If you watched the nightly news television, where it is obligatory for very shrill anchors to garnish every big or small event, mostly small, with a lot of needless fluff, you would believe that the debate in the Lok Sabha on Thursday on communal violence was marked by hateful speeches, particularly by the BJP members. But on actual reading of those speeches, it turns out that as usual television anchors, who harbour the delusion that they address themselves to the entire nation, it was actually a very tame affair. The next morning’s papers, which still maintain a sense of perspective in evaluating the day’s news, without exception, did not seem to think that Yogi Adityanath of the BJP had said something astounding for anyone to go epileptic with rage. Of course, it was all a put-on for the sake of the television ratings points. But that way, more viewers will soon turn away from nightly TV. Which by itself would not be a bad thing, given the sharp dumbing down of news television in recent times.

For, more than what Adityanath said or left unsaid, what ought to have been emphasised was the fact that Sonia Gandhi and son, Rahul, chose not to participate in the debate. This, after they had sought a debate most urgently on the rising number of communal incidents, and for the scheduling of which the Gandhi scion had rushed to the well of the House while typically rolling up his kurta sleeves, and had even accused the LS Speaker Sumitra Mahajan of partisanship. But when it actually came to participating in the debate, the mother-and-son duo chose to maintain a sphinx-like silence. You can draw your own conclusions.

As for the saffron-clad member of the BJP from Gorakhpur, UP, all that he said was old hat. His point was that the majority community reacted angrily to the policy of appeasement of the minority community by the so-called secularist parties and that such a backlash was not surprising. Remember Rajiv Gandhi’s reversal of the most innocuous Shah Bano case judgment. The same point had been made by an umpteen number of observers that thanks to the policy of minority vote-bank politics, there was a strong majority community consolidation. The Mahant cited how the Samajwadi Government in UP was wooing the Muslims by completely ignoring the interests of the majority community, a point made by a number of other people in and outside Parliament. Of course, he mentioned how the so-called secularist class had virtually ignored the sorry plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, who have been thrown out of their homes. And the denial of permission by the authorities to Kashmiri Pandits to undertake pilgrimage in Kashmir at an ancient temple. Secularism, the Yogi said, had degenerated into being another name for minority appeasement.

The leader of the Congress Party, Mallikarjun Kharge, too had nothing new to say, repeating the charge that the advent of the BJP in power in New Delhi had emboldened communal elements. Hence, the sharp increase in the number of communal incidents. Kharge, however, was unmindful of the fact that the states where he said there was such an increase were all run by non-BJP governments.

 Also, the definition of communal incidents needs a revision since every small argument between members of two different religions gets recorded as a communal incident. Should a Sikh cyclist and a Christian motor driver come to blows over a minor accident, it will go in the records as a communal incident. However, should the same accident involve members of the same religion and result in the murder of one of the parties, it would not be recorded as a communal incident. This absurd practice must end. It creates a scary picture of the communal situation in the country. In sum, it was an uninspiring debate at the end of which nobody was any wiser.

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