Dadri reminds us how PM Narendra Modi bears responsibility for the poison that is being spread

Mohammad Akhlaq’s death is a tragedy. It exemplified the depths of the barbarity that lurks behind the veneer of our civilisation.

Written by Pratap Bhanu Mehta | Updated: October 3, 2015 2:00 pm
dadri death, dadri killing, dadri violence, dadri beef, dadri murder, Tarun Vijay, Dadri, dadri killing, Mohammad Akhlaq, Hinduism, Dadri lynching: Family members of Akhlaq, who was killed in a communal clash in Jarcha area of Dadri, mourn the loss at his residence in Bisada village -Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav,01/10/2015

If you wanted an example of how vile, nauseating and morally odious our public discourse has become, you need look no further than Tarun Vijay’s ‘Death in Dadri’ in these pages (October 2). Mohammad Akhlaq’s death is a tragedy. It exemplified the depths of the barbarity that lurks behind the veneer of our civilisation. Vijay’s words, and those of many in the party he represents, have given that barbarism full rein in the highest circles of power.

It is astonishing that this piece was meant to distance Hinduism from violence. It instead represents the way in which violence is inscribed into the self-appointed votaries of Hinduism. Vijay has accomplished the astonishing feat of even making apology look almost homicidal. The sentiments he represents are now becoming the moral common sense of our public culture.

The article gives full display to the moral twistedness of what passes as BJP thinking. First, enunciate a seemingly moral claim that leaves the door open for a deeper barbarism. “Lynching a person merely on suspicion is absolutely wrong,” Vijay informs us with all sincerity. It is almost as if lynching is fine so long as it is not based on mere suspicion. It is saying, in effect, that if Akhlaq had actually been guilty of eating beef, it would have been fine to lynch him.

Second, there is the canard: You people who eat beef, or oppose the ban, you are responsible for the death of Akhlaq. You are the provocation, you are the extremists. This confusion will leave anyone petrified. Vijay clearly does not understand the idea of rights. He also equates differences as tantamount to provocation to murder: If I don’t eat beef because of my religion and you do, or if I hold the cow sacred and you don’t, I have the right to treat you as a provocation. He clearly does not understand the limits of offence in a liberal society: You cannot take offence at what others do pursuant to the exercise of their rights. You have the right to persuade them to do otherwise, but you do not have the right to coerce them. Third, there is the drawing of false equivalences. What is the crime of secularists?

They did not protest when Tika Lal Taploo was killed by jihadists. This is false as a description. On even the vaguest understanding of secularism, any murder is wrong. But even if, for argument’s sake, we grant Vijay more rope to strangle Indian civilisation with and admit certain political inconsistencies in the positions of some groups, does that make them liable for murder? Evidently it does. “The secular brand of communalism is more lethal sometimes than the bullets of violent people,” Vijay intones. And then there is the final canard: Liberal Muslims never stand up for Hindus.

The list of falsehoods could go on: Seculars don’t care for Dalits, as if most of society does. “Fanatic regions in our neighbourhood… have become barren lands, devoid of the flowering of any kind of creativity.” Perhaps Vijay should read more novels, watch more television and listen to more music from our fanatic neighbourhood. It might reassure him about their creativity. It will certainly calm his soul more than the asinine and creative pronouncements on history and science that his ilk from the RSS trots out. But a country that is now murdering or threatening rationalists, where power and violence is hollowing out all sense of value, is hardly in a position to lecture about “fanatic neighbourhoods”.

One could go on. But the likes of Vijay have made the atmosphere so suffocating that you know this is a fool’s errand. The issue is no longer facts or morality. There is a strange alchemy that turns even good things into the opposite: Vegetarianism is an excuse for violence, tradition is an excuse to assault freedom, ideas are an excuse to curb debate, disagreement is an excuse for provocation, and facts are an excuse for mendacity. It is as if the nation is acting out the violent convulsions of a deranged being, with no calm light of reason, or compassion, or values to restrain it.

The question of whether these are fringe elements is practically irrelevant. These elements are highly consequential. Such morally odious speech comes from the highest levels of government. The minister of culture, for example, whose praise for A P J Abdul Kalam was accompanied by a congenital suspicion — “despite being a Muslim” — and who described Akhlaq’s death as an “accident”, prefigures the moral blindness that Vijay represents. Saying that these views do not represent the majority is cold metaphysical comfort to those being killed and threatened.

