16.1.12

Ramdev and Digvijay: Leaky Pens

Inked face and assaulter

We are a culture that thrives on condemning. We condemn those who are silent and we also condemn those who make a noise. Such condemnation takes away from any other questions. So, it was not surprising that the Congress, the BJP, the RJD, everybody condemned a man who threw ink on Baba Ramdev. Soon after, some ‘uncondemned’ the act. The theatre of the absurd does not quite go with a Greek tragedy, but Indian democracy can manage such contradictions. We will get there. First, a snapshot:

A man who gate-crashed at Baba Ramdev’s press meet on black money splattered ink on the yoga guru when he refused to answer a question on the 2008 Batla House encounter. 
Kamran Siddiqui, was beaten up by the yoga guru’s supporters immediately after the incident at the Constitution Club where Baba Ramdev was speaking to reporters regarding his plans to campaign against black money in the upcoming Assembly Elections. Siddiqui, who runs a non-governmental organisation called Real Cause was placed under arrest following a medical examination. A case under sections 153 (promoting enmity among communities) and 355 (criminal assault) of Indian Penal Code has been registered against him, a senior police official said. A first information report has been registered against him at the Parliament Street police station. If convicted, he may be jailed for up to two years.
When Baba said that the Batla House encounter was not fake, Kamran threw ink on him. Siddiqui is a petitioner in the Batla House encounter case.

A few points:


  • If Baba Ramdev is discussing politics, stop calling him a yoga guru in the context of his speeches.
  • A bit strange that nobody had heard about Kamran Siddiqui even though he is a petitioner in the case. Is it difficult to find that out?
  • Even more strange is that he asked this question to Baba Ramdev, and the latter chose to answer it. On what basis? 
  • Why has he been arrested for promoting enmity among communities? This sort of pigeonholing makes it into a communal issue. Batla House is not the whole of India.


Arrest anyone who indulges in this sort of behaviour, but is it so unusual? Don’t our MPs throw slippers at each other inside Parliament? What about heads of educational and medical institutions whose faces are blackened?

What about scheduled caste/female victims who are paraded with their faces smeared because of some ‘honour’? Why do we not condemn those acts with equal ferocity?

Typically, Baba Ramdev has become a martyr:

Media reports quoted Baba Ramdev as saying that he was not deterred by such attacks and would continue his campaign against corruption with full force. I spoke about bringing back black money to the country and giving it to the nation. I spoke about eradicating corruption. I spoke about turning a loot-tantra to a real loktantra (democracy). And in return, as a prize, this is what I have got. I don’t mind receiving black ink. By throwing ink on someone, one cannot malign someone’s character, he said.

You talk about a vague show-me-the-money, and everything else gets washed off. The report said that Baba Ramdev said that it was not an encounter and that led to the ink throwing.

This is not an attempt to blacken the face of Swami Ramdev. This is an attempt to blacken democracy, Hazare said in a statement.

Has Anna Hazare never seen such blackened faces before? Much as I do not relish the idea of such juvenile shoe-ink throwing, let us remind Mr. Hazare that his movement is a protest that has attempted to speak on behalf of the population without its consent. He should not be talking about democracy. If democracy is about protest, then black or blue ink should not be of concern. Hazare and his team should be finding out what it is that angers certain people. He has been holding the flag for such propagandised anger for a while now.

We have entered absurd territory, and the wilting cherry on a leftover cake is this:

Congress leader Digvijay Singh said the incident was a well-orchestrated conspiracy by RSS and the NGO activist who did it was anti-Congress and had links with BJP.

There have been occasions when such orchestrated attempts were made, by every political party. I do not understand how it can be deemed anti-Congress when the Congress government had said the encounter was not fake. (Unless, Ramdev has joined forces with the Congress Party!) Or, is this a strategy similar to the one he is accusing the RSS of – outsourcing, with the frontman speaking one version while the high command maintains its larger role?

The Batla House case was already politicised. The encounter had several loose ends that I mentioned in Shooting Terrorists and Other Stories: It was over within 30 minutes. 25 shots were fired by the cops; eight by the terrorists. Were these dreaded men so na├»ve as to open the door to a ‘salesman’, sub-inspector Dharmendra. What was he trying to sell? Did they buy anything? Did they not notice him looking at them carefully? Did all the “suspicious characters” stand at the door to welcome him?

Now Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has spoken out clearly:

"Congress is not serious on the issues pertaining to Muslims and treats them only as a vote bank. That is why when assembly polls are underway, the issue of Batla House encounter has been raised by party leader Digvijay Singh, who termed it as fake. Why has this issue been raised by him now? Congress should either sack him or take action against PM and Home minister, who feel that the encounter was not fake...This is just a political gimmick to befool Muslims, who are being treated as a vote bank.”


Do the political parties realise that for the majority of Muslims, all this produces a huge yawn? You think someone in Bhiwandi (a communally sensitive area in Mumbai) cares or even knows what Batla House is? Or are the ordinary Muslims suddenly expected to possess knowledge about all that happens with, to and by their community?

It disturbs me that one episode of ink-throwing has brought another case to the fore. And it is back to the chain reaction of condemn this and condemn that. Don’t. Each player is an actor here. If Siddiqui was sponsored by the RSS, and Digvijay Singh has been sponsored by his own party, with the satellite players Anna and the rest forming the chorus, then the crowded stage is bound to fall.

Nothing new. We invariably get the dark pits we deserve. If only we saved that ink and wrote our own fate.

(c) Farzana Versey

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Image: Mumbai Mirror

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