murder and mayhem is not the issue at all, but how to demonise the prime minister and the alleged extremists he is deemed to represent. In the middle of a debate on intolerance, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently said suppression of dissent poses “grave danger” for economic development. “The nation is deeply concerned at recent tragic instances of violations of freedom of thought, belief, speech and expression by some violent extremist groups.” He did not enumerate these incidents.

Speaking at a conference to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Singh said no religion can become basis of public policy. “Religion is a private matter in which no one, including state, can interfere,” he said, adding, “In a secular republic, no religion can become the basis of public policy or governance, nor can any religious belief be imposed on anyone.”

The comments come at a time “rising intolerance” has been the dominating theme of protests by writers, artists, filmmakers and opposition parties following incidents like the killing of rationalists and mob attacks over beef-eating or cow slaughter rumours. “All right thinking people in the country have condemned such incidents in the strongest terms as an assault on the nation,” said Dr. Singh.

Invoking Jawaharlal Nehru, “The prerequisite for innovation, entrepreneurship and competition is an open society and a liberal polity where individuals are free to pursue their ideas. Suppression of dissent or free speech poses a grave danger for economic development. There can be no free market without freedom.” What a laugh. He was prime minister without freedom. A PM under leash of occupants of 10, Janpath.

The fact is that these returnees are by their stubbornness creating bad image abroad leading to the likes of Moody’s Analytical threatening to revise their economic rating. In such a situation counter campaign was inevitable. This began on November 7. This is bound to swell in numbers faster than the ranks of returnees. The contest between the two would sooner than later divide the country. There will be a second partition—within the country between the concept of tolerance and the opposite. Modi is caught in the cross-fire between the two groups.

The only solution is to ask the people who are crying hoarse about intolerance to explain to the public what is intolerance about, against whom and why. They will find few takers. They should realise that the age of old school tie is over. It’s an aspirational generation which takes its inspiration from the fact that a chaiwallah could become prime minister. Despite them!

By VIjay Dutt

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