A group of intellectuals, writers, journalists, activists and artists of late have been outraging about the “increasing level of intolerance” in the country, whatever that means. To add some spark to their outrage some of the “eminent” writers, filmmakers and scientists are even returning their awards that they got from various academies like the National Film Academy or the Sahitya Kala Academy. They are returning the awards to register their protest against the voices of dissent being throttled and people not being allowed to make dietary choices (vis-à-vis the recent beef- related lynching and related politicking).
Some of the protesting artists, historians and writers say that the situation is worse than even the emergency days. There is no freedom of expression. People are not allowed to say what they want to say. In fear of retaliation people have to keep quite. They constantly refer to rationalists and anti-superstition activists being threatened and attacked and even killed. You can see blaring headlines on some of the TV news channels that minorities no longer feel safe in the country. Majoritarian views are being imposed on them. The extremist elements in the majority Hindu community, the protesting “eminent” folks claim, that was so far lurking at the fringes, are threatening to become mainstream due to the present government’s alleged silence over the rising extremist voices. If you believe them, all hell has broken loose and people are being chased and killed on the streets. Hence the outrage.
Why is this selective outrage and why people are outraged at this selective outrage?
It is being labelled as selective outrage because one, the situation is not as bad as it is being projected by these people and in fact things are far better now than they were a couple of years ago, and two, these people never outraged when there was really a reason to outrage. More than 1000 riots have happened under the Congress rule and thousands of people have died due to them. In fact, the 1984 Sikh genocide happened under Congress’s guidance and support — the party even used Doordashan (khoon ka badla khoon) — the state owned television broadcasting network — to incite violence against the Sikh community. Not even a single arrest was made and in fact, many Congress politicians including Sajjan Kumar, Tytler and HKL Bhagat kept enjoying the patronage of the Congress high command even till the present days. Awards were not returned. People were not shamed. No one threatened to leave the country forever. There were no signature campaigns. No country was urged to ban the entry of Rajiv Gandhi who refused to take the calls during the 1984 killings from the then Sikh President, Giani Zail Singh. Collective outrage among intellectuals, writers, scientists and artists was conspicuously missing.
This is just one incident. All limits were crossed during the emergency. Millions were castrated without their consent and most of the people who were castrated belonged to the Muslim community. Government employees were punished for not bringing in more people to be castrated. I remember one of my school teachers was recalling that her father had to go underground because he didn’t believe in herding people to the castration centers and government-appointed goons were looking for him. The family was threatened with dire consequences if he didn’t produce himself and they too had to leave in the dark of the night and remain in hiding during the whole of the emergency days. Whoever opposed lost his job. Many people vanished without a trace and never returned to their homes. One call from Idira’s or Sanjay’s office would make noted journalists and editors piss and shit in their pants actually, not literally. The opposition Leader LK Advani famously criticized the editors and journalists by saying, “When you were asked to bend, you crawled”.
Renowned singer Kishore Kumar was banned and none of his songs were allowed to be played on TV and radio just because he had refused to sing in one of the functions being organized by one of the architects of emergency, Sanjay Gandhi, the son of Indira Gandhi. No protest marches were organized in his support. People were jailed for simply articulating their discontent.
Noted lyricist and poet Gulzar, who thinks the current situation in the country is worse than the emergency days, himself bore the brunt of a dictatorial government when one of his films based on the life of Indira Gandhi was banned — he seems to have forgotten those good old days of “freedom of expression”.
And of course who can forget the genocide of Kashmiri Pundits in Jammu and Kashmir right under the nose of the Congress government? These people whose ancestors had been living in the valley for more than 5000 years were butchered, raped and chased out of their own homeland, in their own country, and no intellectual and public figure in the mainland India was outraged enough to raise his or her voice or even write an article or an essay about the monumental human pain this unfortunate community had to go through.
The “eminent” people who are returning the awards and vociferously speaking out for not being allowed to speak out, say that it’s their right to be selective. “Besides,” protested one of the filmmakers on TV who has returned his award, “we haven’t protested in the past doesn’t mean we cannot protest in the present!”
One of the “senior” journalists wrote, “Why can’t we be selective? Isn’t it our right to be selective?”
To these people I would like to say that yes, it is your right to be selective. This is because you people wear your causes as normal people wear their clothes. These causes are just fashion statements for you guys. You guys will scream for animal rights but you will eat cow just to prove a point. You people will cry blood and “fanaticism” for an unfortunate incident of a Muslim man being lynched but you have no problem in the Congress party being instrumental in the massive backwardness, illiteracy and poverty among the Muslim community. You guys get your panties in twists due to some stray gharwapasi and “love jihad” incidents but you don’t mind Assam and West Bengal being turned into Muslim-majority areas for political gains. You people want to organize marches for the cause of the Palestinians but in your own neighbourhood when a sustained genocide of Hindus happens in Pakistan and Bangladesh you brush it off as those countries’ internal matter. When police raids a canteen where it is suspected that beef is being served despite it being an illegal activity you start beating your chests but when the same police but in a “secular state” arrests youngsters for organizing a pork party not a whimper is raised. You guys have become so used to not thinking that recently when Nayantara Sahgal was asked why she never returned her award when atrocities were happening under the Congress rule she said that even if the atrocities were happening under the Congress rule, at least we had a “secular” government at the Centre, so things were different. You see, you people are so used to being patronized by a friendly Centre that you can’t even give logical replies to your illogical actions.
Finally, just as you people have the right to outrage selectively, the others have the right to call your selective outrage bullshit. Just because suddenly you have decided to selectively outrage why do you expect the rest of the country to accept your version of the truth as gospel truth? Yes, there used to be a time when every sort of malarkey from you went unopposed but that was because people had no means to express their opposition. Now they have. Selectively outrage as much as you want because fortunately for you, the Constitution of your country and the civilizational ethos of our society give you ample space and rights to do so. But the same sort of ample space and rights — to which of course you cannot relate to — are also afforded to the rest of the population. If they think what you are saying or what you’re doing is bullshit, they have all the right to say so. If selective outrage outrages people, this is their right. Learn to live with that. The society is much freer now than it was during the times you claim were freer. Those times might have been freer for your literary and artistic rackets but not for people. Now it’s the other way around.