October 14, 2015

India: Spreading darkness (Editorial, The Statesman, 14 Oct 2015)


Spreading darkness
| 14 October, 2015

It was not only the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni and Mumbai that was blackened. The nation was shamed, or should be, at the latest manifestation of the intellectual darkness spreading viciously as the political climate now testifies to a shrinking of the space for liberal thinking. Only in a very immediate context can the ugly happenings be seen as a fall-out of BJP-Shiv Sena turbulence, the bigger picture points to a failure of governance - the basic right of security being denied because political convenience takes priority. To suggest that the Shiv Sena has behaved in similar if not worse fashion before provides small comfort.

The Sena leadership has been emboldened, thrilled at having secured its pound of putrid flesh, never mind that it were the core essentials of democracy that bled. If in the past Congress governments were guilty of allowing the menace to flourish the BJP is proving equally pathetic: it lacks the guts to risk its government in Maharashtra by terminating the alliance. If the chief minister is serious about preventing a “banana republic” he must be prepared to rid himself of a dubious prop - he would stand tall by breaking off the relationship rather than stomach the series of insults the Sena has been dishing out in recent days.

Is there any other way in which Devendra Fadnavis (Mr Narendra Modi too) can retrieve the space surrendered to the Sena? Or does the policy of “grin and bear it” kick in? The platitudes aired at the function to release Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book ring hollow, and with due respect to Mumbaikars few beyond the western metropolis hail its “spirit”. That chapter of Bombay’s history was closed long years ago.

The BJP’s advocates would roil at any linking of the Sena’s latest shenanigans with the electoral-fuelled communal passions that have flourished over the past 16 months: in fact some might deem both parties to have operated in tandem - it is so convenient, yet always criminal, to project an overlap between Muslim and Pakistan. And the NDA has no problem with that.

To note that New Delhi’s criticism of the Sena’s latest disgrace has been rather mild is not surprising, maybe it was secretly thrilled that another peacenik was targeted, even if the government’s bombast has had little impact on the fiery border. More likely Amit Shah and his henchmen would be looking at the incident from another perspective - its impact on the Bihar vote. For that would now appear the sole priority, the prism through which the tattering of India’s “fabric” is being perceived. A prism that does not reveal that polarisaton could easily fertilise the soil for jihadi elements to sow their poisonous seeds.

Read more at http://www.thestatesman.com/news/opinion/spreading-darkness/96745.html