No one had expected this morally odious part of the BJP — and it is part of the BJP — to vanish easily. But there was the hope that opportunism would tame fanaticism, that the need to take India into the 21st century would have enough momentum to overcome many of these nasty folks. Vijay himself seems to acknowledge this. He seems to think Akhlaq’s killing can derail Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda, as if only an instrumental reason should make us worry about this death. But the truth is that a lot of nasty people within the BJP and the Sangh Parivar are feeling empowered to the point of shamelessness. No one in the party is willing to signal an intolerance of the intolerant.

The blame for this has to fall entirely on Modi. Those who spread this poison enjoy his patronage. This government has set a tone that is threatening, mean-spirited and inimical to freedom. Modi should have no doubt that he bears responsibility for the poison that is being spread by the likes of Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and Vijay — whether through powerlessness or design is irrelevant. But we can be grateful to Vijay for reminding us that the threat to India’s soul emanates from the centre of power, almost nowhere else. It is for that centre, and Modi in particular, to persuade us otherwise.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, and contributing editor, ‘The Indian Express’

(This article first appeared in the print edition under the headline ‘The party and its poison’)

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  1. J
    Jai Kumar
    Oct 3, 2015 at 10:48 pm
    The ruling parties since parion have ruled the country by dividing us on lines of religion, caste creed and region. No one party is to be blamed.the blame lies of the way democracy has been run . Incidentally there is a gr root resentment within the Hindus of the country against a eons of Mughal rule and the way Congress and its allies have already genes themselves to the Muslim cause. I was 15 when I saw Sikhs being butchered in Delhi, I was 17 when I saw the then PM court Muslims on Shah Bano case. Then I saw Mandal commission then I saw Babri masjid, Kashmiri pundits chased out of Kashmir.the list is long then Godhra, Mumbai blasts, naxalite movement. The country needs Indians not Dalits, Brahmins Muslims etc. Don't just blame BJP blame the political culture. BJP and the Singh are easy targets. Hindus traditionally are too learnt but every tolerance has a limit. We revere Cow as mother and name a Hindu who will not feel for a calf being butchered. We are asked to respect the minority sentiment. Let them also respect our feelings. This in no terms is to condone the murder of a man . That is wrong but across the country how many people died that day and who covered thos stories.
    Reply
    1. 4
      4thAugust1932
      Oct 9, 2015 at 6:43 pm
      BC/SC/ST/MC should give an Independent nation to Upper caste/Vegetarians; They're less than 10% in India :)
      Reply
      1. D
        Dhananjay
        Oct 3, 2015 at 9:07 am
        Both this article and the article it criticises are rubbish. India is not a Secular State, A secular State cannot have religious personal law on the books. If the party that wants Secular personal law ( at least it claims to do so in its manifesto) is communal and the rest are Secular then we certainly live in absurd times. UP is probably the murder capital of India and the world. The local administration as well as the local Government is totally corrupt and cannot enforce the law at all. It's easy to p the buck by attempting to censor controversial opinions, which is what your piece effectively wants to do.
        Reply
        1. D
          Dharma
          Oct 3, 2015 at 11:12 pm
          IE, you have stooped below even a third rated yellow journal. How can you be so shameless to publish this filthy garbage? For once after 60 years we have some hope of India achieving development. If we can't help him, the least we must do is not demotivate him. We are the best in pulling ourselves down to the gutter in the garb of democracy.
          Reply
          1. M
            Modi and
            Oct 3, 2015 at 9:17 am
            Anti Modi protest in Silicon Valley a good start to make the world aware of RSS. More effort needs to be made. I will try to take part if it is near me.
            Reply
            1. M
              Modi and
              Oct 3, 2015 at 9:18 am
              This matter should be taken to uno.
              Reply
              1. N
                NukeNotes
                Oct 7, 2015 at 11:00 am
                I wish 'We' the younger generation of writers can willingly imbibe a writing quality as demonstrated by the writer. Consistency/ Courage /Critical thinking
                Reply
                1. K
                  khan
                  Oct 3, 2015 at 11:38 pm
                  Don't worry South stan is fast becoming reality
                  Reply
                  1. K
                    khan
                    Oct 3, 2015 at 11:41 pm
                    The only solution is to give Indian Muslims separate country that is SOUTH STAN
                    Reply
                    1. A
                      Ashwani
                      Oct 3, 2015 at 10:43 am
                      Partial bhanu ur knowledge is not good. I can also blame on you for this incident. Blaming to others is very easy. Do u have any proof . Then pls go to the judiciary. Don't try to make urself decisions maker.
                      Reply
                      1. R
                        Raaj
                        Oct 3, 2015 at 9:11 am
                        Mr writer were you been in hibernation in times of bengal killings, or have you forgotten punjab macre or Kashmir cleansing by peaceful people. It was not bjp or Mr modi in 1947 nor in 1948 or in 1990 bhagalpur hyderabad bangalore.. What are you trying to prove your false sense of sickularisms
