All ladies are women but all women are not ladies. I realised the significance of this saying when I saw a video of one Ragini Tiwari asking the farmers protesting against the three laws enacted by the Modi government to end their protest by December 16.
Otherwise, she and her colleagues in the Sisterhood of Saffron would be forced to intervene like they did at Jaffrabad in Northeast Delhi in February last.
This woman, originally from Muzaffarpur in Bihar, was not indulging in empty rhetoric. She claimed that she had taken the initiative at Jaffrabad. For starters, people in the area had occupied a public road to protest against the Constitution Amendment Act (CAA).
Many saw the CAA as an instrument to discriminate against the Muslims and, therefore, the protestors were mostly from the Muslim community. In the video, she spoke ill about the farmers on whom she heaped scorn and abuse. She also called them names like Khalistanis and Pakistanis out to destabilise the Modi government.
The whole world saw how a BJP leader Kapil Mishra gave an incendiary speech in February giving the police three days to clear the protesters from Jaffrabad failing which he and his party men would take the law into their own hands. That is exactly what happened when in a pogrom, 53 people were killed, and many mosques, houses and business establishments of a particular community were destroyed.
A committee constituted by the Delhi Minorities Commission observed how, over three days, mobs fanned out across the district targeting Muslims as they raised slogans ranging from “Jai Shri Ram” to “Har Har Modi”, “Modi ji, kaat do in mullon ko (Modi, cut these Muslims into pieces)” and “Aaj tumhe azadi denge (today, we will give you freedom)”.
The commission chairman, Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, has been facing the music for whatever little he could do to reveal how the horrendous massacre in the national Capital happened, sorry to say, with the connivance of those in power. However, till the writing of this column, the police have not even raised a finger against Kapil Mishra or Ragini Tiwari.
Just imagine how the government would have responded if a Muslim leader like Kapil Mishra or Ragini Tiwari had exhorted his followers to take the law into their own hands against another community. One gets the impression that there is one law for one community and another for another community!
The way the police have been conducting the investigation and filing cases raises doubts about their genuineness. One tends to believe that Muslims attacked their own brethren and destroyed their own properties. This perception prevails because the likes of Tiwari and Mishra remain outside the jails, because the police are scared of touching them.
Needless to say, the Delhi Police come directly under the Home Ministry which is led by a gentleman who knows how to use brute power to browbeat a community to the extent that a majority of them vote for him in his own Lok Sabha constituency in Gujarat.
It is in Amit Shah’s constituency that a large number of Muslims displaced from their own homes during the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat now live in a refugee colony, described by Modi as a baby-making factory. A study showed that an overwhelming majority of the refugees voted for Shah for fear that they would, otherwise, be targeted yet again.
Inaction against the culprits encourages others to indulge in hate speech. One should not believe that only minorities are targeted by such characters. Ragini Tiwari in her video had also made some derogatory references to the Scheduled Castes. Perhaps, taking her cue from Tiwari, BJP’s Member of Parliament from Bhopal, Pragya Thakur, rhetorically asked at a public meeting in Bhopal:
“Kshatriya ko Kshatriya keh do, bura nahin lagta. Brahmin ko Brahmin keh do, bura nahin lagta. Vaishya ko Vaishya keh do, bura nahin lagta. Shudra ko Shudra keh do, bura lag jata hai. Kaaran kya hai? Kyunki na-samjhi, samajh nahi paate,” she said.
(“If you call a Kshatriya a Kshatriya, they don’t feel bad; call a Brahmin a Brahmin, they don’t feel bad; call a Vaishya a Vaishya, they don’t feel bad. But if you call a Shudra a Shudra, they feel bad. Why is this so? Because of ignorance, they are unable to understand.”)
In other words, she has branded a whole community as ignoramuses.
She is still an accused in the Malegaon blast case in which an explosive device was detonated at a mosque there. She is the one who claimed to have cursed Hemant Karkare, chief of Mumbai’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), and, according to her, that led to his death.
“Tera sarvanash hoga” (you will be destroyed) is the shaap (curse) she is said to have given to Karkare for allegedly torturing her while she was in police custody. Karkare, as is known, was one of the senior police officers killed by terrorists on 26/11 in Mumbai. He sacrificed his life while engaging the terrorists who had unleashed mayhem in India’s biggest commercial hub. Karkare was later awarded Ashok Chakra, India’s highest peace-time gallantry medal.
Modi should have sent her to the India-China border so that she could curse the Chinese troops to death and, thus, finish the border skirmishes, instead of exposing our soldiers to the harshness of winter.
Thakur’s colourful past did not prevent the BJP from fielding her in the 2019 elections in a bid to polarise the voters and garner votes. She was the one who praised Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse to the skies.
Since Gandhi has become an international icon, the likes of Modi are compelled to pay tributes to him, although the Sangh Parivar literature is full of derogatory references to him.
