Sunday, August 23, 2009

turd ways

I have been wondering whether it might be reasonable to posit an equivalence between the BJP's recent expulsion of Jaswant Singh and the CPI(M)'s treatment of Somnath Chatterjee in the wake of his refusal to toe the party line during the July 2008 no-confidence motion in Parliament. In the former case, the BJP denied the right of a party member to exercise his constitutional right of free speech. In the latter, the CPI(M) seemed to have lost cognisance of the understanding that the Speaker is supposed to be above (beyond?) party affiliation for the duration of his tenure in that post. The CPI(M) decision upset me more because I (used to?) care more about what it does generally, and because its actions betrayed a lack of understanding of constitutional and parliamentary conventions. Most of the time I'm quite pleased to see the BJP engage in fratricide, but Indian political discourse loses something very precious every time parties suppress internal dissent and ban books. Vidya Subrahmaniam notes that the Congress has rewarded Shashi Tharoor despite his (gently) critical comments on the Nehru-Gandhis. The cynic in me wants to say that the Congress doesn't face similar issues because it has no ideology. Congressmen have long understood that they enjoy freedom of speech subject to unquestioning loyalty to the Caesarist high command.

On the subject of banning books, I was pleased to note that our esteemed CM Yedyurappa has decided not to ban the book in Karnataka because (i) banning books only increases sales; (ii) no Kannadiga has been insulted in Jaswant's book (no comment on the parochialism of our freedom). On an unrelated issue, I was perplexed (but not unpleasantly) to note that Yeddy has also promised to rehabilitate the surviving descendants of Tipu Sultan. This seems to be a matter that has been in the administrative pipeline for sometime. I just wonder if the definition of 'pseudo-secularism' includes throwing crumbs to the descendants of long-dead kings even as you deny the rights of the living to express their religious identities. Burkhas became an issue in Karnataka last week when a girl in a Mangalore college was 'banned' from wearing one, setting the stage for a confrontation between Ram Sene-types masquerading as French secularists and 'Islamic' organisations taking the line that 'Muslim girls are duty bound to wear hijab'. Want to inhabit the space between? Buy my book in 2010. (Bah, middle ways again. I'm really not wedded to them. Terry Eagleton once asked, 'what's the middle way between Jews and Nazis?')

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