- What sort of divide has happened in India where you are accused of ulterior motives if you criticise the lynch mob?
- The reality is that there is a lynch mob on the prowl secure in the belief that the law won’t come down hard on them.
Lynching a fellow human being is unambiguously wrong you would reckon. And protesting against fellow citizens being murdered and the “weaponisation” of a salutation to Lord Ram should be something that would worry all sane Indians.
Well in India you would be wrong. Troubled over the lynching of minorities, a distinguished group of diverse artistes, filmmakers and writers, adding up to 49, wrote to the Modi government expressing concern over the instances of mob violence in the country.
They included filmmaker Mani Ratnam, Aparna Sen, historian Ram Chandra Guha and Anurag Kashyap. The group wrote that the salutation “Jai Shri Ram” had been “weaponised”.
Surely these are unexceptionable sentiments.
Not so fast. Two days later, a motley group of 62 people, including actor Kangana Ranaut, who recently called journalists “termites”, lyricist Prasoon Joshi, and dancer Sonal Mansingh wrote an intemperate diatribe calling the group of 49 “self-styled guardians and conscience keepers” who “express selective concern and demonstrate a clear political bias and motive”.
The second letter left me bewildered.
Was the group of 62 actually weighing in to support public lynchings?
What sort of divide has happened in India where you are accused of ulterior motives if you criticise the lynch mob?
While the second lot of letter writers all support Prime Minister Narendra Modi they had done him a singular disservice by conflating him with the lynch mob.
And what of the television anchors who whipped themselves up into an orchestrated frenzy, attacking a person on telephone, screaming away while the actor was addressing a presser in another city.
All par for the course in what passes off as “news” in the cheerleading propaganda channels these days. The channels screeched hysterically that the 49 were “tarnishing” India’s name.
How come India’s image is not tarnished by hate crimes, but only if people raise a voice against it?
The divisions were sharp and clear. Earlier, at least the Mumbai film industry pretended to be one big happy family exemplifying the normal Manmohan Desai movie - Amar Akbar Antony. Now there is a clear and present divide.
While none of the three superstars Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan has yet expressed an opinion, perhaps burnt by earlier experiences in the “intolerance” debate, Ranaut who has a film to publicise, has been vociferous if incoherent.
So what does it all mean?
The reality is that there is a lynch mob on the prowl secure in the belief that the law won’t come down hard on them. While attacking their poor victims, they film themselves and upload videos – another indication that they don’t believe they will face criminal action.
The second takeaway is that the Modi government is hugely thin-skinned to the extent that they believe that protesting against the blood thirsty mob is a protest against India.
The third and most significant takeaway: there are those who accuse their fellow citizens who are as invested in India as they are in capitalising on an opportunity to get on the good side of a thin skinned government, which clearly lacks artistic and intellectual heft.
And both sides are refusing to heed the other -- much like the anchor/owner of a particular channel who screamed away in his studio.