The response to Akhlaq’s murder tells us much about our media and intellectual establishment – Rajeev Mantri

Indian Intellectuals

Rajeev Mantri“New Delhi’s intellectual establishment is a reactionary set that is unable and unwilling to offer any new ideas to solve age-old governance problems. It is both more permanent and less accountable than India’s much maligned bureaucracy. It is no surprise that this establishment is increasingly ignored by India’s “stupid” citizens and discredited in the eyes of the public, for they deserve no better.” – Rajeev Mantri

Pratap Bhanu MehtaThe abominable lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh has set off a firestorm of commentary and analysis from India’s intellectuals. 

The criticism mounted by Centre for Policy Research president Pratap Bhanu Mehta, where he laid the responsibility for the murder squarely at the door of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been heavily debated and particularly struck a chord. 

Barbarity 

Writing with uncharacteristic fury in the pages of The Indian Express, Mehta asserted that the gruesome murder “exemplified the depths of the barbarity that lurks behind the veneer of our civilisation.” 

The response to the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq tells us far more about our media and intellectual establishment, than it does about our civilization. 

Several cases of crimes motivated by religion were reported before and have taken place since that horrific incident. 

Prashanth PoojaryFor example, in Karnataka, a 29-year old Hindu flower seller, Prashanth Poojary, who was also an activist against cow slaughter, was stabbed to death in a public market. 

Why should the prime minister speak out about one crime motivated by religion, but not the others? 

The position India’s eminent intellectuals are taking is Narendra Modi is not Prime Minister of India, but Prime Minister of Hindus: he is answerable for the crimes of Hindus, but not for heinous crimes committed by individuals of other faiths. 

The sickening perversity of this position is that a crime committed against a “minority” community member matters more than a crime committed against a “majority” community member. 

Our individual identities stripped and dissolved, each of us becomes merely a member of a group—there couldn’t be anything more communal and poisonous than attaching different weights on human life, depending on which religion an individual follows. 

As society, are we going to treat the murder of a Poojary differently from the murder of a Mohammad? 

Moreover, if the murder of a Muslim by a Hindu mob reflects on “the barbarity lurking behind the veneer of our civilization”, does the murder of a Hindu by Muslims not reflect upon any barbarity in “our civilization”? 

Who is the “our”—are Muslims excluded from India’s civilization? 

Are they not Indians?

Is Mehta writing about Hindu and Indic civilisations from which he has excised Indian Muslims? 

Has Narendra Modi’s rise turned the “secular-liberal” Pratap Bhanu Mehta into a freshly minted “Hindu nationalist”, who doesn’t consider Muslims to be a part of India’s civilization? 

The position India’s eminent intellectuals are taking is that Narendra Modi is not the Prime Minister of India, but the Prime Minister of Hindus

Mehta has fallen prey to the soft bigotry of low expectations—he is implicitly assigning different behavioural standards to individuals based on the religious group they happen to belong to. It doesn’t end there. 

Much has been made of the murder of “rationalist” activists. 

Sanal EdamarukuIt is another matter that activists like Narendra Dabholkar agitated for a law that has turned members of the Aghori community, a small Hindu sect, into criminals. 

Think about that: some individuals have been turned into criminals for who they are, and those who made it happen are being touted as paragons of rationalism and liberalism. 

While buckets of tears are being shed for the murder of such “rationalists”, not a word of support has been offered for Sanal Edamaruku, who fled India in 2012 after groups affiliated with the Catholic Church filed a complaint charging him with blasphemy. 

Edamaruku fears he may be jailed indefinitely or even assassinated if he comes to India. 

The most disgusting, vile, nauseating, morally odious and revealing spectacle of all has been the revolt of the writers led by Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece, the 88- year old Nayantara Sahgal

“What’s the use of smart cities if stupid people live in them,” Sahgal proclaimed in a moment of absolute honesty to her credit. 

The eminent writer felt that there was no point living in a smart city if you entertained baseless beliefs about why Lord Ganesha has an elephant’s head. 

Some background is in order here. 

India’s intellectuals have enjoyed astonishing patronage from the Indian state, which has been controlled for over 50 years since 1947 by the Congress party and the Nehru-Gandhi family. 

