Just the other day, a VHP veteran in Tamil Nadu, RBVS Manian, was arrested by the police in an early-morning swoop down; he was held for alleged derogatory remarks against B R Ambedkar and the Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar.
The 76-year-old VHP functionary is currently lodged at the central prison at Puzhal. Manian has been charged with disturbing public tranquility and inciting hatred, and charges under the SC/ST Act have also been invoked.
To be sure, Manian did not cover himself with glory with that speech that was petty and silly. But it was just his opinion. Yet, the police were quick to come down on the old man and secured him. Of course, the liberal sections of the social media and the mainstream media have blissfully looked elsewhere when the much-vaunted freedom of speech—a fundamental right, no less—is torn to tatters.
Now, contrast this with the free pass that has been given to the former Union Minister and a sitting MP, A Raja, whose even more provocative speech has, so far, triggered no legal backlash. To make it clear, this is not to say action should be taken on Raja. But freedom of speech, if it works for Raja, should work for Manian. It is that simple.
Raja termed the Hindu religion as a menace to the world and asked for it be ended. For those of us used to the bigotry of the Dravidian brigade, this is no real surprise. This is their standard spiel. But their brazenness and insolence are getting more marked these days.
Raja's words come on the back of those of dynast Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin, who went hammer and tongs against 'Sanatana Dharma'.
No other major religion in the world will suffer such sustained calumny by motivated forces. In this age and time, would anyone go scot-free after terming one specific religion as a menace that needs to be eradicated?
Questioning religions is not a crime. But such relentless attacks on a single religion, just to decimate it and put pressure on its adherents, squarely falls in the domain of hate speech.
Raja, prior to this, had equated Hinduism to leprosy and HIV. The liberal sections were immediately offended. At what? At stigmatizing the diseases. This is why the woke types are never taken seriously by many. Anyway, the point is, Raja is continuing with his serial abuse of Hinduism knowing full well that his vilification efforts would not elicit any major repercussions.
After the hue and cry over Udhayanidhi's speech, there were expectations in some quarters that the DMK would want to cut down its spiteful ways. But, as it happens, it seems to have doubled down and given Raja a free hand.
Aside from the moral part of the debate, the question to ask is where is the DMK going with all this belligerence and brashness?
If it is a political strategy, then the strategy part is not all that apparent. The only section that is not upset with the DMK leaders’ verbal onslaught is the one that has already voted it to power in the State. In other words, only its existing vote base is not offended.
While the BJP is always accused of communalizing politics, here it is the DMK which has fired those shots. In which case, is it playing into the rival's hands?
Sach mein Hindu khatre mein hai
As a ploy the DMK's modus operandi doesn't make much sense. For, it is making the putative opposition unity under the abbreviation I.N.D.I.A a difficult preposition.
The BJP is sure to go for the political jugular using Raja's ill-conceived opinions in all the other States. It has given the BJP a major plank in the run-up to next year's elections.
When a leader of the opposition makes bold to say that Hinduism is a menace and has to be eradicated, then the war cry 'Hindu khatre mein hai' indeed rings loud, true, and resonant.
The DMK's gameplan majorly inconveniences the opposition especially the Congress, which already has shown signs of uneasiness and its responses have been wishy-washy.
Of course, the Congress cannot be held liable for the actions and words of one of its allies. But it finds itself on the backfoot because its main political partner is proving to be a major embarrassment. There have been multiple responses from the party, and it clearly shows that the party is confused and confounded by the situation.
The Congress and the DMK, in their UPA days, came apart due to the very same Raja and his now infamous 2G scandal. Among the many scams that rocked the UPA, the telecom one, under the aegis of Raja, proved to be the biggest undoing and helped the NDA (read BJP) romp to power in 2014.
Now Raja is in action again, and it is the Congress that is feeling concerned. In a decade, nothing seems to have changed. Or as they say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
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