Slaps won't get us anywhere

Sharad Pawar's slap is not an isolated individual act - it has gradually become a part of India's political discourse.

Sanjay Kumar November 26, 2011
India is in in the midst of a violent clash today - a clash between headlines and history. Too many headlines over the last few years have blurred our vision, and suddenly we find ourselves in chaos.

The shrill voices discord that we thought we had left behind have let themselves loose on the consciousness of a nation. The nation that is angry over the political menopause of the Opposition party which has lost vigour at a time when the youth population is expanding. In a rush to garner attention, a devious political agenda is being put forward which might change the political direction of the country and impact history forever.

A recent history of anger in India

An activist lawyer was thrashed mercilessly in his chamber in the middle of a TV interview a few months ago because he talked about plebiscite in Kashmir.A similar act was repeated the next day against a supporter of the activist full view of the media in front of a local court. Later Delhi University withdrew an essay on Ramayana from the syllabus on the grounds that it would hurt Hindu sentiments.

Even before that the burning of the missionary Graham Stains in Orissa by a fanatic Hindu few years ago, hounding of the late painter Maqbul Fida Hussein and his eventual exile, the ban on James Laine’s book on Shivaji and the burning of a public library in Pune where the author researched,the attack on the North Indian in Mumbai- all are manifestations of 'anger'.

The same anger targeted Union Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar. No doubt Sharad Pawar is one of the few politicians in India who is infamous and believed to be responsible for many ills in the polity. But that way almost all the people who are part of the system and governance are not popular in different sections of the society.

Why rage is not a solution


The attack on Pawar is part of the vigilantism that we have been witnessing in India over the last few years.

Immediate justice might satisfy us for a while but in the long run we run the risk of institutionalizing intolerance and irrationality in the same way we find in the countries like Afghanistan and some parts of Pakistan, where Taliban rule the roost.

This intolerance is not an isolated individual act - it has been gradually becoming part of our political discourse. The coarseness in the political communication is a case in point.

The rise of the right wing political forces in India  has vitiated the atmosphere of the country. Parliamentary procedure and decorum has taken a back seat. Ever since the right wing Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led alliance lost power in 2004, they have been playing a role of a destructive opposition. They hold parliament hostage and only allow it to run  when they want it.

Anger is understandable, violence is not

This violence in Delhi by the main opposition party is bound to reflect on the people. It is bound to find an outlet in the individual behaviour who get inspiration and ideas from fundamentalist forces.

The BJP leaders condemned the attack on Pawar but qualified it with people’s anger thereby in a way condoning the act of the individual.

Weren't the Mumbai riots of 1992-93 justified in the name of Hindu anger.

They also use the excuse of anger to justify the Gujarat riots of 2002 in which the democratically elected Chief Minister of the BJP, Narendra Modi, allegedly unleashed violence against its own people because Hindus nurture historical anger against Muslim. The party still defends this mascot of radical Hindutva, who has used the democratic mandate to serve the fascist political agenda.

It is this anger that the rightist crowd used to justify the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

The protagonists of the Gujrat violence and Babri Masjid are occupying the post of power and act as inspiration to those who don’t want to hear other side of the debate. They know they will get away with their acts of violence.

We expect better from our 'heroes'

What appals one is the support of this kind of rising intolerance and fascist tendency by some prominent faces in civil society. Anti-corruption crusader, Anna Hazare, who led a very popular movement against corruption,which many termed Gandhian, was quite caustic in his comment when he heard about the Pawar incident: “Did he get slapped once”?


The man’s contempt for the fellow Marathi is well known.

But what Hazare reveals and reaffirms through his comment (which he later retracted) is his contempt for democratic debate and values and his dislike for liberal and progressive politics. His movement against corruption has deep anti political class, anti parliament bias. He holds the gun of fast- unto -death on the head of parliament to pass the Lokpal Bill or Ombudsman Bill and that too his version. In the whole process he and his team forget that democratic process is not complete without debate and discussion and without proper check and balances.

Hazare showed his fascist and rightist intolerance also in the case of the attack on Prashant Bhushan, his team member in the movement against corruption. When a group of Hindu fanatics attacked the lawyer for his remark on Kashmir the so-called Gandhian distanced himself from Bhusan’s remark and condemned the lawyer for his statement but didn’t come down strongly against the Hindu fundamentalist who assaulted the activist and pose a threat to any open democratic debate.

That Hazare is not associated with any fascist and rightist organization is true but it’s, however, also obvious that his language and behaviour tally with the Talibani mindset of the Hindu rightist forces who don't want to hear any other voice on Kashmir, who don’t brook any critique of Hindu tradition and culture,who can’t tolerate the beauty of multi cultural and democratic decency of the country.

Kiran Bedi, part of the Anna team also tweeted that such attacks will happen if the Lokpal Bill  is not passed.

The media is also to blame. By sensationalizing the attack, by holding open trial against politicians and political class the Fourth Estate,particularly the electronic media, pave the way or fan intolerance and fascist tendency which might hurt them later once such forces come to occupy the centre stage of politics.

But who is bothered about the long term impact of such adventurism. The lust for headlines has coloured our vision and blurred our foresight. Those who run for headlines are running away from the history- our civilization's history for tolerance and our tradition of open debate and discussion.

India needs to stand against such criminals of history.
Sanjay Kumar The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics. He tweets as @destinydefier (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


G. Din | 12 years ago | Reply A "slap" to a wise man should induce some deep thinking. But if it does not, then we at least know he is an idiot for whom the remedy would have to be a bit more severe. Don't discount a simple slap! It has its uses!
vickram | 12 years ago | Reply @Dee Cee: Hussain drew a painting of Sita and Hanuman with erection and the leftist liberals like Dee Cee feel that the Hindus (and the Hindu fundamentalists) have no business feeling upset by this because Hussain saab enjoyed the freedom of expression as an artist. It was also implied that those whose sensibilities got hurt by the picture of Hanuman with a hard-on lacked abilities of artistic appreciation. Points valid. But Hindus (and the Hindu fundamentalists) want to know this: how come, Hussain saab, in his painting career for over 7 decades, did not get the artistic urge to draw the picture of the great Prophet (or his favorite wife) even once?
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