Vantage point

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Enemy's Enemy is My Friend

The main reason why most secular commentators and columnists have been widely viewed as pseudo-secular in the last decade or so is their conscious or unconscious embracing of the age-old adage - my enemy's enemy is my friend.

There is no doubt that right-wing politics is a big threat to our country's stability. And it is the sign of our being a reasonably healthy democracy, that the biggest critics of Hindutva politics are often Hindus themselves. Even though what happened in Gujarat in 2002 was tragic and heinous, the way the media covered it, and followed up on it was encouraging.

Where the seculars lose the plot is equating right-wing with hindutva. All hindutvawadis are right-wing. But not all right-wingers are hindutvawadis. A Mulayam Singh is as right-wing as a Bal Thackeray. So what if he calls his party 'samajwadi'? The tactics, the thought process, and the sins are all almost identical. However you will very rarely see the secular columnists breathing fire at Mulayam Singh's actions and policies, which are as much a threat to secularism, as the actions and policies of Narendra Modi.

In fact a few days back, something remarkable happened. A blogger was going around sticking up for Mulayam Singh Yadav, protesting that his name was being mentioned in the same breath as Modi and Thackeray. And in that lies the whole reason behind secularists being called secularist. If a well-read, well-informed journalist who grew up in Uttar Pradesh is ignorant of why Mulayam deserves to be in the same list, it shows how skewed the press has been.

Bombay riots happened in 1993. Gujarat riots happened in 2002. And even today you see articles being written about them. Nothing wrong with it. The press is acting like a watchdog, and we should be proud of it. But I am amazed at why the same commentators and columnists hardly ever write about the Mau riots. Or the riots in Kerala. Or the first ever Hindu-Muslim riots in Lucknow earlier this year fuelled by, of all possible reasons, George Bush's visit.

Columnists who are opposed to sectarian ideologies would be expected to be apalled by all sectarian crimes, regardless of who commits them. Especially when these sectarian crimes are cyclical. When a Hindu mob goes on a riot, often it does so believing it is extracting revenge. When a Muslim mob goes on a riot, it too does so believing it is extracting revenge. The whole process is cyclic. And yet, most commentators concentrate on only one half of the cycle.

These commentators don't realise that their views add to this this polarisation. No, I am not saying they alienate Hindus by writing against Modi and Thackeray. They alienate Hindus by not writing about Mulayam. They alienate Hindus by not protesting against the Madani resolution. they alienate Hindus by not writing about the Bhiwandi riots.

And this alienation is growing. There are several commentators who were once viewed as respectable but are now thought of as pseudo-secular. And it is all because they believe, consciously or unconsciously, that the enemy's enemy is a friend. They seem to be under the impression that criticizing Mulayam and Madani would somehow equate to playing into the hands of the Hindutvawadis.

I got a personal demonstration of this attitude a few days back. On a blog, responding to the aforementioned blogger, I laid down facts about Mulayam's sins. The 1990 riots, Mau riots, Lucknow riots. In response, there was a comment saying I was "sucking up to the Hindutva folks". Note that in my comment I didn't even mention Hindutva. I didn't concoct any facts. All I did was note the riots which Mulayam has been responsible. And that was seen as sucking up to the Hindutva brigade?

This mentality, which is so deep-rooted is what fuels pseudo-secularism. And unless the secular commentators introspect and take corrective actions, in a few years they will lose their credibility completely.