Ummid Assistant launches free MBA application form

IGNOU launches value education programme for teachers

Welcome Guest! You are here: Home » Views & Analysis

Rushdie Affair: Wimpish government fails to stop bigots

Saturday January 28, 2012 01:00:19 PM, Amulya Ganguli, IANS

Related Articles

Rushdie and the Demonization of Islam

When the mainstream media went to town depicting the absence of Rushdie as a loss for India’s liberal traditions and democratic ethos, it was indeed a naive analysis. To properly take cognizance of this matter and deliberate on its  »

Indian Muslims should stop fighting phantoms

There was much less of a furore when "The Satanic Verses" was banned in 1988. Some major newspapers even approved of it. The probable reason for endorsing what would now be considered a retrogressive step was that the country was in an uncertain frame of mind at the time.

A popular prime minister had been assassinated following the army's storming of the sacred shrine of a minority group while another minority group was restive over a judicial verdict on an issue of its personal law.

Two decades later, India is a different country. It has come to terms with Indira Gandhi's tragic death in 1984, the Khalistani upsurge in protest against the killing of a rebel Sikh and his followers in the Golden Temple has petered out and the Supreme Court's judgment on the alimony for a divorced Muslim woman is now no more than a chapter of history.

There have been other changes as well. There has been a veritable explosion on the media front with hundreds of television channels and scores of newspapers in English and regional languages entering the market. The preference for the concept of the "market" itself with its emphasis on private enterprise has replaced the earlier longing for a "socialistic pattern of society", to quote a Congress party resolution of 1955. The rise of the market is linked to the growth of the middle class, now approaching 300 million, and its consequent assertiveness, aided and abetted by the ubiquitous 24x7 news channels, endlessly engaged in "breaking news".

The latest rumpus concerning Rushdie is taking place, therefore, in conditions vastly different from what they were in 1988. Sadly, however, the new circumstances have not all been positive. While the country has changed with the appearance of a vocal middle class and intelligentsia, a thriving free press, a powerful Supreme Court and Election Commission, the political class, unfortunately, has retained its nervous pusillanimity of the past. There is little evidence that it has the courage of its convictions where its liberal pretensions are concerned.

This is not the only backward step which the country has taken. Unlike 1988, when the Sikh anger was an exception and Muslim disquiet was fanned by bigots - even if both were the fallout of political miscalculations - the fundamentalists have gained ground as never before. As a result, the banning of books, the hounding of artists into exile, the vandalising of libraries, the peremptory deletion of passages from university syllabi and the blanking out of even a video link with a controversial author are disgracing the country.

The standard explanation of politicians - that these steps are unavoidable because the books and works of art hurt religious sentiments - is a throwback to the silencing of Galileo in 1633 because his claim that the earth moved round the sun offended orthodox Christians. It took the church four centuries to apologise for its mistake. Similarly, the value of diverse votebanks is so high for Indian politicians that it may take a long time for them to see the folly of their pandering to fanatics.

It will be naïve, therefore, to expect any respite from a spectacle such as that of Hindu zealots sending M.F. Husain into exile to protect Hindu sentiments or Muslim bigots keeping Rushdie out of India for hurting Muslim sentiments or Marathi chauvinists attacking the Bhandarkar research institute in Pune for allowing James W. Laine to work on his biography of Shivaji there or Shiv Sena activists forcing the Bombay University vice-chancellor to drop Rohinton Mistry's "Such A Long Journey" from the syllabus for making disparaging remarks about the Sainiks, and their Hindutva counterparts ensuring that A.K. Ramanujan's various versions of the Ramayan are omitted from Delhi University's reading list.

Clearly, the world's largest democracy, has become the stomping ground of the fundamentalists of many hues, each of whom can easily persuade a wimpish government to ban a book or harass an artist to ensure that the communities which they claim to represent are not displeased. None among the politicians has the courage to ask whether the zealots speak for their entire communities lest their parties fall foul of them at election time.

It has been left, therefore, to the intelligentsia to ask this crucial question. The judges too have occasionally tried to introduce an element of sanity by saying, as the Supreme Court did, that a nonagenarian artist like Husain had the right to live and paint in his own country and that the ban on Laine's book should be lifted. But the politicians can afford to ignore them because, first, the power of decision-making is in their hands and, secondly, they are thick-skinned enough to brush off any jibes.


Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at




Bookmark and Share

Home | Top of the Page


Note: By posting your comments here you agree to the terms and conditions of

Comments powered by DISQUS






Top Stories

BJP manifesto for UP: Yes to Ram temple, No to minority reservation

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its manifesto for the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls Friday said it was against the announced 4.5 percent reservation for minorities  »

Congress promises jobs, citizen's charter in UP vision document

Mulayam assures release of innocent Muslims, promises youth laptops


  Most Read

Farook remembered as leader who groomed others

Kerala Governor M.O.H. Farook maintained cordial relations with his opponents and groomed many political leaders, Congress  »

Kerala governor Farook dies in Chennai hospital

Violence rocks Yanam, workers kill company official

A senior official of a ceramics company was Friday killed in an attack by workers after their leader died in police custody as large-scale violence rocked Yanam, a region of Puducherry but located in Andhra Pradesh's East Godavari district. Yanam, known as a peaceful region, turned  »


  News Pick

Kashmir women's group seeks Aafia Siddiqui's release

Muslim women separatist group, Dukhtaran-e-Millat (Daughters of Faith) headed by Asiya Andrabi, staged a demonstration in Srinagar Friday, demanding  »

Drug money damages world economy by $2 trillion annually

Annual financial damage to the world economy from drug money equals $2 trillion, Russia's Federal Drug Control Service head Viktor Ivanov said. "Narco-dollars form a market with a volume of over $500 billion annually  »

Manipur vote kickstarts India's state elections

Manipur, India's most disturbed state after Kashmir, will Saturday elect a new 60-member assembly to mark the start of make-or-break elections in five states. The staggered exercise, which ends with the vote  »


Picture of the Day

New Delhi,27 Jan 2012-IGNOU Vice-Chancellor M Aslam receiving the "Best teaching practices Award" from noted film director Prakash Jha at the India Today Aspire education summit 2012,in New Delhi on Friday. Also in picture India Today Group's Rekha Puri.

(Photo: IANS/Amlan Paliwal)



RSS  |  Contact us


| Quick links



Subscribe to

Ummid Assistant



Science & Technology



About us




Government Schemes










Contact us




    Disclaimer | Terms of Use | Advertise with us | Link Exchange is part of the Awaz Multimedia & Publications providing World News, News Analysis and Feature Articles on Education, Health. Politics, Technology, Sports, Entertainment, Industry etc. The articles or the views displayed on this website are for public information and in no way describe the editorial views. The users are entitled to use this site subject to the terms and conditions mentioned.

© 2010 Awaz Multimedia & Publications. All rights reserved.