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Attack creative freedom – that’s the mob’s job

June 6, 2008
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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.mob protests

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.

Book attacked
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”!!!

Play attacked
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.

loksatta burning newspaper

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

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2008 10:41 am

    Very true facts, Nita!!
    And sad thing about these mob activities is in nearly all cases, mob has no idea what they are doing. A few leaders tell them,” “***** man is doing nonsense and our party is going to protest. So be ready.” And these goons blindly follow the orders. This applies to all road protests, statue burning, posters burning etc etc protests. [I have myself seen how this happens and how people are provoked by party leaders]

    The story of the teacher is sad though and more sad thing is there were no goons but educated people playing mob.

  2. June 6, 2008 11:41 am

    Everytime they stage a protest, it would be against the law abiding citizens of this country. In the land of Mahatma Gandhi, such acts are deplorable. But then I wonder when its going to change…
    I always wonder whether the politicians who call the stike would be smiling when they see the images of helpless commuters caught up in airport/bus stations because of the strike. or when the Mobs damage public property. We dont need such politicians for this country.
    My only hope was the media, I guess thats lost too.
    sigh.

  3. June 6, 2008 11:41 am

    good post nita !

  4. June 6, 2008 12:57 pm

    This is how political parties treat the public(read voters).The damage is more when ruling party or parties supporting the ruling party sponsor such strikes,agitations etc., What do they achieve by this ?

  5. June 6, 2008 3:24 pm

    well they did all they can to disrupt people’s lives.
    link

  6. June 6, 2008 5:14 pm

    isnt it a part of collective bargaining and mob rule

    once u start giving into demands, u please one, u cant stop because the same pattern is repeated…

    nyways this is in the political ethos and culture now

  7. wishtobeanon permalink
    June 6, 2008 5:52 pm

    Good post, Nita. Most of the political parties are here to ruin the nation – I don’t think they want peace or prosperity.

  8. June 6, 2008 6:36 pm

    While reports of criminal hired goons, thugs, hoodlums and other nasty characters vandalising the offices and homes of artists and writers comes as no surpise, I am shocked to read that a teacher was treated like that by his own colleagues. Unless the governments get to know about the sad state of education and healthcare in tribal areas, there is going to be no improvement at all.

    I would love to see Mumbai get a huge statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Nita. But we must remember that the Statue of Liberty was gifted to New York by the French. I guess Rs.100,00,00,000 would be better spend on promoting the national and official language, Marathi and for Marathi literature and arts.

  9. June 6, 2008 9:21 pm

    i think you said everything i was about to say about the attacks…and about the strike…what do the achieve? independence….excuse me we are in 2008🙂

  10. parthwalunjkar permalink
    June 7, 2008 1:33 am

    ABOUT the gujjar agitation……not many people know this….but last year watching the gujjar agitation the brahmins of rajasthan also protested and asked for reservation!!!! But in the end they were suppressed by the government…….I saw this in the news only once……Why did this not make a news…???

    may be because the gujjars are in plenty in rajasthan and its clearly the vote bank!!!

  11. June 7, 2008 7:48 am

    Suda, that’s true all political parties hire goons to make trouble whenever necessary and these goons are promised immunity from the law. That is the state of India today!

    wishtobeanon, thanks

    Xylene,
    there was an incident in W Bengal about a minister who got very upset when he got stuck in a jam because of the strike…as soon as he got out of it he got the people involved arrested!! Double standards! And Xylene, for me the hope today is the youth of this country. I hope they stay in India and make this country a better place.

    Prax, it is the political ethos but we cannot accept it the way it is! We have to step up our outrage against this.

    Old Sailor, the damage is indeed great when the ruling party supports…you know what happened during the Sikh riots in Delhi. I think the political parties do achieve a lot of short-term gains as they manage to suck up to their bosses and 2) the masses who are illiterate in India get roused easily by the parties who use jingoistic terms. why just illiterates…why even educated people can be roused to a fervour by jingoism. Jingoism only harms a country and is not patriotism…it’s even less rational) than nationalism.

    Raj, I agree that the educated doing this is worse but I don’t find it surprising! You know that people have skewed concepts of “loyalty”. And as for the statue, frankly we don’t need it!! A poor country like ours has a long way to go! Let’s make a statue of Shivaji in 2050, not now!

    Vishesh, I think our political parties are living in the dark ages and our rule of law is playing along!!

    parthwalunjkar, well why am I not surprised! Gujjars are after a high caste and am sure they must have done their share of oppression of other castes in the past…but today they are getting the benefits of reservations! As to why the media didn’t report it, I am sure they thought there was more “important” news to report!

  12. June 7, 2008 8:22 am

    Nita,

    I can understand someone being “loyal” or “patriotic” to his/her country, people, state, city, language but I cannot understand why people want to be “loyal” to economic concepts!😉🙂

  13. June 7, 2008 1:43 pm

    A very intresting and good article, Nita!

    However I want ot mention that the things are not much better in the West😦

    Since I am working in the media I see how “news” is done and what becomes “news” – the national media are only following the national political and economic intrests…It looks like all articles are paid! – they even started a discussion here in Austria about the PR Ethics, because the problem is so obvious.

    Thanks God we have bloggers like Nita who despict the true situation!!! – but even that is not sure for how long – you might have probably heard about the cases when corporations “buy” bloggers.They really get everyone under controll.

