Why spate of returning awards has come to a halt?
In the aftermath of Bihar election results social media is carrying a Hindi poem which says that now there is no statement on beef, no return of awards, no mention of Arhar dal (pulses) in the society. It raises the question; is it due to tolerance or is it due to the fact that the elections over. Clearly it is attributing that all the awards which were being returned by the writers, artists and scientists were a planned move to influence Bihar elections. As per this, the version of RSS affiliates the move of returning awards were well coordinated at the behest of political forces. The Central minister General V.K. Singh has gone on to say that big money was involved in the move of return of awards. This is purely motivated and distorted interpretation of what has happened.
The awards started being returned in the aftermath of the murders of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi and the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri. This phenomenon of returning awards was not a response to any one event as such. It was an anguish to protest against the rise of degree of communalization of society. It was due to the qualitative change in the tolerance in the society. Though called intolerance, what was hinted was that the ‘Hate other’ and acts of violence against those who think differently or eat differently as witnessed. The acts were perpetrated by those who belong to the political ideology of Hindu Nationalism, in contrast to the Indian Nationalism as enshrined in our Constitution. The social situation gave the feeling of stifling of dissent. Due to what was prevailing the President of India had to repeatedly urge to preserve the core civilizational values of tolerance, the Vice President reminded the state that it has the duty to protect the ‘right to life’ of citizens.
Some from the Corporate World, Narayan Murthy and Kiran Majumdar Shaw also felt that intolerance is on the rise. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and film star Shah Rukh Khan articulated the same. If one wants to judge the insecurity of minorities what Julio Riebero said a while ago ‘as a Christian he is feeling stranger in this country’ is pertinent. What film personality Naseeruddin Shah said is also worth noting. He stated that ‘he is being made to realize of his Muslim identity in current times’. The reflection of state of affairs in society in current times came from Gulzar; the writer lyricist; when he said ‘that now people are asking your religion before asking your name.’
In a way BJP and its cabal was taken aback by the massive protests of returning awards supplemented by the statements of writers, scientists and artists. Still it hit back by calling all this an orchestrated response. Deep down it became clear that what is going on is reflecting the sentiments of a large section of the masses. Is it a matter of chance that since then the integral parts of Sangh parivar, who are called fringe elements, those spewing Sakhshis, Sadhvis and Yogis have been holding back their usual venom! The statement like ‘go to Pakistan’, ‘we will get killed but will not spare those eating beef’ seem to be put on hold for some time.
We are living in a globalised World. The award returning protests were noticed all over the World. In UK, noted Indian sculptor Aneesh Kapoor articulated the sentiments of the large section of liberal world when he said that India is being ruled by Hindu Taliban. His article was published in the very renowned UK paper Guardian. Many an Indian intellectuals-activists participated in the protest against Modi when he visited London. Similarly New York Times carried number of articles on the phenomenon of return of awards and rise of intolerance in India. The Moody Logistics advised that Modi should rein in his ‘fringe’ else India will lose credibility.
These global opinions and protests of overseas Indians put additional pressure on the Hindu nationalists and their mouths have been sealed for now. The Bihar election results came as an icing on the cake of protests for preservation of liberal space. These results gave a big sigh of relief to most of the people committed to democratic values and those wedded to the principles of Indian Constitution. So far it appeared that Modi is on the upswing and may succeed in wresting political power, which in turn will help his parent organization to intensify the process of divisiveness. Bihar election results gave a feeling that democracy and pluralism have a fighting chance and a future. And that given the right type of alliance the sectarian nationalism can be contained at electoral level.
It is due to this sigh of relief that the foremost creative people, scientists and activists may be holding back their discontent currently. While the threat of politics of intolerance is very much there, the high pitch to which it had catapulted itself has been deflated for the time being at least. One realizes that the organizations and individuals behind ‘Hate propaganda’ and divisive politics are very much there but as of now Bihar has been the turning point in giving the relief from the rising intolerant atmosphere. And so probably it seems that the ‘award retuning protest’ has come to a semi comma, frozen in a sense.