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          Selfadin
                          Oct 3, 2015 at 12:48 pm
                          RSS leader Tarun Vijay's response to Dadri murder marks the death of the moral Indian The Hindutva ideologue's article in the 'Indian Express' redefines the idea of innocence and guilt.
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            Selfadin
                            Oct 3, 2015 at 12:42 pm
                            Tarun Vijay is Fascist
                            Reply
                            1. G
                              Gupta
                              Oct 6, 2015 at 7:49 am
                              This atrocious act of phonetic religious terrorism in India is shocking - this is religious terrorism. A man and his son are bricked to death, in a land where leaders like hi laid the first brick of non violence. A country where Dalai Lama has made his new home. How is this different from Malala getting shot in head? This religious terrorism needs to be stopped....
                              Reply
                              1. R
                                Raje
                                Oct 4, 2015 at 1:50 am
                                Dear Blogger or reporter....write something about Muslim failures, write something about blaming them for some scenes happening today... lets see how many days you stay alive then? Don't take your freedom of life and expression for granted. Hindus are tolerant and thats why we let a***oles and traitors like you live and write such BS
                                Reply
                                1. R
                                  Raje
                                  Oct 4, 2015 at 1:46 am
                                  Stop blaming PM for everything happening. There are other people who have a job and they need to be blamed. We had so many riots in last 65 years, no one blamed PM's. Sikhs killed in 1984...even today not even one mai ka baap in media can say or blame HIs for that.... Why do you sick media blame PM for everything then?? you media needs to be treated like the traitors and criminals are treated in middle east.... ban you, jail you and beat you with lashes for writing against Country... Atleast make a good life writing something better. You all are a kalank on hindus.
                                  Reply
                                  1. A
                                    Akhilesh
                                    Oct 3, 2015 at 12:21 pm
                                    In US a young boy killed students in school his motive was to gsin name and fame, like wise in India persons like Mehta trying to get attention by sbusing Modi
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      Sri
                                      Oct 3, 2015 at 6:56 pm
                                      PB mehtha has developed a fashion to blame PM for everything. Hv these incidents not happenned before. Hv these not happenned with other teligion? Yes it has. It will continue to happen until rational education is given to all. Hindus muslims chrisyians sikhs every one hv deep faiths and they wont tolerate anything against that. It is bad. But it is not PMs making but it is how the country has been gor a long time now. Education Education Education is the answer. Not blaming PM
                                      Reply
                                      1. B
                                        Bharat
                                        Oct 3, 2015 at 12:15 pm
                                        We count as third world and with those incident and justification on this issue by our netas and few sick commenters .. We deserve to be in 3rd world category .. Till 2014 all biggies china ameirca and other nation got threat that we will be the top exonomy holder but now they are relaxed coz we wont be .. Coz the sakar we choose bera us fooled us in the name of helping amm janta .. NOW REALISE CONGRESS WAS WAY BETTER ATLEAST THEY WERE WORKING IN DEVELOPMENT ,,THEY WERE CURROPT THATS WHY WE CHOOSE THOSE KILLER OVER CURROPTION .. THISE GUYS NEITHER DEVELOPMENT AT ALL NOR ANYTHING FOR AMM ADMI !!!! GUNDA RAAJ IS BACK!!
                                        Reply
                                        1. C
                                          C Siddarth
                                          Oct 5, 2015 at 12:59 pm
                                          It is tym Modi comes out in public to condemn these individual incidents. They r becoming too often to b ignored now. The BJP leaders r not even being subtle in support of this communalism. If this is the cost India needs to pay for the 'development agenda' of the BJP, then v don't need this development.
                                          Reply
                                          1. T
                                            Tushar R.
                                            Oct 3, 2015 at 10:25 am
                                            In all fairness, Mr. Mehta ought to have highlighted the following extract from Mr. Tarun Vijay's article: "Before pointing fingers at others, we must ask why beef exports involve some of the richest and so-called high-caste Hindus" . . . This begs the question: Is the respected Mr. Mehta truly unbiased in his analysis ? The analysis itself has mutated into the second generation: it analyses the reactions to the incident, rather than the horrifying and tragic incident itself. Are we all guilty of obsessing about the symptoms rather than the causes ?
                                            Reply
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