The Double Standards of Our Civil Society

Published: 05th September 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th September 2015 11:06 PM   |  A+A-

The daylight killing of Karnataka scholar M M Kalburgi in Dharwar is an act that deserves downright condemnation from the entire civil society. Surprisingly, most of those leading the charge against the evil deed represent ideologies and organisations that usually endorse violence in the name of social justice and demand leniency for those who are convicted of heinous crimes such as murders and bomb explosions. One cannot recall even one of them raising his/her voice when octogenarian Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati’s frail body was riddled with bullets on August 23, 2008, in the deep forests of Kandhamal district of Odisha. His murderers broke open the door of the toilet when he was busy with his ablutions.

What was Swamiji’s fault? He had spent a lifetime serving the poor tribals in the remote forests of the backward state, helping them save their ancestral faith and identity from those who believe in buying souls in exchange for a loaf of bread, or use the tribals as fodder in their war against the state of India on behalf of their foreign masters (read China).

On September 30, 2013, nearly five years after the dastardly assassination of the 82-year-old highly revered Swami and four of his disciples, seven persons — all Christians — were convicted for the hate crime. The Swami and the string of institutions he used to run were major irritants to both the  Maoists and the church which are active in the area, pushing their respective agendas. Even as this column is being written, a prominent multi-edition South-based English daily this morning (Friday), has carried an edit page article by a top CPM leader in which she has termed the judgment in the Swamiji’s murder case “atrocious”.

Defending those convicted, she says, their “crime is that they are Adivasi, they are Dalit, they are poor and they are Christian”. See the contradiction. While hell is being raised over Kalburgi’s murder, a campaign is simultaneously on to secure the release of those found guilty of killing the Swami and four of his devotees. Should those claiming to be speaking on behalf of civil society attribute motives to the judiciary? The conviction followed professional investigations by the police and went through the due process of law, which provided enough opportunity to those found guilty to defend themselves. Kalburgi’s murder was surely an un-Hindu act, and those who committed it deserve no sympathy whatsoever.

The law should take its own course and the guilty must certainly be made to pay for it. However,  can there be double standards in such cases? Should the ideology and faith of the victim and perpetrator colour the response of civil society to such sordid crimes?

Do we remember what the first reaction of the ‘secularists’ was when 59 kar sevaks returning from a pilgrimage to Ayodhya were roasted alive by a mob fired by religious zeal at Godhra on the fateful morning of February 27, 2002? It’s a matter of eternal shame for them that in their initial reaction, they sought to blame the victims for their fiery end.

One multi-edition English daily (which claims to have the highest circulation and readership in the National Capital Region) carried an editorial the following day which said that the kar sevaks had brought upon themselves their horrible fate with their highly ‘provocative’ action of visiting Ayodhya and raising slogans hailing Lord Rama!

After the UPA was voted to power in May 2004, within four months (September 2004) its Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav (an icon of ‘secularism’ ) appointed an inquiry into the Godhra episode headed by Justice Umesh Chandra Banerjee. In tune with the ‘secular’ line, the Banerjee committee held that it was an “accidental fire”, implicitly absolving all the criminals of their heinous deed. Later, the Gujarat High Court declared the formation of the committee ‘unconstitutional, illegal and null and void”. The high Court further termed the committee’s formation a “colourable exercise of power with malafide intentions”.

Generally, the intellectuals and activists who are guilty of such double standards belong to the Left, and they lay exclusive claim to secularism. It is because of such intellectual dishonesty on their part that violence against political and ideological opponents is central to public discourse in Kerala and West Bengal, the two states in which the Communists have enjoyed a dominant position over the past three decades and more.

Is it not ironical that the Leftists of various hues arrogate themselves the leadership of secular and democratic values while their record on these counts is dismal? During the fateful years preceding Independence in 1947, the Communists actively worked with Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the British for the creation of Pakistan — a country whose foundation was wedded to theocracy and has subsequently emerged as a petri-dish of terror in the region.

Coming back to Kalburgi’s murder case, one should not hazard a guess either about the identity of the murderers or their motives till the police investigations conclude. However, killing someone for his/her views is alien to Indian traditions and philosophy.

The New Encyclopaedia Britanica says, “In principle, Hinduism incorporates all forms of belief and worship without necessitating the selection or elimination of any. It is axiomatic that no religious idea in India ever dies or is superseded; it is merely combined with the new ideas that arise in response to it.

Hindus are inclined to revere the divine in every manifestation, whatever it may be, and are doctrinally tolerant, allowing others — including both Hindus and non-Hindus — whatever beliefs suit them best.”

Where is the scope for any violence in such a pluralistic tradition? Distortions in the system crept in following the arrival of Islam (Muhamad Bin Quasim in early eight century) and the Christian clergy led by Saint Francis Xavier  (in 1542) as invaders. The entry of foreign inspired Communist ideology, with its concepts of “class enemies and wars” in the 1920s, further added to this creed of intolerance and bigotry.

In the past century, global history was stained in innocent blood by Stalinist excesses in the name of exclusive claims to Marxist-Leninist ideological purity in Russia and eastern Europe, and Nazi-fascist atrocities on ethnic grounds on Jews in Germany.

History may repeat itself first as a tragedy and then as a farce. But the lesson of self-proclaimed revolutions, whether in the name of the dictatorship of the proletariat or of the monopolists of purity in the name of religion, is the same: unity through diversity of thought and respect for it is the best bet to real and sustained democracy in action.

 

 

The author is a Delhi-based commentator on political and social issues. E-mail: punjbalbir@gmail.com

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