November 05, 2015

India: "Extreme Talk by VHP's Sadhvi Prachi and BJP general secretary, Kailash Vijayvargiya proves the protesting writers right" (Editorial, The Telegraph)

The Telegraph, November 5, 2015

Another way

Sadhvi Prachi is talking again. Famous for her extreme rhetoric, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader has said that by expressing his dismay at the growing intolerance in India, the film star, Shah Rukh Khan, has shown that he is an agent of Pakistan. This is unfortunate for the Bharatiya Janata Party, coming as it does with the remarks of a BJP general secretary, Kailash Vijayvargiya, that Mr Khan's soul is in Pakistan while he is living in India. This is precisely the kind of reaction to criticism and protest that proves the charge of intolerance that the citizens are bringing against the BJP. Mr Khan is one in a long line - writers, artists, historians, scientists are speaking up, returning awards, making statements, to express their criticism of what they feel is a thickening atmosphere of intolerance and menace. The killing of rationalists, and of people suspected of eating or even transporting beef - the Dadri lynching has become symbolic of the last - have tilted the balance, and a real apprehension of an intolerant, exclusionary, hatred-inciting polity has galvanized generally non-political people into protest. It is an atmosphere in which a BJP leader can say that he would cut off the head of a state's chief minister and kick it around if the chief minister eats beef. Fortunately for the BJP (even if it does not know it), this BJP leader has been arrested.

There is obviously an indefinable sense of alarm that is prompting so many people across India to protest. The solution cannot lie in violently dismissive, censorious, abusive, or petulant reactions that conjure up the very phenomenon the protests are against, but only in dialogue, reassurance with visible correctives and calming actions. Asking arrogantly why there were no protests during the Sikh riots or 26/11 is not an answer, neither is making hollow noises about peace and harmony. The protests have to be addressed with seriousness and engagement. It matters, even to the BJP. The message to the prime minister from Moody's Analytics, or the substance of what the governor of the Reserve Bank of India or the co-founder of Infosys had to say suggests that intolerance and exclusion would harm economic growth as well as foreign investment in direct and indirect ways. It is not the protesters who are hampering the 'development agenda' as the BJP claims; the party is quite capable of doing that itself.