In 1954, Russian painter Svetoslav Roerich and his wife, film actress Devika Rani, received 100 acres of land from the Karnataka (then Mysore) state government, whose chief minister was Congress party’s Kengal Hanumanthaiah. 

Spectacle

Consider the spectacle of an infant republic and a dirt poor democracy doling out public land to a Russian painter and his film star wife—having just taken away lands and properties owned by feudal landlords in the name of social justice. 

Devika Rani & Jawaharlal NehruThere is another interesting aside to the Roerich story. 

In his book Nehru: The Making of India, M. J. Akbar recounted how Nehru had been romantically connected with Devika Rani. 

In a personal letter dated January 2 1937, Nehru wrote that his mother had confronted him with “suppressed rage”, based on popular rumour, about his links to Devika Rani. 

In Sahgal’s modestly titled book Jawaharlal Nehru: Civilizing A Savage World , she writes that Devika Rani was an ardent admirer of Nehru and “sent him a photograph of herself in a silver frame. After independence, she and her husband Svetoslav Roerich were visitors to Nehru’s official residence Teen Murti House whenever they came to Delhi from Bangalore.” 

Prioritise 

The response to the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq (pictured above) tells us much about our media and intellectual establishment.

If , who is contemptuous of ordinary Indians because their personal beliefs are “stupid” in her opinion, had any appreciation for the incredible privilege she has enjoyed, she would have paused to ask why India’s masses are the way they are. 

Could it be because her uncle, as India’s first prime minister, failed to prioritise primary school education? 

Could it be because her uncle, as prime minister for 17 years, neglected agricultural productivity, even trying in 1959 to collectivise agriculture like Soviet Russia’s Stalin and China’s Mao had? 

Even today, not getting adequate nutrition impedes the physical growth and mental development of millions of Indian children. 

Nayantara SahgalIn the echo chambers populated by our writers and intellectuals, even asking such questions is blasphemy. 

Indeed, mundane topics of governance do not interest our eminences, and questions such as why the law and order machinery controlled by India’s state governments is so impotent, why justice delivery is so slow and courts so dysfunctional, and why ordinary citizens have just no fear of the law are barely raised for public debate. 

If the question is never raised, no solution can be deliberated. 

New Delhi’s intellectual establishment is a reactionary set that is unable and unwilling to offer any new ideas to solve age-old governance problems. 

It is both more permanent and less accountable than India’s much maligned bureaucracy. 

It is no surprise that this establishment is increasingly ignored by India’s “stupid” citizens and discredited in the eyes of the public, for they deserve no better. 

Through its charged pronouncements, the ancien regime may vitiate public discourse in the shorter run, but over time this behaviour will precipitate its own implosion. – Mail Online, 29 October 2015

 » Rajeev Mantri is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, fund manager, writer and policy wonk. He is the co-founder of the India Enterprise Council and lives in New York City.

Dadri & Moodbidri: A Tale Of Two Killings

6 Responses

  1. This is a very important message if you care about the unity, peace and progress of India.

    In the last few weeks, we’ve seen that media, especially the English Language channels and newspapers are continuously harping about things like ‘rising intolerance’ and making a big issue out of some isolated incidents which happened in UP and Karnataka. If you are foreign investor looking to set up some industry in India, you would certainly get scared looking at the evening English news shows (NDTV, India Today etc) and morning English newspapers (Indian Express, ToI etc).

    But on the ground, we the common people of the country don’t see any such intolerance or hate crimes happening. We see that people of all castes, creeds and religions are going about their normal lives without any obstruction from anybody. Since Modi government got elected, no changes have been made to any laws related to social matters. Then why is the media ‘manufacturing’ these stories of so called intolerance? Why is the media laying the blame at Modi’s doorsteps for crimes that are taking place in states ruled by ‘secular’ parties like Cong (Kar) and SP (UP) ? Why would channels and papers like NDTV, India Today , ToI, IE etc cause damage to the image of India just for benefitting anti-Modi parties like Cong,CPI(M) etc? Here’s why :