  14. June 7, 2008 2:53 pm

    So true and so sad!
    It is because of the mob mentality of a vast number of people that most politicians seem to thrive. And it is out of these vested interests that politicians do nothing to raise them above the level of ignorance; their day to day needs are taken care of and they do not need to become employable but can earn their livelihood by indulging in this kind of goondagiri in the name of loyalty to this politician , that party or another cause. Reminds me of the character played by Abhishek Bachchan in the film ‘yuva” unfortunately these guys seem to have a semblance of power and become role models for the younger kids on their block. What a vicious circle.

  15. June 7, 2008 11:50 pm

    Yes, that’s true Axinia, I don’t think the media is all that wonderful in the west either. The only difference between there and here I think is that people there don’t trust the media, while here the majority do. In fact in the west there is a high respect for bloggers, and in some countries more so than the actual media. Not here in India. In India a lot of people believe in the media. Well, I am not talking of the bloggers because we bloggers are wise aren’t we! But many people do watch TV avidly and swallow what they hear and see…
    And yes I have heard about corporations buying bloggers but usually these bloggers make it clear that they are working for somebody. I don’t see anything wrong in that Axinia as long as I know that this particular blogger is working for such and such company…then in that case I know where he is coming from. There was a case of a blogger doing this secretly, for coke I think in the US, but he was found out very quickly. It’s not easy to fool us bloggers!

    Thanks Usha. Actually the masses are always susceptible to any kind of jingoistic talk. We desperately need better politicians so that they don’t stoop to such levels…but I guess all politicians do…which means we need to create awareness amongst the people and we can all do our bit.

  16. June 8, 2008 2:05 am

    Thanks Nita, agre with you. Actually I only meant the cases when people try to do it secretly, we had some cases in Germany… If it is official than it is definitly fine.

  17. m anil permalink
    June 8, 2008 2:27 pm

    Good blog. You are already in my blogroll.
    I admire your views and agree with.
    I have also tried to bring out the role of the political parties of today in my blog “my canvas”.

    Thanks Anil. – Nita.

  18. Raghav permalink
    June 9, 2008 7:38 pm

    In the difficult times of Inflation, we need to stand together and not allow political factions and goons destroy our public property.

    Thanks to the law enforcing agencies and media, that they continue to react the same way for all similar issues.

    Police and law are afraid of strong political figures and they cannot arrest them coz they can cause Mumbai bandh or Highway jam in Rajashan and blabla.

    I guess, mob rules. In future also, it seems like hoping against hope for the situation to change for the better.

    Thanks Raghav. I too share your hope that the situation will change…hopefully as we get educated politicians who don’t hire goondas! – Nita.

  19. Ravi permalink
    June 9, 2008 10:58 pm

    I think strikes, bandhs and agitations come under job responsibilities of Indian politicians…Mobs are like paid coolies who work for lame indian leaders.

  20. Damu permalink
    June 11, 2008 1:14 am

    I agree to the thoughts expressed by you in your blog – However, coming to the solutions or different ways to tackle these problems, which the educated people are coming up with – I don’t think an oridinary/common man reads/knows about it. I see a lot of solutions/suggestions/advises being mentioned in a lot of blogs by a lot of people.

    How do we tackle that issue ?

    I know media is the solution – but then today’s media is always biased and more of a capitalistic thing, rather than a free, unbiased one like PTI, AP was created to be.

  21. June 11, 2008 7:18 am

    Nita, you have seen ups and downs thru your critical eye right from the days of JP to BJP and Congress to UPA. Do you think that overall the situation is better?

  22. June 11, 2008 7:29 am

    Damu, Media is never the solution! I wonder why you think so. Getting our populace educated so that they stop electing uneducated and criminal politicians is what we need. This cannot happen overnight. Also a lot of votes in India happen due to intimidation or bribing. When people are poor they even sell their votes for a bowl chicken soup! I have written about it here. Also in our country collecting money for elections is not a transparent process and mostly our politicians do it and criminal type politicians manage to get good money for their party so the party wants them. Election funding should be made into a transparent process. I have written about that here.

    Priyank, in a way the situation is better because our political parties have realised the importance of economic development. But otherwise I think the quality of our leaders is deteriorating. I am not sure why this has happened…maybe greed has become their mantra. I see corruption rising not decreasing and criminal politiicians are still elected with impunity. There is no law banning those with a criminal record from contesting elections. However the situation will improve in the next decade or so. There is the RTI act for one thing. I am not hopeful about injecting some patriotism into the present lot of politicians, they will have to go.

  23. Damu permalink
    June 11, 2008 8:19 pm

    Thank you for correcting me.

    I know people and thier problems like uneducation, poverty etc are the real problems – The reason i was mentioning media was because i feel media is supposed to update people about everything – pros and cons of every issue. However i do agree, that it the ppl who makes the difference.

    I also agree that this is something which can be taken care of overnight – But i don’t think there is any plan either to take care of it from a long term perspective.

    What do you think is the solution/plan for that ?

    Coming to tranparency process and other stuff, very few people in india care about the taxes they pay – and how they are being used.

    Check this link :
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080610/ap_on_re_us/nevada_governor_divorce

    How does media find about this kind of stuff ? or ex NY Gov Spitzer and educate people about their elected people misuing tax payers money in US – I don’t see any similar role being done by media in India ( or maybe it is and i am not reading it ? or is it that media is doing it’s job – but people don’t care about it).

  24. June 11, 2008 11:40 pm

    I wonder if these mobs especially this Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal could do some volunteer work during Mumbai flooding due to rain. The goons have become more powerful than the people who hired them. There is no freedom of expression left I feel especially on the topic of anything remotely related to Shivaji or Marathis or Thackeray clan. Strikes in Kolkata are the work of so called anti social elements who are actually in cahoots with the political parties. I have written a post too on the distress caused to common man due to Gujjar agitation.

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