The lynching of Mohammad Ikhlaq in Dadri and the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad are “inflection points” in the contemporary history of India, said senior television journalist Barkha Dutt at a Hindustan Times session at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
In conversation with writer Shobhaa De at a session on her recent book The Unquiet Land, Dutt said she didn’t believe Prime Minister Narendra Modi would “necessarily lose” the next elections because of “beef politics” as there is no “alternative”.
At this point, De asked about the suitability of the Congress Vice President. “Rahul Gandhi is probably not that alternative,” Dutt responded. “Arvind Kejriwal is what Rahul Gandhi wanted to become but did not have the guts to be,” she added to much applause from the crowd.
Pointing out that the tag of “anti-nationalism” is often used “as camouflage for promoting hatred” she decried the trend of hounding individuals critical of certain things in India.
Naturally, the focus moved to the BJP’s “beef politics” and how it revealed that the party was “losing control of the narrative”. Liberal politicians didn’t get off the hook either: “No liberal politician in the country stood up and said that we may eat whatever we want”.
“If I want to eat beef I will, and I should not be killed for it,” she said adding that she was “disappointed” that actor Shah Rukh Khan had disowned his statement on intolerance to Dutt. He had blamed the comment for the dismal box-office performance of his last film Dilwale.
“I feel Shah Rukh and others at a point in their career where they have nothing to lose should be able to risk and face criticism,” she said.
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