Attack creative freedom – that’s the mob’s job
The chaos in Rajasthan caused by the violent agitation by the Gujjar community has barely died down (they want a better “reservation” deal and had agitated last year as well) and other agitations are in the news! Three Indian states (Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, communist ruled states) are protesting the increase in fuel prices. Shops, markets, schools and colleges were closed yesterday and transport paralysed. During the Gujjar agitation Indian industry lost Rs 4,500 crore and the railways suffered a loss of Rs 2-3 crores a day and we can imagine what must have happened yesterday! West Bengal was the worst affected. In Kerala, the hartal caused a loss of Rs 3 crore to the Kerala Road Transport Corporation.
Games played by powerful groups, vested interests and political parties
Intimidation like this by strong groups and political parties without caring about the cost to the nation has become common today. They don’t care that financial damage is done, if inconvenience is caused to thousands to helpless and innocent people or our country’s reputation damaged. They don’t even care if lives are put at risk. Anti-national elements can watch their nation squirming in pain without shedding a tear. They can watch their very own nation wounded and left battle-scarred without feeling remorse. What matters most is that they have gained political mileage and/or goodies for their own group/party.
What is even worse is when their pressure tactics leave an invisible scar, a scar that doesn’t make headlines, a scar that is hidden away in the middle pages of newspapers (if reported), a scar that deeply wounds the spirit of brave men and women of this country…a scar that wounds a nation’s soul.
Let me give you three examples from Maharashtra. Similar incidents happen all over the country but these are closer to home and they are recent and I know about them.
The first incident happened just last month…but it all started when an honest man wrote an honest book last year…and right from the start was hounded by his own colleagues. Heramb Kulkarni, a government teacher wrote a book – Shaala Ahe, Shikshan Nahi, which roughly translated means There’s a school but no Education. He wrote about the poor state primary education in tribal areas of Vidarbha and Marathwada (districts of Maharashtra). But the truth was far too bitter for his own colleagues to digest…and they along with the teachers’ association denounced him for writing the book! They took the following actions to penalize him:
- The standing committee of Ahmednagar Zilla Parishad passed a resolution for cancelling his deputation
- The Sikshan Samiti has passed a resolution refraining him from writing anything regarding the education system in the future
- The Maharashtra State Teachers Committee demanded that his book be banned.
His teacher colleagues did “not deny the factual conditions mentioned in the book” but were angry that he had “defamed the fraternity publicly” as it was “demoralizing.” ! And the latest unsavoury incident took place during a 10 day training camp. Two lakh primary school teachers who were asked to review the book reacted harshly and abused the author! Can you believe it, the teachers’ association “alleged that the book is a part of a conspiracy hatched by a few people against the government owned schools.” !! In fact, the chief of the Maharashtra State Teachers Committee alleged that the book was a conspiracy to “facilitate private institutions”!!!
Two days days ago, some Hindutva groups who were against the Marathi play Aamhi Pachpute (playwright-director and actor Santosh Pawar) are believed to have set off a bomb in Thane’s lakefront Gadkari Rangayatan, an auditorium that stages Marathi plays. Seven people were injured in the blast but it is shocking that it happened in a place of culture and art, and that a few uneducated murderous hoodlums are holding our art and cultural freedom to ransom! This is a second such incident regarding this play. A similar blast took place in protest against an earlier version of the play (Yadakadachit) …and this violent reaction even after our very strict censor board has cleared this play! This plays supposedly make a “mockery of Hindu mythological characters”. Activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal have tried to disrupt the show several times and the High court has directed that the play be performed under police protection.
Newspaper editor attacked
The third incident happened just yesterday. The house of a Marathi newspaper (Loksatta) editor, Kumar Ketkar, was attacked in Thane yesterday morning by some local group which calls itself Shiv Sangram Sangathan and is believed to be affiliated to the ruling party. A mob of about 70-80 people attacked the editor’s house, broke window panes and even tried to ransack the house when both Ketkar and his wife were at home. And for what? Because Ketkar said that instead of spending a 100 crore of rupees for building a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the Arabian Sea, the money could be put to use for public welfare schemes. He had simply given his opinion! He has every right to do that and no outfit has a right to attack his house or burn copies of the newspaper just because he said that housing and feeding the poor is more important than what he calls “statue politics.” If he feels that the Maharashtra government is trying to “gain political mileage by misusing the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji” well that’s his opinion and he has a right to it.
Were the attackers afraid that the public also feels the same? Were they afraid that the editor would easily convince the people that the building of the statue is less important than food and shelter and as a result their statue politics would fail?
I saw the video clip of the hooligans on TV and the attackers were waving their orange flags right at the camera (and were grinning) to attract attention. I heard on a Marathi news channel (Sahara) that the police and government officials had an idea that this was going to happen but kept out of the way. Now the government is making lame statements saying that they will arrest the offenders but we know that even if they are caught, they will be free soon. That’s why these goons do it…breaking into a house and destroying property in front of television cameras!! Would you or me dare do it? We know we’ll go to jail!!!
I admire Ketkar. He had dared to talk about real issues that face this nation. He has a conscience and a voice. He has even criticized his own fraternity and we know how the media sticks together. This is what he has said in the past and this is what I will leave you with:
Today, media has become mindless. News, which brings us close to reality, has vanished while news, which is unreal, is publicised.
(The first picture is from the bbc and the second is from ibnlive)
Related Reading: Gujjar violence of 2007
Violent mobs should pay
Docs in India often have to face irate mobs
Comparision of violent crime in the world
Poor people to Police ratio
Dalit violence in Maharashtra after Ambedkar’s statue damaged in Kanpur
Fake mob attack by political party