Perhaps celebrities know that talking about the plight of an animal—who died in a state not ruled by the ruling dispensation at the Centre—is a safe bet
Migrants wait for a means of transport to travel to their native places during the fourth phase of the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, at Kundali Industrial Area in Sonipat. (Photo: PTI)
The killing of a pregnant elephant has caused national outrage. The elephant had strayed into a village in Palakkad, Kerala, and is said to have been fed a fruit stuffed with firecrackers, which exploded in its mouth. It is impossible to comprehend the tremendous suffering of the elephant, who died a painful death. It is also learnt that people in the region have in the past used incendiary materials to protect their crop from animals, particularly wild boar.
One person was arrested after the matter came to light and few others have been identified. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has promised “justice will prevail”, but one does not know if that includes legal action against the hatemongers—including a former cabinet minister who gave the incident a communal colour by claiming, incorrectly, that the incident occurred in Muslim-majority Malappuram. A sitting cabinet minister also retweeted this fake news, which further vitiated the atmosphere.
In a complaint to the Malappuram Police, a lawyer has urged the police chief to file an FIR against the former minister and others for a “derogatory” campaign against the district.
Now, many Indian celebrities, for example Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli, have said that they are “appalled” by the incident. The chairman of India’s biggest corporate giant, Ratan Tata, has compared the “criminal act” with “meditated murder”. The celebrities, the anchors of 24/7 news channels and many other prominent figures are undeniably upset by the plight of the elephant. But do they also feel the same kind of outrage and disquiet over the communal overtones being imparted to it?
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The dominant narrative around the recent JNU incident has been that the unwarranted police action and the concerted acts of violence, incitement and misinformation that followed are all part of a determined push by the saffron brigade. After love jihad and beef, the story has it, it is “sedition” and “Pakistani agent” this time—we are living in a state of undeclared emergency. A sense of disbelief and apocalyptic doom seem to underpin these sentiments, along with a nostalgic optimism for a quick return to harmony and normalcy. But such things have happened far too many times, and far too often for us to harbour such illusions. For what we are going through is in effect a recalibration of that normalcy.
To read political slogans literally is an absurdity. But in the hands of the present government, it is a calculated absurdity that reads “Bharat ki barbadi…” as armed conspiracy against the state. The variables are many—arrests, fake tweets, rampaging lawyers, patriotic house-owners and now, open calls for murder. But the calculus resolves itself into the same formula every time: national/anti-national.
At the outset, the opposition to the attack on the university campus seems to have coalesced around two points—first, maintaining a safe distance from the “anti-India” slogans raised at the meeting; and second, showing themselves as the real nationalists, standing against the saffron thugs in patriot’s disguise. Partly in response to a vicious media campaign, videos of “real nationalist” speeches at the protest venue are being posted on social media everyday. We are told at length about the “real” Indian behind the deshdrohi, his credentials, and how he wants his India to be. Things reached a disturbing pitch when spokespersons of the traditional Left went on record to express their displeasure at the real culprits not being caught. Without doubt, the saffron brigade cannot be allowed the prerogative of deciding what “the nation” means. But why do so from the flimsy ramparts of sedition? Continue reading Sedition is a Shade of Grey or, Bharat Mata’s Smothering Embrace: Ankur Tamuliphukan and Gaurav Rajkhowa