A new epidemic has hit Maharashtra and it is on the verge of turning into a pandemic. Luckily, it is confined only to political leaders and their blind followers, irrespective of political affiliations.
The symptoms seen in those affected by it are the urge to shout at the top of one’s voice, making hollow speeches which are not based on proper knowledge of the subject, and inciting people to come out on the streets to protest on less serious issues. There is nothing new in these symptoms, one may feel, but the biggest difference in such symptoms on other occasions and in the current times is that the acts (symptoms) carried out on being infected are not in the larger public interest and are meant only to serve the electoral interest of the party of the infected leaders, while at the same time diverting public attention from pressing issues before the country.
The cause of the epidemic is the word “insult”, which has its origin in the Latin word “insultare”, meaning to jump. Insult also means assault or attack, basically a military one. The dictionary meaning of insult is “to say or do something that is offensive or rude”.
In politics, the definition of insult depends on the ideology of the political party as well as the idol of its leaders and has got nothing to do with the legal or dictionary definition of the word. Moreover, in politics, what is said is not as important to consider it as an insult, but who says what about whom and when, matters to consider any act or words as insult, which means if a personality of one’s liking says something about a national figure, it would be considered insulting towards that personality by some politicians, while others will ignore it. The timing of the “insult” is also important and such issues are taken up during elections or to create a public opinion on situations that are not life-and-death.
The current epidemic in Maharashtra due to “insult” is the repeated statements by Congress leader and former Member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi that he is not Savarkar to apologise. His reference is to the historical fact that Savarkar, a freedom fighter who was in solitary confinement in the cellular jail in Andaman for raising his voice against British rule in India, had later apologised to the British Government for his act and also sought pardon. This was done on several occasions. Later, he got a pension from the British Government and had also appealed to Indian youth to join the British army.
To mention that Savarkar had tender apologies to the British is a bitter truth, that is being denied by the right-wing followers of Savarkar. Also, Savarkar was not the only prisoner to be in the Andaman jail, right from the participant of the 1857 War of Indpendence, the anti-British were jailed there.
There is thus an epidemic of protests against Rahul Gandhi demanding an apology for stating that Savarkar was a Mafi Veer (apology master).
The protests are primarily in Maharashtra and were started by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Eknath Shinde faction of Shiv Sena. Shinde has announced that strict action would be taken against anybody insulting Savarkar. But, neither Shinde or his Deputy, Devendra Fadnavis have clarified what amounts to Savarkar 's insult.
Savarkar is a political necessity for the BJP and both the factions of the Shiv Sena. It is in their political interest to keep the issue burning, since Savarkar is considered to be an icon of Hindutva, as he promoted the idea of Hindutva.
It is either the ignorance of the protestors about the life and ideology of Savarkar, or they conveniently ignore the real side of Savarkar. If what Savarkar had said were to be stated by a person not belonging to the clan of protestors, there would be another epidemic of protests. Savarkar was not averse to beef eating and cannot be said to be a practicing Hindu, as he was against rituals.
In his booklet on Hindutva, Savarkar wrote: (which is borrowed from William Shakespeare) What is in a name? Ah! call Ayodhya, Honolulu, or nickname her immortal Prince, a Pooh Bah… If this came from someone else, it would have been considered an insult to Hinduism and to Ayodhya’s king Ram.
Those protesting against the insult to Savarkar were silent over the statements by the then Governor of Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshiyari which were insulting to Chhatrapati Shivaji, Savitribai Phule and Jyotiba Phule. Since Koshiyari has been associated with the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, his statements were not considered insulting by the BJP and the Shinde faction.
The BJP leaders and spokespersons have been making insulting statements, based on fake information, against our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his descendants.
People blinded by narrow political considerations are not affected by statements made by their leaders. A case in point is that of the utter silence of those protesting over the “insult” to Savarkar are silent on the insults hurled at Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, Sunanda Pushkar or Mahua Moitra, by BJP leaders including Prime Minster Narendra Modi.
Modi addressed Sonia Gandhi as a Congress widow and the late Pramod Mahajan, also a leader of the BJP, had called her a Jersey cow. Modi referred to Shashi Tharoor’s late wife Sunanda Pushkar as a Rs 50 crore girlfriend, while BJP MP Nishikant Dubey used the word “nagarvadhu”, which means a prostitute. This is not an insult merely of the three women, against whom such statements are made, but is a slur against women in general.
The easiest thing for men to demean a woman is to cast aspirations on her character. However, such statements exhibit the character of the person making the statements.
Politicians may make such statements, but it is for the general public to raise its voice against those making such remarks against women, irrespective of their party affiliations or social standing.
The author is a senior journalist and media trainer. He tweets at @a_mokashi
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