Monday, June 22, 2015

Rana Ayyub: BJP, Why No Apology for Slander of Hamid Ansari?

NB: The meanness and bigotry of the Sangh Parivar and its leadership is in full and shameless display. Even their so-called apology is an exercise in deception: these lame and formalistic excuses dodge the central issue - communal stereo-typing of each and every Muslim, reaching up to the Vice President, by none other than Ram Madhav, General Secretary of the BJP, and its liaison with the RSS. It was an automatic mental reflex for this senior RSS/BJP functionary to feel free to insult the Vice President of India and publicly insinuate that his religion is the cause of his non-attendance at Modi's yoga spectacle. If such senior RSS men think like this, we can imagine what they teach their cadre. Even this massive abuse of free speech (and yes, fanatics have, and make full use of the freedom of speech) - even this abuse will not make Madhav re-think his ugly politics - it will register only as a tactical error, to be wished away by a 'deletion'. They do immense harm, and then say 'we deleted it - end of story'. This is the height of irresponsibility and misconduct and cannot be brushed under the carpet. The world should know the mindset of our leaders.

The Parivar is obsessed and fascinated by only one theme - they are the genuine 'patriots'; and members of all other religious groups, especially Muslims and Christians, are congenitally treacherous and 'anti-national'. This relentless propaganda and demonisation of entire communities is the ideological fuel for the ongoing physical and verbal intimidation of religious minorities that we see unfolding before us. All their patriotic talk is hot air. Love of power and attachment to their stereotyped mental fixations is far greater than their love for the country or its laws. This can of worms can only produce a worsening stink as the months and years roll by. Justice, communal harmony, probity - even ordinary politeness in speech, will be thrown into the cesspit of communal politics. Only an alert citizenry can stop these unscrupulous ideologues from destroying the democratic institutions of the Indian Union - DS
On a debate last night on NDTV in which I participated, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra refused to answer my question on abrasive statements  by Yogi Adityanath and Ram Madhav about non-practitioners of Yoga. Patra and Kiran Bedi, his colleague from the BJP, sought like other leaders from their party to dismiss the serious allegations by Ram Madhav; they suggested instead that  on International Yoga Day, it was the Guinness records and the broadcast message of peace that needed to be concentrated on.

True, it was these records that captured the imagination of most BJP spokespersons and leaders who were basking in the glory of the spectacle at Rajpath yesterday where thousands of citizens practiced Yoga with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This while one of Modi's closest confidantes and BJP Secretary Ram Madhav took on the second citizen of India, Vice President Hamid Ansari, for not participating in International Yoga Day. Madhav,who made the transformation from the RSS to the BJP about a year ago, asked this question in all innocence if BJP spokespersons were to be believed.

He later tweeted that he was unaware that the VP was unwell and then deleted his tweet attacking the Vice-President. Yes, Madhav's tweet was innocent, as innocent as his party MP Yogi Adityanath's statement that those whon did not wish to practice Surya Namaskar could go to Pakistan. The connotation here need not be explained - Ram Madhav's dig at the Vice President is not divorced from Mr Ansari's religion, this writer believes.

And Ram Madhav did not stop at this. He accused Rajya Sabha TV, the state-run broadcaster, of blacking out the live telecast of the Yoga Day event 'completely' despite it being run on taxpayers' money. The reason for the attack is that the Rajya Sabha TV channel's controlling authority is Hamid Ansari. However, Madhav's claims were soon contradicted by Gurdeep Singh Sappal, CEO of Rajya Sabha TV who wrote "Baseless rumours. RSTV not just did live telecast of Rajpath event. But also had 3 documentaries, 1 special report today on Yoga."

What Ram Madhav failed to tell us - which was clarified later by the Vice President's office - wasthat Hamid Ansari was in the best of health but was missing in attendance because the Ayush Ministry refused to extend him an invitation to the event at Rajpath. Since then, the government has said that it would be a breach of protocol to invite the Vice President to an event where the PM is the lead player.

This is not the first time that Hamid Ansari who holds one of the highest offices in India had to go through an embarrassing situation that is linked to his religion. On Republic Day, he had to face a humiliating barrage of questions on his patriotism when he did not salute the national flag. Again those who questioned Hamid Ansari and his patriotism must read Section VI of the flag code of India. Hamid Ansari was a true nationalist as he followed protocol which demands "During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag, or when the flag is passing in a parade or in a review, all persons present should face the Flag and stand at attention. Those present in uniform should render the appropriate salute." Basically, the main dignitary (in this case, the President) takes the salute; the others need to stand in attention.

Ansari did the right thing, but not for "nationalists"in India who used the term "Jihadi" and "Pakistani"for him on social media and other fora. This time, it was not social media, but one of the senior-most members of the BJP, Ram Madhav, who questioned the patriotism of Hamid Ansari. I do not need to be diplomatic here but state in as many terms that Ansari was targeted by virtue of his faith. The BJP did not just make a gimmick of Yoga by turning it into a one-time spectacle like the Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan but has made the compulsory practice of Yoga in educational institutions a yardstick to judge the loyalty of the people to the Indian state.

The BJP reduced a beautiful spiritual exercise into a  measure of the nationalism and patriotism of its citizens. It wanted the event to be an exercise in which chest-thumping caricatures would perform the Surya Namaskar to prove their allegiance  to the Indian state, a flawed idea which the Indian right-wing and the government seem to be endorsing overtly and covertly.

Why is it that none of us questioned Home Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj for not saluting the national flag on Republic Day, but were aghast at Ansari's alleged transgression? Why does the burden of proving nationalism and patriotism lie only on Hamid Ansari and not other (Hindu) leaders?

Perhaps Ram Madhav answered the question himself yesterday and the unfortunate truth is that none of the BJP leaders will condemn him for humiliating the highest office in India.

The 'un-patriotic' citizens of this country who have had to bear the humiliation of being called "haraamzaade" by another BJP MP  were asked to leave for Pakistan by Yogi Adityanath as Pakistan is seen to be the land which Indian Muslims hold allegiance to. And this unfortunate myth-making will continue to be given credence , proof of which was given to the country when Hamid Ansari stood humiliated last night. Sorry to say this BJP, but true to our apprehensions, you turned  International Yoga Day into an exercise not in pluralism but communalism. And we as proud, patriotic citizens of this country are ashamed that you proved true to our apprehensions.

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