Updated: October 13, 2015 12:59:05 am
Sudheendra Kulkarni, once a valued insider at the PMO and now a target of the Shiv Sena’s streetfighters, has become the visible face of the problem the state government and the ruling party are ducking. Bizarrely, the Sena has sought to project its agitation against the release of a book by Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, former foreign minister of Pakistan, as a nationalist struggle. Earlier, it had striven to protect Mumbai from the popular Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali. And Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, while promising stringent security for the book launch in Worli, has added to the fog by affirming that no “anti-India propaganda” would be tolerated. Meanwhile, the silence at the top echelons of the NDA government at the Centre is harming India’s image more than any propagandist. Silence speaks of tacit support, and the signal is being read loud and clear.
Silence is precisely what the writers who are returning their awards to the Sahitya Akademi or quitting membership of the organisation or its committees, as if in unison, are protesting. The autonomous Akademi is their declared target for the sin of failing to protest the killings of writers and rationalists who have been murdered in cold blood. But they are not condoning the silence of the Central government on the beef controversy either. The prime minister has spoken of the Dadri lynching and the sudden politicisation of beef very reluctantly. And, in effect, he referred the matter to the president. His ministers have made the appalling insinuation that the incident was only a law and order issue, and that protesters have lent it a communal air. There is a pattern to these incidents, and it has created the impression that interested parties can let ink, hate speech or blood flow at will, without fear of consequences or penalties.
The BJP’s silence has allowed the Shiv Sena, laid low electorally, to wrest the political agenda in Maharashtra. Nationally, while the prime minister was trying to clock maximum TV mileage for the Bihar elections, which began on Monday, Dadri was taking away the headlines. The BJP’s excellent publicity machinery, which had swept away all competing communications during the campaign for the general election last year, is evidently failing to contain the slide. These events are sending contrary signals to foreign powers, including those in our region, which the prime minister has cultivated energetically. A few words from him could turn the tide back in favour of a liberal society, but he chooses to let silence do the talking.
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