Selective righteousness in the face of religious fanaticism.

Taslima & the soft underbelly of Liberalism

 Bigotry Is Bigotry, Even If It’s By Minority  Jug Suraiya  

   Where have all the liberals gone, now that Taslima Nasreen, the outspoken Bangladeshi novelist living in exile in India, has come under attack from Islamic fundamentalists? The writer was physically attacked at a public function in Hyderabad (held, ironically enough, in the local Press club, stomping ground of supposedly liberal media representatives and opinion-makers) and has subsequently been threatened with beheading by an MLA from Andhra. 

   This paper carried a strong editorial denouncing the shameful episode. Barkha Dutt and a few other media people have questioned the scant protest the incident has provoked among the country’s liberalati who are, rightly, very vocal in condemning any flexing of Hindu fundamentalist muscle. This is not an isolated case. Time and again, acts of violence and intimidation by Hindu zealots have been pilloried while similar instances of Islamic bigotry and intolerance have been received with an embarrassed silence and an averting of eyes on the part of self-professed champions of freedom of expression.

   All this, of course, is gleeful grist to Hindu fundamentalists who point to this blatant example of double-standards to show up the hypocrisy of what they call ‘pseudo secularism’. And they’re right. Bigotry is bigotry, whether it comes from the majority or a minority community. So what’s the liberal justification of its selective righteousness in the face  of religious fanaticism?

   The answer seems to be based on a specious calculus of liberalism whereby weightage in terms of moral indignation is given in direct proportion to numeric strength. Since the majority community is per se larger (and putatively stronger) than a minority community, any display of aggressive intolerance on its part must be inveighed against in measure proportionate to its size.  Conversely, similar transgressions by minorities should be underplayed, or even ignored, out of consideration of that community’s smaller size and hence, supposedly greater vulnerability. This attitude is dangerously flawed. It is unconscionably patronising to minorities; a condescending paternalism which encourages infantile misbehaviour (You’re a naughty little boy, but I’ll forgive you because you’re little). 

   True liberalism is all about individuals, their rights as well as their responsibilities. Protection of individual rights becomes meaningless without recognition of individual responsibilities. A violent fanatic must be treated as the unruly lawbreaker that he is and cannot be condoned on the grounds of belonging to an abstraction called a ‘minority community’. In a truly liberal context, the only irreducible minority is the individual, not an aggregate formed by faith or other common denominator.

   The men who attacked Nasreen, and the man who has called for her decapitation, ought to be charged and arrested not because they’re Muslim, or Hindus, or Holy Rollers, but because they are individuals who have broken the law. Let’s forget the M-word, and the H-word, and focus on the I-word — which can stand both for Indian and individual.

Dadagiri with Police Support

Beat this! Police slap case on Taslima, attackers roam free 



In a stunning follow-up to the attack on Taslima Nasreen by Muslim activists, the Hyderabad police on Saturday booked the exiled Bangladeshi author for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, language — a charge that can get her two years in prison, if proven. The attackers are roaming freely, charged with minor misdemeanours.
   The move by cops, who had dragged their feet on complaints against the goons of a city-based political group, the Majlis-Ittehadul Muslimeen, booked Taslima under section 153 (a) of the IPC after a complaint by MIM’s floor leader in the AP assembly Akbaruddin Owaisi.
   The MIM leader, who had warned Taslima would be killed if she stepped into Hyderabad again, alleged the novelist had hurt sentiments of the Muslim community with her writings and her speeches against Islam. The case against Taslima was filed at Hyderabad’s Punjagutta police station.
   Why the police filed a case against Taslima by taking MIM’s contention seriously appears to be politically driven — the ruling Congress needs the Muslim group’s support. And as for MIM, the group, which once backed the Nizam’s rule and opposed joining the Indian union, was under pressure from the city’s Urdu press for letting the feisty author off ‘lightly’.
   The largest selling Urdu paper in its Saturday edition published a picture of MIM legislators throwing a bouquet at Taslima and chided the party for throwing flowers at the author. The daily poured scorn on MIM legislators for “not even throwing chappals and shoes” at the Bangladeshi novelist, who was in the city for the release of the Telugu translation of her book ‘Shodh’.
   ‘‘Passions are being aroused in the old city with the Urdu dailies and the MIM competing with each other for the sake of religion. There was no other way for the MIM but to file a case against Taslima to demonstrate that they are doing enough,’’ a political analyst said.

Deficit Of Governance

A deficit of governance  TIMES INSIGHT GROUP  

New Delhi: Indians are proud of their country but far from satisfied with the quality of governance. That’s the clear message from an online poll done on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the country’s independence. 

   The survey conducted by AC Nielsen reveals that an overwhelming 89% would opt to be reborn Indian, if they had such a choice. Clearly, they are quite happy with the country per se. They are also happy with the progress in the last 60 years in areas like business and science and technology.

   But they are clearly unhappy with our politicians, the quality of politics in the country, and the lack of governance as manifest in the country’s poor record in poverty eradication, law & order, social equality and infrastructure.

   The respondents pointed out that India has made the least progress in these areas. This reflects the Lead India campaign launched by TOI today seeking to throw up for the country a new leadership, which, in turn, would deliver better governance. 

   Areas where the country is seen to have made major progress are those in which the government has little or no role. For instance, science and technology. This for most Indians today is synonymous with IT, which has grown in spite of government. It is seen by respondents as a success area. In contrast, where the government has a monopoly — such as law & order — or where it has a dominant position, India is seen to be lagging behind. 

   It’s not surprising that under the circumstances, one-sixth of young people, those in the age group 15-25 years, feel politics is the key area in which India must progress if it is to become a developed nation. Again, this is at the core of the Lead India initiative. (TOI’s initiative was conceptualised and executed long before the poll, which reached us on Monday evening.)