Learning Lessons From The Past


By Ananya S Guha

The Home Minister`s statement a few months back that Hindu `terrorism` is supported by some political parties and their allies needs to be looked roundly at. It came at a time when India baiting by Pakistan was at its best, and this statement could be well used by our neighbour to advantage, in whatever context.

Making a religion akin to terrorism, Hindu or Muslim is a wrong premise and will hurt sentiments, apart from the fact that it came in a wrong moment. If there has been a Gujarat, there has also been a Godhra. We should not lose our balance in this matter. The worst that a politician could do, and that too the Home Minister could do is to talk on such divisive lines, especially when the Hindu Muslim imbroglio is improving and looking up considerably. Moreover the statement smacks of a bias, and will be a repellent to hardliners, who are already vociferous and fired up. There was no need to stoke fire, at this juncture and that too by a responsible authority.

It is a pity that political leaders never talk of a unity, religious, caste or community based, but always take the divisive stance, causing further fissure and erosion in our societies. A religious group cannot have terrorists, whether Hindu or Islamic; terrorists are individuals distorting religion, and professing violence in its name. To use the religious tag for a religion is to discredit it, and identify religion with terrorism per se. This is not only wrong; it is unethical and grossly irresponsible, in pluralistic societies.

I don`t know what was the intention of our Home Minister, but he has played into the enemy`s hands, and openly antagonized the majority population, most of whom want to co-exist peacefully. Moreover, this will be a chance for disgruntled, recalcitrant elements, call them Hindu or Muslim to make a strong comeback, and preach the message of attrition and hate. Is this warranted? I am surprised that many including the media kept quiet on this matter.

Who gains from these statements? Only politicians? The common man will have to bear the brunt of the attack by fascist elements. It has been a most reprehensible statement, and either we must pooh pooh it, or inveigh it with heavy condemnation. The Aaam Aaadmi perhaps knows better what do, in such a situation, because he has faced it times without number.   

However, equally unfortunate if not tragic is a senior journalist’s diatribe on Prof. Amartya Sen’s comments that he would not want a Narendra Modi to be the Prime Minister of the country. It is a perfectly legitimate statement if one considers the fact that in a democracy voicing of opinions is a legitimate action, that is the Right to Speech. The irreverent riposte of the journalist in the form of the words that Prof. Sen be stripped off the Bharat Ratna is not only a vulgar profanity, and  disrespect to one of the world’s leading economists but also a statement which smacks of rabid arrogance. No one has the right to suggest dismantling a national honour bestowed upon anyone by the government. Who is he to suggest this? Moreover, his comments should have been veered around Prof. Sen’s views and should certainly not have been personalized. It is not only dishounouring Prof. Amartya Sen but also the mantle of the Nobel Award and its universal acclaim and sovereignty. It is sad that in our country politicians or otherwise including some of the so called intelligentsia make issues so personalized, which stems from a suppressed dislike of a person or even a hatred. I am amazed that such a statement could get away so easily, with of course the electronic media making it food for another juicy controversy. The statement that a particular person would not want Narendra Modi to be the Prime Minister of the country is innocuous at one level. At another level of course, it has a deeper meaning – namely that he would not like a Rightist heading the country, which I think is fair enough. On the sharp contrary Prof. Sen’s interview on television was calm, reasoned and meditated. It had the stuff of decency and even respect – that is respecting another’s opinion and saying that he had the right to say what he said. Despite, the TV anchor’s constant if I may call it needling Prof. Sen maintained a calm and stoic demeanour.

We should learn from such interviews the lesson that even if you do not agree with one’s views you can at least accept it at face value. Considering the fact that the senior journalist’s statement was vicious if not malicious Prof. Amartya Sen maintained that kind of posture that is the stuff of great men.

And how little of them we have in our country! Tagore and Gandhi differed radically from one another, so was the instance between Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose. But they all revered one another. Can we take these lessons from the past, which we call history?  


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