The Opposition alliance, I.N.D.I.A., has hurt the people of Bharat, its own political cause and chances. (PTI Photo)
Within a fortnight of high platitudes, self-righteous pontification and didactic proclamations on the values and virtues of true democracy, religious tolerance, media freedom and individual liberty, and uniting the people of our country to provide a healing touch to a divided society, the Opposition alliance, I.N.D.I.A., has hurt the people of Bharat, its own political cause and chances, and showed its true colours when it both advocated and supported an outright war against one religion and ethos, and resorted to public shaming and attack on a set of media people they don’t like, or cannot abide.
First up, it is significant to uphold both free speech and the right to religion, which both include the right to propagate, advocate, support, criticise, analyse and reflect on various faiths and religions, including one’s own, and those of others. But the current political zeitgeist makes it nearly impossible to advocate absolute free speech, both in pragmatic terms and also in terms of its utility, as it would end up being counter-productive to liberal and democratic values.
While Udhayanidhi Stalin is free to critically analyse any religion or social reality, for a series of DMK leaders starting with him to hurl derisive invectives against the oldest of faiths of humanity, the foundational ethos of India, using social justice as an a thin rationalisation is neither socially acceptable, nor politically prudent.
If another speaker made the same speech and used the exact same phrases for the ideology or faith Mr Stalin believes in, the reaction, socially, politically and legally, would be very different, including from the DMK government and party.
The larger pain felt by the majority community was rightfully espoused and aptly picked up by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The liberal tolerance of the supporters and adherents of the Sanatana Dharma should not be seen as cowardice and they themselves should not considered incapable of standing up for their faith. Mr Modi should indeed continue to stand for "Sanatana", irrespective of and oblivious to elections and politics.
The practitioners of Sanatana Dharma are increasingly and successfully showcasing their value to the world, leading global corporations, societies and nations. The abuse should be called out for what it is — and it is not very different from the attacks of an AIMIM leader on Hindus nearly a decade ago.
But if one thought that the Opposition alliance, led by the Congress, was done with its harakiri of the fortnight with a self-goal on Sanatana Dharma, they rushed to an encore, this time releasing a list of television anchors whose debates and programmes they jointly stated they would ban.
A TV channel is not a court, it cannot summon any participant, and therefore, anyone is free to participate or refuse, just as viewers have a choice to watch or not. Parties or alliances can also choose to not go to a debate, but releasing a list and trying to put them on an alert is in poor taste, almost as that displayed in some of the programmes by some of these anchors.
Going ahead, the Congress and I.N.D.I.A. must gracefully apologise and retract both stances.