Vinod Mubayi and Raza Mir


Culture wars in the illiberal atmosphere of Modi’s India have taken a turn for the violent. First, we had the targeted murders of rationalists by religious extremists. Eminent thinkers like MM Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare were murdered with impunity by Hindutva goons. Prof Kalburgi’s murder was not even condemned initially by the Sahitya Akademi, an institution that had once conferred on him one of India’s top literary honors.


Second, we have the brutal murder of 52-year old Mohammad Akhlaq (and the near murder of his son Danish) on the night of 28th of September by a lynch mob in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, on the charge that he had consumed beef. The government, in a peculiar move, decided to subject the meat found in the refrigerator in Akhlaq’s house to DNA testing (never mind that it turned out not to have been beef). It was as if the brutal mob killing would be considered acceptable, had Akhlaq’s family been consuming beef. Indeed, this is the message sought to be conveyed by the leadership of the Indian ruling party – the murder of an Indian is not a dastardly crime anymore, it may be something to be mildly deplored like a misdemeanor, especially if the victim happens to belong to a religious minority or has said or done something that has allegedly offended some sentiment supposed to be held by the majority.


In other words, a social commonsense is sought to be established in which the average “good citizen” will simply look the other way if confronted with a situation where street thugs who happen to enjoy political protection wreak havoc on some hapless member of a minority.  Shiv Sena goons have been doing it for a long time in Mumbai, first to Malayalees and Tamilians, and then to Muslims. Now, other Hindutva goons are attempting to establish this on a national basis. This is the slippery slope that Germany embarked on in the 1930s after Adolf Hitler was elected in a free lection in 1933.


Shiv Sainiks in India meanwhile have prevented a concert by the eminent Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali from taking place in Mumbai, and have “banned” Pakistani actors Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan from acting in Indian movies. They have doused the head of Sudheendra Kulkarni of the Observer research Foundation in black ink to intimidate him against launching a book written by Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, only because the latter was a Pakistani. And lately, they swarmed the offices of the Board of Control of Cricket in India, protesting its decision to hold talks with their Pakistani counterparts.

It is morning in India for proto Fascists!


But we do not wish to leave things on a grim note. For every time there is oppression, there is resistance. In protest over the murder of intellectuals, over 25 past winners have renounced their Sahitya Akademi awards, a move that needs to be doubly applauded, not only for its act of solidarity, but the courage it must have taken, given the violent threats some of these protesters have received. Likewise, the Dadri lynchings are giving Modi a royal black eye, at home and abroad. Finally, Ghulam Ali was respectfully invited by Arvind Kejriwal to perform in New Delhi. Gulon mein rang bhare, baad-e-nau bahaar chale. Let the flowers bloom, let the spring air blow.

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