Bulldozers are out again, but karma spares none

A television debate last month has left India red in the face in the international arena.
Posters of now-suspended BJP leaders Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal set on fire during a protest over the controversial remarks of the two leaders. (Photo | PTI)
Posters of now-suspended BJP leaders Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal set on fire during a protest over the controversial remarks of the two leaders. (Photo | PTI)

A television debate last month has left India red in the face in the international arena. The BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, made a sensitive and tasteless remark that was considered derogatory by many Islamic followers, leading to condemnation of the said remark by many Islamic nations. The spokesperson was removed from the post and suspended from the primary membership of the party, and she has been left facing multiple FIRs across the country. The statement has led to riots, deaths and deepening communal fissures in many Indian cities.

It was clear to anyone who watched the debate that Nupur Sharma was reacting to an equally vulgar statement of her opponent in a loud street fight that masquerades as prime-time debate on television. One can understand the stand of the Islamic nations who protested against Nupur’s statement. There is no secular country with an Islamic majority, and the way these countries react is based on their theology-based constitution and society.

However, it is doubtful that any Indian court will find Nupur guilty under any Indian law and the multiple FIRs filed against her is only to calm down the disturbing situation. The Government was probably reacting the way it did to smooth out the diplomatic fallout with friendly Islamic nations. That being said, the damage her statement brought to the goodwill of India among the neighbouring countries and our society is unparalleled.

Was she the lone culprit in this fiasco? The gentleman debating with Nupur made equally insensitive and vulgar statements about Nupur’s religion but got away free. He faced none of the consequences that Nupur faced. Why is he not booked under the same provision that Nupur was booked under? It would have highlighted that this wasn’t how common people of India of any faith thought about other religions, but it was an act of mischief perpetrated by two individuals.

More importantly, why do television channels regularly host vicious debates to improve their TRP and earn some quick moolah to let go scot-free? The damage they do to society is terrible. For the dent caused to India’s image, deepening the communal divide and encouraging riots, these television channels should be fined, their officials ought to be booked, punitive fines imposed, and their licences revoked for such crimes.

A fallout of not acting decisively against all the culprits involved has led to further social fissures. There were organised riots in many Indian cities after the TV debate. A group of people took the law into their hands, demanding a punishment for Nupur that has no sanction in Indian law. Our Constitution is not based on any religious text. At least for now, it owes no obligation to any religion, and there are no laws against blasphemy here. Though everyone has a right to protest in a democratic country peacefully, the violence that followed has no justification.

Those who riot and damage public property are criminals and should be booked as per the country’s law. However, as per the newfound method of rendering ‘instant justice’ where the local bureaucrats and political leaders act as judge, jury and executioner, all rolled into one, bulldozers have razed many homes and dwellings once again. It looks like the courts have chosen to be a mute witness to this blatant violation of the Constitution. The real entertainment will begin soon when every political party catches up with this brilliant idea of rendering instant street justice to settle scores.

Each state government, governed by different political parties, will roll out bulldozers to flatten the homes of its political opponents and detractors. Since the courts appear to be on an extended vacation, we can be assured of watching many live telecasts of ‘bulldozer justice’. The insensitive middle class can eat their pakoras and cheer for this masala film unfolding on their prime-time television until the bulldozers knock at their doors too.

For now, it might be a political party you support riding the bulldozers, and it would feel good to see this. Tomorrow, it could be another political party that may not like the way you dress, speak or think. Or it could be a petty bureaucrat you refused to bribe, summoning the bulldozers. Since we have already buried the rule of law under the debris of demolished homes, there will be no recourse or refuge when they rumble up the monsters down your streets too. The Karma spares no one, say the wise.


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