- Every responsible citizen of the Indian republic is aware of the Constitutionally mandated rights which are considered sacrosanct ensuring the democratic form of governance functions smoothly. Now, there is always a fine line that cannot be breached lest society is confronted with disharmony amongst the disparate elements forming the sovereign nation of India. As you are aware, religion is a sensitive topic here offering people the freedom to embrace whatever beliefs they wish to follow. Ideally speaking, society and in turn the governments are expected to provide level playing fields for all faiths without denigrating others leading to discontentment. However, an increasingly polarized society presents a challenge of various forms to this very premise.
PC: Prasoon Shekhar
- We know the situation prevailing out there is anything but harmonious. Not a day passes without an incident involving a communal angle leading to social disturbances. The polarization is deeply entrenched and there are no signs of abating in the foreseeable future as well. Let’s look at some of the recent divisive incidents reported extensively involving political parties. At one end, we have the BJP which finds itself in the thick of the action by upholding its Hindutva credentials unabashedly despite facing widespread criticism in the Nupur Sharma case. On the other side, we have several political parties identifying themselves as secular berating the saffron party at every available turn.
- Of course, the adage once bitten twice shy could be seen at play recently as the alacrity with which BJP suspended its Telangana MLA for his offensive commentary on Islam. Who can neglect the diplomatic fires caused in strategically and economically important Gulf countries? Trust our politicians to fish in troubled waters to score brownie points. In the instant case, Telangana police had already arrested the MLA with even greater speed. Note that how the episode is panning out not only exposes BJP’s failure to moderate voices it labels fringe when under pressure, but also questions TRS righteousness which cannot be taken at face value. Simply because creative freedom in India is often a matter of who is in power where and who are their political rivals.
PC: Avinash Kumar
- Even a simple satire or stand-up comedy is viewed through the prism of communal lenses evoking extreme reactions mirrors how fragile the equation is on the ground. Remember, stand-up comedy is political everywhere, even in authoritarian countries where avoiding politics is a political statement. Sadly, today’s democratic India has invented a uniquely absurd relationship with it. In the latest iteration of the permit system – what show happens where depends on which party runs the state government. For instance, stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui found his show cancelled in Bengaluru and Mumbai but supported by extraordinary police protection in Hyderabad. Look at the blatant duplicity at play here.
- TRS government stood up against Singh’s threat to beat up the performer and burn the venue. However, would Salman Rushdie have enjoyed that protection in venues where Faruqui can perform? You know the answer. Did our political leaders express genuine concerns about what all this is doing to India’s soft power? None at all, our leaders are naturally not asking while it serves their interests.