A long-time 'deskie' dabbles in plenty of things without really focussing on anything 'seriously'. Loves economics, football, cricket, films, reading and believe it or not long-distance running!

B Baskar

Between a rock and a hard place

| Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on October 30, 2015

The shadow of a hand is seen on the wall of a room, which police said is the site where two children were burnt alive by a group of men, at the Sunpedh village in Ballabhgarh, in the northern state of Haryana, India, October 21, 2015. Police in northern India have arrested four men over allegations that they burnt alive two low-caste children, an official said on Wednesday, a case that triggered a street protest and drew condemnation from an opposition leader. Authorities ruled out caste violence as a motive for the crime but India has a long history of such incidents, and the attack will feed concerns over rising intolerance after the rumor-fueled killing of a Muslim man by a Hindu mob recently. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

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Most Indians seem to be caught between a ‘pretentious Left’ and a self-righteous, sanctimonious Hindu Right with a diabolical communal agenda and the space for a rational, reasoned debate is shrinking alarmingly.

We surely are living in interesting times, interesting enough to get Chairman Mao’s stamp of approval. After a summer when the media wrung out every salacious detail from the sordid Indrani Mukherjea saga, things turned altogether more disturbing and darker recently. I am of course referring to the politics of beef and the tragic death of Mohammed Ahklaq.

This horrific incident not surprisingly led to a national outrage in civil society as well as political circles in equal measure. This even sparked an unprecedented protest from writers who started returning their Sahitya Academy Awards who were later joined by filmmakers and scientists. Of course this action by writers and intellectuals has also led to a storm of criticism from other writers, political commentators as well as the common man who have dubbed this form of protest as nothing but a gimmick. The protesting writers and intellectuals have been charged with hypocrisy and double speak for being very selective in their choice of events and incidents that they choose to protest against. The common refrain is that weren’t these horrific incidents occurring when avowedly secular parties were in power?

But this criticism against them is also a little self serving as we saw enough protests in the past by public figures when the country was being ruled by a different political dispensation. Of course public figures can pick the incidents they choose to protest against, surely no one can deny them that right, even if it invites the criticism of doublespeak.

Ajaz Ashraf, a Delhi-based journalist, in an article in the website scroll.in makes an interesting point that violence against Muslims has always attracted more medial attention than violence against Dalits, though I must add there are some notable exceptions in the media. He reasons that communal violence mostly occur in cities and semi-urban areas and have a direct bearing on our lives, whereas violence against Dalits largely takes place in the far away rural hinterland. The fact that the recent burning of a Dalit family in Haryana, which left two children dead, the mother battling for her life and the father escaping with minor injuries, led to far less liberal hand-wringing is a pointer towards this.

Of course enough crimes have been committed in the past under the garb of secular politics and no one is denying that. The way Taslima Nasrin was hounded out of Kolkata by the Left Front government shows how hollow secular politics can be in this country.

But the criticism against the real and perceived misdemeanours of the Liberal Left is coming less from the liberals and more from a Hindu fringe, which is moving towards the mainstream at an alarming pace. So most Indians seem to be caught between a ‘pretentious Left’ and a self-righteous, sanctimonious Hindu Right with a diabolical communal agenda and the space for a rational, reasoned debate is shrinking alarmingly.

But I don’t want to end this blog on a dark note. Even the sports pages recently seem to be hit by a touch of the absurd. The retirement of two exceptional cricketers – Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan – was almost eclipsed by reports of Ravi Shastri, Team India Director, abusing the Wankhede ground curator Sudhir Naik for preparing a batting beauty in the final ODI against South Africa. Yes it’s the same hapless Sudhir Naik who was accused of shoplifting during the disastrous England tour of 1974.

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Published on October 30, 2015
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