Thursday, December 18, 2008

Antulay's controversial comments: Reaction, over-reaction and hysteria

AR Antulay's comments have caused a major controversy and there is tremendous anger [more among anchors and news readers] that how he 'dared utter such a thing'.

I know it's rather risky to write about it but I feel compelled. There is no way to find out whether it was Antulay's real suspicion over the issue which came out due to a slip of tongue or whether it was calculated-mischievous move.

Yes, it could be termed as irresponsible as it comes from a minister. Antulay can't expect Congress to reward him and neither it will make Muslims happy. But one thing is certain, the reaction of media has been extreme and poses the danger of ours becoming an Orwellian state where anything which is slightly 'politically incorrect' or 'not in sync with what is expected of you' is termed as anti-national.

But isn't it good that he spoke his mind and we know what he was thinking? And at least, he is firm on his views, howsoever weird or absurd they may be, and says that he doesn't owe explanation. "I have not met Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh and I stand by what I said", said the former Maharashtra CM.

Still, what Antulay has said is nothing in comparison to what many others including historian Amaresh Misra have been saying like the Marathi-speaking persons involved in the shootout and that Siamin sect of Zionist Jews who go to any extent to sacrifice their lives for Mossad's grand plans. Personally I don't have any regard for conspiracy theories like the ones propagated by Misra, who is known for his 10-volume work on 1857 struggle.

But the 'anti-national' tag given to Antulay by our war-mongering electronic media is also an over-reaction. What did he exactly say? In the context of Hemant Karkare's death, he had said that the slain officer was victim of 'terrorism or terrorism plus something. I do not know'. Later he said that he wanted to know who had sent him 'in the wrong direction' towards Cama hospital instead of Taj or Oberoi hotels or Nariman House, which were on fire.

The media has played up the issue and said that his statement has been damaging to our case. Though it is not. Misra has given interviews to international TV channels and his theory is quite far-reaching and it is this theory which is doing the rounds in Pakistan. So labelling Antulay [specifically mentioning him as Abdur Rahman Antulay at places] anti-national and saying that he is 'speaking the language of Pakistan' is another extreme.

Misra is termed crackpot and dimissed but Antulay is termed anti-national! Yes, he has raised a doubt (even if it is mischievous, or for a moment accept that he is genuinely having doubts), the latter is called anti-national for not saying anything remotely close to it in comparison.

Abdur Rahman Antulay is a seasoned politician and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He is currently a Union Minister heading the Minority Affairs' Ministry. Antulay has asked for an inquiry into the killings. Expressing doubt should be okay. Why is asking for an inquiry termed anti-national. Wasn't he [Karkare] the man who was receiving threats and calls that his house would be burnt? Let us not be hypocritical. TV is always ready to play up statements of the society for the sake of TRP.

Idealistically speaking, being anti-establishment doesn't mean one is anti-national. And he is himself part of the government, which makes him appear foolish. He has raised questions about the particular three deaths. He was not anti-establishment.

Times of India group's Economic Times turned hysterical when it gave a headline 'Meet Kasab's attorney Antulay'. Whose war is being waged on newspaper? Antulay either mischievously or innocently suggests that there was something bizarre the way the three officers rushed from one site to another and ended up getting killed 'so easily'.

If you read between the lines, it is like 'some hardcored disgruntled RSS-Bajrang Dal-Shiv Sena guy took advantage of the situation and eliminated the trio. Perhaps this is what he suggests. Or he meant that terrorist killed them but there was inefficiency on part of the Control Room or the officials who were sending them from one place to another. Whatever.

May be, it is weird. However, where does Kasab gets into picture? But the hysteria over the statement is equally disturbing. Whether there is investigation or not, and whether questions like 'which bullet was recovered from the bodies of the three officers or the record of cell phones to find out the last call from the officers who asked them to reach those places'.

Or if the politician has erred and said something which is politically incorrect, it is not the first such occasion. Politicians have let us down so many times. Who said that LK Advani was anti-national when he was crying for the torture of Sadhvi Pragya.

After all, when it is the norm to term anybody accused of terror, as terrorist then Abu Bashar is equally a terrorist as Waliullah as Pragya Bharti and as Lt Col Purohit. Advani went to the extent to talking to Prime Minister over the issue. Such was dishonesty of BJP, Shiv Sena, VHP and a host of other organisations, that they had termed Karkare as 'anti-national'.

Alas, Nationalism seems to have been appropriated by RSS. There was demand that he should be arrested and even hard-core organisations wanted ATS chief to be put under narco analysis. There were much more vicious and dirty things said.

Rationalism never took root and objectivity has no place in society now. There are always guys on the fringe who raise theories and are suspicious. So shouldn't we have a few of them?

In the past there have been worst examples of hatespeak, communal, casteist divide and statements on riots of 1984 to 2002. When was the national media so incensed that it called some politician anti-national? Even Raj Thackery was let off with admonition. Or this tag is reserved for Muslims!When does asking for an inquiry become a crime?Criticise Antualy or Forgive him. Open up things to silence or just shut him upt.

But calling him pro-Pakistani (even ISI agent) is non-serious. Asking questions should not be considered wrong in any democracy.The anger against Antule is worrying. He didn't say such a highly objectionable thing. But the public anger fueled by electronic media, has created such a situation that you can't utter word.

However, it was the same Karkare against whom Priests and Hindutva leaders had ganged up. They had demanded narco test of Karkare and there was no outrage then. A senior journalist and columnist wrote in the article 'that he has been insensitive. Wasn't RR Patil more insensitive. Patil had termed the entire tragedy of terror attack as a minor thing in a big city.

Antulay has perhaps made a fool of himself by his statement Let him and his party suffer but we should not be hysterical in our approach. Speaking out and making a point should not be a crime. Let them speak. Silencing is not healthy in democracy.

"Karkare wasn't killed by Hindus, he was shot by terrorists", said a Muslim fruit seller in Mumbai's Bhind Bazaar. Another Muslim vendor, Rafiq Sheikh rubbished the conspiracy theory. Haroon Sheikh, a shopkeeper on Mohammad Ali Road, termed the comments as ones that would bring trouble for Muslims and 'immature'. Read Kiran Tare's story in DNA. That's street voice and among elite, Javed Akhtar, Javed Anand and a host of others have criticised him.