Bending over backwards
Rarely has an article befuddled me as much as Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand’s article, ‘Making history, not repeating it’, in The Indian Express (August 17).
The first paragraph describes the violence in Azad Maidan: “…a Muslim mob behaved in despicable fashion — torching OB vans, attacking media persons and the police, molesting women constables, snatching arms from the police….” Then the authors laud Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik for not acting against the violent mob. The article continues, “But do allow for the possibility that responding in a most ‘un-police-like’ fashion to extreme provocation, the city’s police commissioner, Arup Patnaik, may have opened a happy chapter in the otherwise unhappy Muslim-police relationship in the metropolis.”
Let’s replace some of the words in the first paragraph with substitutes and see how it plays.
Replace “Muslim” with “Hindu”. Would the authors have written the first paragraph if the mobs were Hindus? Is the law to be adjusted according to the religion of the miscreant?
There is shocking footage of Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik ordering Deputy Commissioner of Police Ravindra Shisve to release a rioter who is being arrested. The video link has been blocked on YouTube but can be seen on Twitter links. This is how Twitter transforms from social media into political- info media.
The footage shows PC Arup Patnaik shouting at DCP Ravindra Shisve who holds a (should I say “alleged”?) goon (pleading for mercy) by the collar, “Tumhala koni hyala pakdayala sangitla (Who has told you to catch him?)” Patnaik then threatens to have the DCP suspended.
“You take directions from the commissioner. You are not SP of Sangli. You are DCP here. You will not fall out of line or you will be suspended, stupid,” Patnaik bellows.
Am I missing something because I am not a Mumbaiker? No, because there are questions raised in Mumbai’s Mid Day newspaper (August 16, 2012). Some of the questions: “Why did Commissioner of Police Arup Patnaik force a DCP to release an apprehended rioter from the spot? If speakers incited the protesters with hate speeches, why are they still roaming free?”
The Setalvad-Anand article then reads: “Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray is most unhappy that the police commissioner did not issue a blanket shoot-to-kill order. But the latter’s exemplary restraint is precisely what peace-loving Mumbaikars need to thank him for. Instead of repeating history, Patnaik has tried creating one.” Why is Bal Thackeray’s emotional temperature relevant in this? I really don’t care much about Bal Thackeray. A fact checker would ask: How did they gauge his emotional state? It is a mystery. The gloating over Bal Thackeray’s mental state stoops to the lowest denominator of one-upmanship.
The authors continue: “Thankfully, Patnaik, who was a deputy commissioner of police when Bombay burned (1992-93), has not forgotten either. It’s his act of remembering, and reminding, that prevented yet another bloodbath and ensured that the situation did not spin entirely out of control last Saturday.”
Every community is scarred by wounds that cannot be picked up selectively as a response justification. A fact checker would ask: How do the authors know that Patnaik’s mind “remembering and reminding” was his reason for asking his DCP to release a goon? A slight understanding of how India works would tell you that the order to do exactly that had come from political bosses.
More pearls: “As things stand today, the Mumbai police are the injured party, while the city’s Muslim leadership, such as it is, is compelled to do all the explaining, apologising, forgiveness-seeking, appreciating the role of the police.”
The authors seem to believe that there is a moral high ground in becoming the “injured party”, possibly from a habit of victim-self-righteous-politics. No security force should ever be reduced to an “injured party”. Their morale to protect our nation could hardly be triggered by the satisfaction — let them run riot, but hey, now THEY will have to explain, apologise and seek forgiveness! Is there any dot of understanding about how demoralising it was for the police force?
The authors conclude: “But the police commissioner’s remarkable restraint has opened up an opportunity to heal wounds, open a new chapter. It’s an opportunity Muslims must grab with both hands.”
“Muslims must grab with both hands”? They expect the same mobsters to be so moved to soft emotion that they will grab hands and sing Hum Honge Kamyaab some d-a-ay? A Bollywood screenwriter would say: Yeh realistic ending nahin hai! Badlo!
We have all read about the controversy magnet Teesta Setalvad. I believed she worked hard for what she believed in: getting justice for victims of violence in Gujarat 2002. But, with Teesta it was difficult to keep up with the spiralling versions of each issue. Even then, I gave her the benefit of a busybody do-gooder. Now this article puts a complete end to that assessment.
What motivates social activists? Let’s play with humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Humanistic Theory of Self-Actualisation (the “Hierarchy of Needs” theory and self-actualisation). First, it starts with the need to help others and it is altruistic. With a bit of success and acknowledgement of the good work he/she is doing, the activist becomes a hero. He/she gains followers and is surrounded by sycophants. Any challenging views are dismissed. The final stage takes place — the activist falls in love with himself/herself. Now this activist who started with altruistic reasons, has become a danger to society. The activist is so taken in by his/her Jungian Hero Archetype bordering on the Martyr Archetype, that anyone else’s opinion or perspective is held in contempt. Because the Archetype is so enthralled by his/her own sacrifices to the cause, to make them worthwhile, blind faith in one’s self is essential. If he/she admits he/she is wrong on any point, it means a lifetime of service has been wasted.
Gujarat 2002 upset and shook me up. Many Tweeters have sincerely tried to convince me that Narendra Modi was not responsible. I, sincerely, have not been convinced so far, since I have seen stories with evidence and footage that show the opposite. But an article like this one by Setalvad-Anand is enough to turn me into what is called an Internet Hindu. India cannot afford to have different rules of engagement based on people’s religion, caste or gender. I believe that is enshrined in our Constitution. Destroying the Constitution for a vote-bank is worse corruption than black money. An incendiary article by Setalvad-Anand can do as much damage as violence in Azad Maidan. To paraphrase Arun Shourie: This is bending over backwards.
The writer is content director at newslaundry.com. The complete article with video links will appear on http://www.newslaundry.com