It's been a while since I dedicated a blog post to a rant, but Maneka Gandhi's polished, cynical, and dishonest comments on NDTV this morning got my goat. So no film review or essay here, guys, just an expression of my indignation.
Saw Maneka Gandhi’s statements on NDTV this morning, responding to the furore over Varun Gandhi's alleged comments about Muslims at a Pilibhit election rally a few days ago; and the subsequent clash between the police and Varun's supporters when he showed up again in Pilibhit to court arrest (and further fuel a new career as Hindutva's new posterboy -- encomiums from the RSS, the VHP, and the Shiv Sena have already poured in). In a word, her comments were shockingly dishonest; Maneka Gandhi professed shock and surprise, and asked what was so wrong if her son spoke "the truth", that "we all know", and asked was so communal about making statements critical of terrorism. The short answer to this is, of course, that there is nothing at all wrong with these sorts of statements -- except that these are hardly the statements for which Varun Gandhi has been booked, and his mother knows it. Rather, the statements Varun is alleged to have made include gems like “saare Hindus ek tarfa ho jao; in sab ko bhejo Pakistan”; and “kaise kaise naam hote hain in ke — karimULLAH, mazharULLAH; kaheen raat mein dikh jaayen to ...."; and references to the opposition Samajwadi party's Muslim candidate as Osama bin Laden. For Maneka Gandhi to pretend that her son is being targeted for speaking out against terrorism and anti-nationals is mendacity of the highest order (how come no other leader has been booked for criticizing terrorism or anti-nationals?) -- nothing prevented her from asserting that Varun Gandhi did not in fact make these statements (the doctoring theory seems far-fetched to me, because his lip movements in the video actually seem to match the words in the audio-track, but hey, I ain't no forensic expert), but that was a defense Maneka Gandhi and the rest of the BJP appear to be only half-heartedly interested in. The responses range from Advani claiming that it is the opposition that has made Varun Gandhi into a poster boy for the BJP; to Jaitley looking embarrassed on TV; to Balbir Punj pointing to the Congress itself trucking with communalists -- the common thread is that the BJP's initial attempt to claim the moral high ground by distancing itself from the statements has been completely abandoned. Not that I am surprised: this or that moderate face notwithstanding, the BJP has never been able to resist the lure of communal polarization, and certainly not where its lower-rung leaders are concerned. Thus India has been treated to the spectacle of Maneka Gandhi lending her credibility to the canard that Hindu leaders who are simply telling the truth are being bullied by the Indian state. “As you know”, she told the NDTV journalist interviewing her, “I am not communal at all, I don’t even think in that way” — not only do we not “know” any such thing, she had the temerity to say this after she had mischievously manufactured an issue by claiming that the policeman who fired on the mob in Pilibhit was a Muslim (the officer in question denies that he was either in Pilibhit or on duty when the clashes occurred -- although such statements from the Indian police are hardly dispositive; on a related note, the TimesNOW channel reported this morning that the DM for Pilibhit has already sent a report to the U.P. government to the effect that the violence was the result of deliberate actions by Varun Gandhi’s supporters). This Indian election season can only get uglier.