    Pronoy Roy (head of NDTV) is married to Radhika Roy. Radhika Roy is the sister of Brinda Karat of CPI(M). Brinda Karat is the wife of Prakash Karat , ex-head of CPI(M)

    Barkha Dutt of NDTV is currently married to Haseeb Ahmed Drabu, who is a PDP politician from J&K

    Nidhi Razdan of NDTV is live-in partner of Omar Abdullah, former CM of J&K

    Sonia Singh of NDTV is married to RPN Singh of Cong and a former minister in UPA govt

    Rajdeep Sardesai of India Today (formerly CNN-IBN and NDTV before that) is married to Sagarika Ghose who is currently with ToI and ET Now (formerly CNN-IBN). Sagarika Ghose is the daughter of Bhaskar Ghose, who was appointed as Director General of Doordarshan by Cong govt. Bhaskar Ghose has been accused of doing financial favours to NDTV, his son in law’s employer.

    Vishnu Som of NDTV is the son of Himachal Som. Himachal Som was then made Indian ambassador to ‘Italy’ by Cong govt. Reba Som is the mother of Vishnu Som. She is an ’eminent intellectual’. She has written books about Nehru and Congress.

    Vikram Chandra is an anchor and the CEO of NDTV. He has been accused of money laundering to the tune of 5500 Cr for P Chidambaram from the 2G scam loot (link here : http://www.manushi.in/articles.php?articleId=1749#.VjHTuH4rLIU )

    Sitaram Yechuri is the current head of CPI(M). He is married to Seema Chishti. Seema Chishti is the resident editor of Indian Express , Delhi.

    Sanjay Jha is the spokesperson of Cong and a frequent face on TV. Rajkamal Jha is his cousin. Rajkamal is the Managing Editor of Indian Express.

    I hope now you realise why English language media paints Modi/BJP/RSS as a monster. I would encourage you to google and verify the correctness of each of these facts. Forward this message to every Indian so that the real evil face of media is exposed. Our media is wolf in sheep’s clothes.

  2. हुतात्माओं की चिताओं पर लगेंगे हर बरस मेले ।
    धर्म के लिए मरनेवालों का यही निशाँ होगा ॥
    कभी वह दिन भी आएगा जब धर्म राज्य देखेंगे ।
    जब अपनी ही ज़मीं होगी और अपना आसमाँ होगा ॥

    (adpated from original by Shri Jagdamba Prasad Mishra ‘Hitaishi’)

    How you can participate and contribute, please read on..

    Prashanth Poojary

    Those in the Houston area, kindly attend the shraddhanjali sabha for a Hindu martyr next Sat. at 11 AM Shiv Shakti Mandir, Hillcroft.

    Please donate to his family (the martyr was the sole bread-winner of his family).

    With your donation to his family you will send a message that the Hindu Samaj is ready to take care of the needs of the families of Hindu martyrs. Please google search “Prashanth Poojary” to know what happened to him.

    Please circulate this in your respective circles.

    Those outside Houston, you can donate as per instructions listed below.

    Make check payable to: “Hindu Mahasabha of America”

    Mail check to the following address:-

    Hindu Mahasabha of America
    [Attn: Annant Srivastava]
    5035 Heatherdawn Court, Katy, TX 77494

    For further information please contact:

    ​​Annant Srivastava
    <annant.srivastava@hmsamerica.org>
    or call him at 281-624-5532

    If you wish to speak directly, and/or donate directly to martyr’s family (father: Anand Poojary), please inform Annant and he will schedule a teleconference. The family is Kannada and Tulu speaking. If you need a translator please inform Annant about your requirements.

    If you are located in India, and want to donate in Rs. – direct deposit to beneficiary’s account – please contact

    ​​Rishikesh Shenoy
    <rishikesh.shenoy@hindumahasabha.org>
    Tel. / WhatsApp : +91 99402 86108

    If you wish to know more about Hindu Mahasabha of America, please contact:

    ​Dr. Rudranath Talukdar, President
    Tel. +1 832-573-3682
    <rudranath.talukdar@hmsamerica.org>

    ​Shri Gajanan Gaikwad, General Secretary
    Tel. +1 832-564-6878
    <gajanan.gaikwad@hmsamerica.org>

    or visit us at http://hmsamerica.org

  3. Chetan Bhagat

    #AwardWapsi: Chetan Bhagat slams ‘privileged class’ – Dishank Purohit – The Times of India – TNN – Oct 30, 2015

    INDORE: Author Chetan Bhagat on Friday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come under attack from historians, scientists and artists because he does not belong to the ‘privileged class’.

