I have noticed a lot of arguments floating around in the virtual world expounding the very prevalent and much favoured theory – the latest coolth – that Hindu religious texts mention beef consumption. It goes without saying that all who think thus are thoroughly informed in the Vedas and have mastered its primers which are prerequisites for understanding the Vedas – Shiksha (phonetics), Vyakaran (basic Sanskrit grammar and rhetoric), Nighantu (vocabulary), Jyotish (knowledge of astronomy), Nirukta (philology and etymology), Chhanda (prosody) etc. I congratulate them on that. Not many are capable of mastering these nuances which are indispensable for gaining even a quarter part understanding of the Vedas.
That said, let me narrate a story. It happened two days ago. I was invited by a Bengali Hindu friend who is a journalist with a renowned national daily posted in Bangalore. We had lost touch after graduating from a very prestigious journalism school in Chennai. He probably didn’t realize that after stints in the media in Delhi and Mumbai, I was comfortably settled in Calcutta working for an ad agency. But I digress. He posted on Facebook about a ‘gathering protesting the Dadri lynching’ that was supposed to take place in front of the Town Hall in Bangalore on 7th of October from 5 pm. And that he would be glad if I could join. What would I have to do? No, not march with a candle. I would have to join them as they eat beef. All in front of the Town Hall in Bangalore. You must have noticed memes and posters circulating which read – I AM A BEEF EATER, KILL ME. Celebrated author and columnist Shobhaa De has herself tweeted this very line. What’s more, certain heads of media have even waxed eloquent on delicacies like horse and deer meat, crocodiles and tortoises too which they had recently consumed. I think that requires a lot of er, gut.
We talk about civil liberties. Pray, tell me, have we learned how to be civil first? Commenting on his post which invited me for the ‘beef-eating festival’, I told my friend that it is indeed a myopic way of protesting something. If it hurts peoples’ sentiments, why do that in the first place? I also asked him to be ‘secular’, as our constitution dictates us, when it comes to choosing the meat. Why should pork be left behind? If hordes of Hindus are gobbling up beef by the kilo to be secular and liberal, whatever is stopping our Muslim friends from biting into that delicious rib doused in barbecue sauce? Don’t they also want to show secular solidarity by standing by their Hindu friends? Five minutes later, I was blocked and my comment was reported as abuse. So much for tolerance.
There are always two sides to a story.
Let me now talk about ‘Hindutva’s righteous wingnuts, a ragged, semi-literate lynchmob…’ and ‘trishul tyranny’ as I read in an article by Mr Chidanand Rajghatta of The Times of India (titled Sacred Cow, Profane Politics, published on 8th October). The semi-literate lynchmob we are talking about has never been to prestigious US and British universities, earned a degree in literature or communication, written scholarly articles on ‘Pluralism’ and used big words like ‘Hegemony’. Neither were they educated at St Stephens College or Presidency College nor have they published a book or attended Lit Fests. The power brokers of India’s intellectual discourse has always been from the category of glib English-speaking suaveness – the Amartya Sens, the Prakash and Brinda Karats, the Prannoy Roys, the Arundhati Roys. This suaveness and the ready acceptance of ‘theories’ extolled in a smattering of English by a ‘liberal’ Ox-Bridge scholar and the rejection of Hindi-speaking historians and culturattis as being ‘communal’ is deeply rooted in our psyche. A deep-dive into history (not the ones imagined by Marxist historians) will serve to find apt answers for this. It’s cool to be a liberal intellectual with a foreign university degree, a published book and Hindu-bashing up your sleeve. But that is not the centre of the universe. Nor is rejection of rationality and science.
This, by no means, justifies lynching a man to death for eating beef. But was he really eating beef? Was there another incident that preceded the ‘lynching’ which may have sparked off the tension and violence? Could there be another side to this story? Why not? Would we care to find out? Perhaps not. For now we are happy forwarding memes and posters and trending hashtags. Words play such an important role in news reports. With the popularity of hashtags and ‘trending’, words have become the surest triggers of emotions which are more often than not violent or perverse. Take for instance the ‘Park Street Rape Case’ in Calcutta. It has become a spell, literally, maybe an idiom. Or Nirbhaya. Then came Indrani and Peter Mukherjea. Now, it’s #DadriLynching. We love to adorn our profiles with this hashtag.
Just like sex, religious and communal tension sells. However, here too, we have become selective. So while we say terrorism has no religion (when Yakub Memon was hanged), we repeatedly use the words Hindutva-mongers and Saffron Terror. So while eating beef and protesting the lynching is secular, being sensitive towards vegetarians and respecting their sentiments is communal.
I hope to see better days for journalism. And for humanity in general.
A day when we will see two sides of a story before forming sweeping judgement and harsh opinions.
I hope you share my feelings too.