Even Ragini Tiwari proudly claimed that she was not a Gandhi monkey. The Mahatma had few personal possessions. One of them was a statue of three wise monkeys. The monkeys embody the principles of 'see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil'.
Traditionally, the monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil. They are derived from Shintoism. When Tiwari says that she is no monkey, she means that she and her ilk will not adhere to these three principles Gandhi wanted everyone to promote in their personal and political life.
When the controversial MP praised Gandhi’s killer, Modi was forced to rebuke her in public. Ideally she should have been charged under various laws for showing the father of the nation in a poor light. No such action can be expected from him, when he has in his ministry a gentleman by the name Thakur who used derogatory terms for the women protestors at Shaheenbagh and asked that they be shot.
The police inaction against the likes of Thakur forced Delhi High Court Judge S Muralidhar to ask the Delhi Police to take action. Instead of taking action against the instigators of violence, the judge was overnight transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court Collegium transferred him to Bhubaneswar as Chief Justice of the Odisha High Court. Let us see what the government will do now.
A recent study in the US showed that when politicians indulge in hate speech, there is a sudden increase in violence. When President Donald Trump claimed without an iota of proof that he was cheated of a victory in the recent presidential elections, it encouraged many Republican supporters to come out on the streets, ready to fight the Democrats, if not the police.
In fact, the Greater German Reich of 1943-45 was built on the foundation of hate speeches against the numerically negligible Jews, who were portrayed as the cause of everything that was rotten in the German Reich, the period leading to the rise of Adolf Hitler as the Messiah of the Aryans, the pure breed of smart, intelligent persons. In India, the minorities find themselves like the Jews in the Third Reich.
It is not that there is laissez-faire in public speaking. The hate speech laws aim to prevent discord among India’s many ethnic and religious communities. The laws allow a citizen to seek the punishment of anyone who shows the citizen disrespect "on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other ground whatsoever".
The laws specifically forbid anyone from outraging someone's "religious feelings". When delivering hate speech is practiced by those belonging to the ruling party, not a finger is raised against them. In Karnataka, a law-maker openly said that he would not serve the needs of his Muslim constituents. He said they neither voted for him, nor did he want them to vote for him.
That is exactly what Narendra Modi himself has been doing by not giving representation to the Christians in his ministry. He knows that he can win elections even without the support of the minorities. What was seen in Palakkad in Kerala on the day of counting in the recent panchayat and municipal elections is a reflection of the state of affairs in the country.
The BJP won a majority on its own in the Palakkad municipal corporation. A creditable achievement, given the fact that the party did not suffer from the anti-incumbency sentiment. Probably, the voters were happy with the party’s performance during the last five years. How did it authorise the party men to raise a huge Jai Shri Ram banner on the municipal corporation building? It was as tall as the building. Now, imagine how the BJP would have reacted if on a municipal corporation building a banner that said “Allahu Akbar” was hoisted?
The party would have gone to town demanding the sack of the Pinarayi Vijayan government. There is historical evidence that communalism by the majority community is worse than communalism by a minority community. As of today, India remains a “secular” Republic.
Of course, that did not prevent the Prime Minister from going in a state aircraft to lay the foundation stone of a temple being built on land, virtually snatched from the Muslims. Again, the grand Parliament building and the Central Vista project for which Modi performed an elaborate puja in public glare did not enhance the image of India as a secular nation.
Come to think of it, the new Parliament building will be built by the Tatas, headed by Ratan Tata. He himself was present on the occasion. Piqued by his ability to win the contract, a BJP MP who is not a Swamy but uses it as part of his own name tweeted an absolutely derogatory comment about Tata. Rules and regulations do not apply to those in power.
Journalist Siddique Kappan is in jail because he was going in the company of a group of political workers to the village where the body of a raped Scheduled Caste girl was burnt by the police to destroy evidence under the cover of darkness. Now the UP government claims that the group to which his fellow travelers belonged had received foreign money in their accounts.
When a poorly paid journalist takes a lift to reach a place, how does it become a crime? Nobody checks the bona fides of fellow travelers on a bus or train or plane. Criminal Nirav Modi who is in a British jail used to show a picture in which he was shown in the company of Narendra Modi at Davos. Did that make the PM a criminal? A journalist cannot take the high moral ground that he would deal with only saints, not sinners.
Any journalist in the world would have been thrilled to interview Osama bin Laden if he or she had received an invitation. All the so-called proofs against the Popular Front are not proofs against Kappen, whose continued incarceration is an affront to the dignity of the nation as a land where Tagore once prayed, “Give me the strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might”.
The rule of law is what characterizes a great nation. And it implies that no matter howsoever high a person like Kapil Mishra or Ragini Tiwari or Pragya Thakur may be, the law will always be higher than him or her. The majesty of law is what would make the nation great, not the majesty of Modi.