    The privileged class of this country is rattled because the political power has slipped into the hands of people from the Hindi medium. Bhagat said, addressing a curtain raiser function for a literature festival here.

    “If Modi and Amit Shah had attended Doon school, spoke impeccable English and were spotted with their English girlfriends, they would not have been attacked so much,” said the author.

    The controversy surrounding returning of awards can be attributed to the power shift that is taking place in the country, he said.

    Attacking a section of intelligentsia for returning their awards alleging growing climate of intolerance, Bhagat said national awards are not given by the government. Rather a jury or a panel selects the qualifying people and thus, it’s inappropriate to blame the government for it.

    “These are not mere awards, but honours that are given to an individual for his or her individual achievement. How can you later return an honour that you had already accepted?” he said adding now foreign media has come into play and they are painting a sorry picture of India. They are portraying India as a country which is intolerant.

    Earlier in the day, the bestselling author was attacked for making an indirect jibe at historians who have returned their awards through his Twitter handle. “What do historians do? I am genuinely curious. This happened. Then this happened. Then this. Ok work done for the day,” Chetan Bhagat had tweeted.

    Bhagat said he doesn’t care about personal criticism targeted at him, but foreign media should not be allowed to portray a negative image of India.

  4. All this needs to come into the mainstream, media and a counter movement needs to be started.I do not want to escalate matters but it seems that this protest business is deliberately ( knowing fully well that the Central Govt.is not involved in Dadri,Karnataka,Dabholkar and Pansare) targeted at the P.M. Had he spoken,the same people would have said–Modi is interefering in State matters where other Parties are governing.In 1984,during the anti-sikh riots,Rajeev Gandhi had said”If a giant tree falls,the earth/ground shakes”.Was that a dignified comment?Hence,all these matters coming in this forum are of no use.

  5. Returning national award is nothing but a political conspiracy: Rijiju – IndiaToday – New Delhi – October 31, 2015 – Edited by Liu Chuen Chen

    Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju says that the protest against intolerance is nothing but a political conspiracy to malign the government.

    At a time when several eminent writers, intellectuals and filmmakers are returning their national awards to protest against the growing intolerance and violence across the country, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju says that the protest is nothing but a political conspiracy to malign the government.

    At the India Today Mind Rocks Youth Summit 2015, Rijiju expressed his disapproval over the surrender of the awards and said that no one cared to react against the violent incidents that took place in the past in the country.

    Taking a jibe at those who returned their national awards, Rijiju said, “We have been facing several challenges over the years. How come there was no talk of surrender of awards then? How come no one expressed their apprehensions?”

    The Union minister also said that it was okay to have differences in opinions but leaning towards a political ideology may prove fatal to the nation.

    “Returning of an award is not a good gesture. I don’t accept this idea of returning awards since an award is an honour given to someone by the nation and not by any specific government,” he said.

    He further attacked the protesters for remaining silent when thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were killed in the past.

    “How come no one protested when the Kashmiri Pandits were killed? There have been so many similar incidents in the past. Why did anyone not think of returning their awards then?”

    Rijiju also launched a blistering attack on the FTII students who have been protesting against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of the institute. He said that the government has the right to make appointments through a formal process.

    “Any government has the right to appoint directors, principals or vice chancellors through a process. Now, suddenly the entire institute wants to decide on their directors and principals. This has never happened in the past. Differences in opinions are okay but if you are leaning towards a particular political ideology, then it may be a threat to the nation,” Rijiju said.

    “What is happening is definitely a deep rooted conspiracy to damage the image of the country,” he added.

    Video: Returning awards is a deep rooted conspiracy, says Kiren Rijiju

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