A couple of days back, the Managing Editor of the magazine I work for (henceforth author), wrote a column questioning the moral standings of his “secular friends”. I say column, but that is only if we go into the technicality of it. Mostly it is a bundle of incoherent thoughts and accusations that qualifies as a diatribe at the best. Considering its limited intellectual value and lack of cohesive argument, I was all set to give it a pass as I do to similar articles that keep appearing on the webosphere. However, since I was named in the piece by the author, it is but natural to set few things straight here.
There are inherent problems in replying to a right-wing polemic. The most frustrating among them all is that you have no choice but to follow the flow of the same incoherent diatribe that you have set out to rebut. But one can't help.
The basic problem with a right-wing argument is that it believes that two wrongs make a right. And they always operate in the same realm. Not us. The killing of Daniel Pearl, spy or no spy, was wrong. In fact it is despicable. The onus lies on Taliban and similar bigoted organizations. But a part of onus also lies on countries like the US. Author believes that spies operate a la James Bond shooting at will. In the real world, they operate as journalists and aid and health workers as was clearly revealed in volumes of cables released by WikiLeaks. The agencies like CIA gain momentarily from such hoodwinks but they fail to understand that they put every unsuspecting journalist on the radar of organizations like Taliban who have limited skills or brains to differentiate.
However, the problem lies somewhere else too. It is in author's attempt towards one-upmanship. It has a reason. A typical right-wing guy always weighs his country's greatness in respect to some one else. Such guys always need an enemy, an alter ego to operate. In this case, it is Pakistan. Since you don’t have a clean record per se to flaunt, the only option you are left with is to show that you are cleaner than Pakistan at least. This in philosophy is termed 'Selective conscientious objection.' So, let me cure this.
The author has erroneously clubbed the acts committed by Taliban to those committed by the Pakistan Security Forces. In fact, for uninitiated, they might appear same. And these people believe that they are same. But sorry to report, there is a difference.
The author conveniently forgot the brutalities committed by right-wing goons in Gujarat. He says beheading was brutal. And since according to him children in India are not brainwashed, such acts are unthinkable. The author will remember someone called Bhawani Singh and his acts during the Gujarat pogrom. The fellow not only raped the three months pregnant Zehra but cut her abdomen open with a sword, ripped the foetus out, and held it on the sword for display. The author thinks that is not brutal, I guess.
During the caste wars in Bihar in 90s, it was not uncommon for Upper Caste Hindu guys, members of private army Ranvir Sena, to mutilate the bodies of Dalit woman after they were hacked to death or gunned down. Eyewitnesses vouch that in many of the cases, the breasts of these women used to be cut off as a signature. I wonder where that bigotry came from.
Let us come to the law enforcement agencies now. The author will do good in remembering someone called Soni Sori. The adivasi teacher was so brutally sexually assaulted that initially, doctors refused to prepare the report. It was said that the policemen after raping her, shoved pebbles inside her private parts. A handful of them.
The author will also do good in remembering a group of Manipuri women who not so long ago raised a banner saying “Indian Army Rape Us” during a nude protest that they organized.
In 1998, on the eve of the visit of the then US President, Bill Clinton, to India; 36 Sikhs were gunned down in Kashmir. People who covered it clearly saw the role of security establishment in this. A recent book also exposed how some foreign tourists abducted in Kashmir in early 90s were also killed by the security establishment. There are thousands and thousands more.
I am sure that this one-upmanship has been cured now. I'll move to another argument. The author says that Pakistanis desecrated the grave of Dr Abdus Salam, an Ahmadiya and that such things are unthinkable here. He also mentions something about Upper Caste Hindus and Ambedkar and says that Ambedkar's memorials have remained untouched. Really? Are you serious?
One of the most common provocations that Hindu Upper Caste men resort to is desecrating the statues of Baba Saheb. It is done on regular basis in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere. It is baffling how the author missed the news. Sometimes when you sit too high up, the realities on ground become microscopic. So, there goes another invalid argument.
Let me add something else here. The author will do good to remember someone called Wali Gujarati. The pioneer poet who sort of gave birth to the entire system of Ghazal and Shayeri was buried in Gujarat, the land he loved. During the Gujarat pogrom, right-wing Hindus not only desecrated the tomb but destroyed it altogether and built a road on it. Of course, since Indian kids get secular education, such acts can only be perpetrated by aliens.
The author also believes that killing by sword is acceptable than killing by bombs. So you can kill as many Muslims or Gujjars or Dalits by swords or guns. It is not as heinous as bomb blasts. In other world, people would have expressed surprise on such contrived logic. But in the world of right-wing polemic, these are jewels of an argument.
So let us come to the conclusion of the argument. Pakistani kids are taught to hate in their curriculum. The author has never cared to look inside the curriculum of RSS-run schools in India. They are equally dangerous and bigoted. But since we have established by now that this is an act in 'Selective conscientious objection', I don’t need to give the reason why.
The author missed almost all the points but the biggest mistake that he does is by assuming that the learning process of kids stops at school. A kid learns much more from the social milieu he grows up or operates in than the textbooks. And it is this environment that is poisoned both in India and Pakistan. Textbooks are just a part of it. The problem is much bigger. And that is why, the upbringing of an average Indian child also takes place in a bigoted and communal environment. No surprise that he turns up as one. Had it been just textbooks then every Indian child would have followed traffic rules, cleanliness and showed virtue, morality, truthfulness, chivalry; lessons that have been hammered through kindergarten. It is not.
It is in the benefit of both India and Pakistan that the society is deradicalized. It is in this deradicalization process that the future of both the countries rests.
Like a normal human being, I do have some preconceived notions held inside me. Down the years, many of them broke, and thankfully so. However, I still believe that right-wing intellectuals (if at all they exist in India) are singularly incapable of constructing a valid argument that makes sense or hold the ground. I am yet to find an example to the contrary. So, this notion remains intact, and thankfully so. Since I am not particularly pleased to operate in slug-fest and pig-sty, this article will be my last word on this.
The author seems to detest the word 'Secular'. He in fact takes the pain to firmly establish himself to the contrary. Let me tell you that it takes lots of guts to go against the tide. Secularism comes from lots of conviction and belief.
Bigotry on the other hand needs no labour. One requires merely inherent hate for Muslims, minorities, Dalits and everyone else who does not fit into the Hindu Upper Caste scheme of things. And, an occasional party to celebrate the victory of Narendra Modi.