First things first. Primetime debates, even while being a circus, are not the problem. Anchors, even without the ideal moderation skills, are not the problem. Islamic scholars, even with their questionable utterances, are not the problem. Spokespersons, even with their uncontrolled tempers, are not the problem.
Deliberations and disagreements, even with the occasional crossing of the line, shall continue, and thus, loose canons are inevitable. However, nothing can be confused as a causality of the fanaticism that prevails.
To commit a beheading and to brandish the murder weapon. To lose a son in rioting and dedicating his demise to the cause of religion. To sacrifice a toddler in the brutal winter temperatures of the national capital and hail it as a victory. To call for rape and butchering of a woman and her family.
The tales of fanaticism are endless. These are people that attribute their existence to a cause, their radical beliefs to their perception of a book, and their heinous actions to imaginary heaven they hope to be dispatched to post-death.
The state, however, refuses to acknowledge fanaticism in its rawest form. For the government, street veto and violence are either an excuse to roll back reforms or to embrace strategic or forced silence. For the opposition parties, rioting culminating in fanaticism, as witnessed in Udaipur, is a result of the intolerance and anti-minority sentiment that have prevailed for the last eight years.
For the judiciary, the threatening, rioting, and killing stem from the poorly worded remarks in one of the hundreds of primetime debates that happen each day. For certain sections of the media, fanaticism is nothing but a sad human tale of a life wronged and a mind misguided. Everyone wants to blame everything under the sun for what happened in Udaipur, but not call out the fanaticism and its origins and its promoters.
For the apex court, a golden opportunity presented itself while hearing the plea on Nupur Sharma where her counsel requested to move the FIRs to the national capital.
For the Justices, the ideal gameplay was to lambast Nupur Sharma for her comments, but also factor in the provocation that was made on that show seconds before she made the infamous utterance and the remarks that were made against the Shivling for days before this episode played out. All this while taking into account several murders, from Kamlesh Tiwari to Kanhiya Lal, and the prevailing threat to Sharma’s life.
To school her for her irresponsible remarks, subject to perception, was well within the purview of the apex court but it was all the duty of the court to guard her right to life, thus allowing her to move all her cases to the Delhi instead of the states where fanatics are on the hunt for her.
However, choosing to be ignorant, the court instead blamed Sharma for the rioting in the country, the beheading in Udaipur, and the tense communal atmosphere that has engulfed the country. For the apex court, perhaps, India never witnessed any communal tension before Sharma’s remarks.
The observations made have three alarming consequences. One, it further strengthens the case of the fanatics for the court chose to attribute the beheading and rioting to what Sharma said, and not to what is being taught to young children or being imparted through virtual radicalisation.
Two, it gives some political parties a free pass to give cover fire to fanaticism in the name of minority appeasement by pinning it on the government of the day.
Three, it may result in more lone-wolf attacks, like the one witnessed in Udaipur, mainly against Hindus.
What the courts or the political organisations do not realise or are unwilling to accept is that is no fanatic ever analysed an election result, picked up the code for criminal procedure, or read the Constitution cover to cover before choosing to pick up the weapon. As a civilised society, we may sharpen our arguments, make a case for reforms in the judiciary or police, and rightfully so, but the fanatic operates on a different level.
A woman willing to sacrifice her four-months old ward doesn’t care for reforms or debates, for her mind is radicalised beyond the point of return to a civilised society. Try political reasoning or debating intolerance or reforms with two men proud to behead a tailor and hoping to repeat their murderous assault against the Prime Minister.
There are also the free speech absolutists, with their heart in the right places, attributing the communal tensions to the blasphemy laws.
Assuming the blasphemy laws were done away with, one would only have more mockery and ridicule of the Hindu gods while witnessing fanatics from the other side defending the cause of their own, violently.
The message the fanatics sent out in Udaipur, through a video they recorded on their own with glee and pride, did not attribute their actions to the blasphemy laws but their version of religious extremism.
Even if Nupur Sharma was convicted for blasphemy, once out of jail, she would still be wanted by those two terrorists, for they do not care for the punishment of the state, but only for the one prescribed in their fanaticism.
Bottom line is that fanatics do not care for any aspect of the civilised society, be it courts or laws or politics, and therefore, it is a mistake to link their existence to what one said or what one votes. A beheading or sacrifice, for a fanatic, is a shortcut to heaven, for they are not deterred by prisons or even death sentences. Stop treating them as a product of unacceptable electoral outcomes.
As a society, the ideal thing to do would be to recognise fanaticism for what it is-a rogue unchecked wildfire, out to decimate the entire state, irrespective of who runs it.
Political differences must be set apart, for in a democracy, if one waits to settle electoral differences before taking up fanaticism, the state will eventually be consumed. Parties and courts, at all levels of the state, must introspect the fire they are either flaming or ignoring for reasons best known to them.
In Afghanistan, fanaticism has consumed an entire society, and therefore, it would be naive to believe that parties or governments other than that of the BJP would escape the wildfire if it hits their states or establishments.
Reasoning with a mad dog may appear to be philosophical, generous, or even progressive, but it doesn’t save one from the poisonous bite.
Divorce fanaticism from politics, urgently.
Also Read: Kanhaiya Lal Is All Of Us
Tushar is a senior-sub-editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @Tushar15_
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