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Those occupying top positions in India resort to verbal exercise "unmindful" of insecurity gripping public psyche

By RK Misra*
Tolerance may be troubling but arrogance annihilates.
The storm over the statements by the star Khans – Shahrukh then Aamir – fanned through televised debates and the abusive anonymity of the social media is troubling. What did they say that should make people yell bloody murder?
Are they being hounded because they are public figures and Muslims at that? Does a star wife have no right to voice her insecurity? What does the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) have to say?
It states that every 20 minutes a woman is being raped in India. Nearly one in three rape victims is under the age of 18 and one in ten under 14. Since 2010 crimes against women has increased by 7.1 per cent.
That Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Pune – in that order – are among the top unsafe cities in India. And the most horrifying part is that 94 per cent of the offenders was known to the victim and her families. So where does that leave us?
Statistics may trouble but insecurity grips the mind only when those adorning constitutional, religious, cultural or any other position of prominence resort to verbal calisthenics in utter disregard of the disconcerting effect it can have on the public psyche.
“Scales will be even when Muslims eat pork in the open”, says Tathagata Roy, the Governor of Tripura in an interview earlier this month. The man quite simply has not outgrown the post of the Bengal BJP president that he held earlier.
Then of course you have Assam’s acting Governor Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya who is equally in the dark about his constitutional obligations when he states in the course of a book launch function that “Hindustan is for Hindus”, and compounds his subsequent clarification by saying that while it was India’s duty to give “shelter to persecuted Hindus, Indian Muslims were free to go to Bangladesh or Pakistan ”.
The Narendra Modi-led NDA government which was in a tearing hurry to push out Governors appointed by the UPA government should now answer for the sin of appointing such blots to this constitutional office. Do these worthies engender confidence or are they part of the larger strategy of communal polarization in poll bound states?
And, of course, there is the Union human resources development minister (HRD),a lady herself, Smriti Irani, who says that in India women are not dictated what to wear, how to wear, when to meet, only to be rebuffed on the spot by the women in the audience. The lady who heads one of the most important ministries of the government is facing a court-directed enquiry into her educational qualifications.
The trial court has directed the Election Commission and the Delhi University to submit her educational qualification records. That has, however, not come in the way of her recommending 5,100 admissions to the Central Government run Kendriya Vidalayaya (KVs), or Central schools as these are known. This is an almost fourfold jump from the quota levels of her predecessors. Is this how corruption is sought to be weeded out, or is the culture of patronage being further reinforced?
After sermons and admonishments on what to eat and what to wear being proffered to Hindu women, another exalted religious head has now taken it further up. If the forced policing of girls and women by Hindu hardliner groups from time to time was not enough ,BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj had wanted every Hindu woman to produce at least four children. Not that the world’s second most highly populated country needs any goading.
Now, however, the Sabrimala temple authorities have gone on record to bar entry of women to the temple until a way is found to check out and ensure that menstruating women do not enter the temple. This has stirred up a hornet’s nest with women up in arms and countering it with a’ happy to bleed’ campaign in retaliation.
Already the Somnath temple in Gujarat was barred to non-Hindus, except with prior permission. Interestingly, former BJP chief minister Keshubhai Patel is the chairman of the Somnath Trust which has both LK Advani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its members.
The Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi has, nevertheless, decided to be a little more generous. Foreign women tourists in short western clothing will now be asked to wear saris before entering the sanctum sanctorum, according to an order by the temple trust. The foreign women who generally wear knee length dresses will be advised to take a sari which will be provided free. They can drape it around while entering ,then return or keep it,as they wish. This decision has been taken after a discussion with official authorities, it is said.
If religion turns culturally dogmatic, inspiring entertainment is what one was most likely to turn to. Pahlaj Nihalani, the freshly laundered Censor Board chief has ideas of his own both in terms of the use of his official scissors as well as the type of publicity the Prime Minister needs. So you have a restrained James Bond who kisses less in pursuit of indigenous ‘sanskars’ in the latest flick, “Spectre”.
He now decides the precise moment when the kiss turns from patriotic red to prurient blue. He also decides on the eulogy to the Prime Minister that is being shown alongside the hit Salman Khan starrer “Prem Ratan Dhan Payo”, that the information and broadcasting ministry has its own ideas on the subject is a different matter altogether.
But then, this has not stopped Nihalani from deciding to go to ’war’ against the students of the country’s premier film school, the Film and Television Institute of India, (FTII), Pune. The government is doing no better either .The way these students were treated at the International Film Festival in Goa where they were denied permission to attend , picked up and thrashed by the police speaks of the mindset of the government. Fall in line or get crushed.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who has held countless briefings when preventing Parliament from functioning for interminably long periods and justifying it when he was the Leader of the Opposition during UPA rule, has the temerity to say that the students were spoiling the image of the country. And what was he doing then? The entire attitude of the Modi government against the children smacks of arrogance and defines the difference between the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA and the present one.
And while on this comes news that the Centre has proposed draft guidelines to all states suggesting that Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe status of a person be indicated in his birth certificate and caste certificates as early as class eighth itself! Branding propaganda only adds to prejudices!
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*Senior Gandhinagar-based journalist based in Gandhinagar. Blog: http://wordsmithsandnewsplumbers.blogspot.in/

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