BJP leader K Laxman questioning Sania Mirza's eligibility to be Telangana’s brand ambassador has again brought to fore the culture of intolerance breeding in present-day India.
Forget rating Laxman’s barb of ‘Pakistan's daughter-in-law’ on the scale of absurdity, his posturing makes it clear that the ugly face of identity politics still has takers.
Laxman backed his discourse — if you are willing to call it one at all — with the argument that India’s best woman tennis player had no contribution in the five-decade-old movement for Telangana statehood.
Fair enough, but the controversy started because he did not stop his reasoning there.
The leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Telangana legislative assembly must have thought he needed a punch to his arguments. Out came the verbal volley — Sania's marriage to Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik.
Accepted, there is freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution, but, blatantly dragging Sania’s marriage into the picture is serving up a double fault of the worst kind.
Laxman has violated the laxman rekha named ethics. Such boundaries have no specific shape of form, but an individual and a society’s conscience as compass.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government has started appeasing a segment of voters, a news agency quoted Laxman as saying on Thursday.
The undertone hidden in the BJP leader’s stress on Pakistan and a segment of voters is unmistakable. So is the emphasis on ‘Sania has done nothing for Telangana’.
Keeping religion aside, the larger picture reflects the same old story scripted by a section of Shiv Sena leaders at Maharashtra Sadan and VHP leader Pravin Togadia in Indore.
The message is clear: stay within the boundary drawn for you and never ever try to pose a threat to my identity, my beliefs.
Time is wasted on petty issues, says Sania on Telangana brand ambassador row
Facing flak over the Maharashtra Sadan incident, the Shiv Sena has defended its MPs, seen in a video trying to thrust a chapati into the mouth of a fasting Muslim canteen supervisor, saying that facilities at the guesthouse in Delhi are not up to the mark.
Interestingly, an editorial published in Sena mouthpiece Saamna termed the lack of facilities at the Sadan an insult to Marathi Manoos.
Laxman and the Shiv Sena's attempts, to establish the Telangana identity or Maratha pride, are connected with the same thread — intolerance.
And the same culture rears its head when Togadia reminds members of a minority community of the Muzaffarnagar riots or Bodo militants in Assam slaughter Bangladeshi settlers for voting against their will.
The debate, however, is not about any religion or particular community. It is about a society where the popular culture harps on pluralism and integrity.
The discourse is about what a country, which discusses My Name is Khan when it hits the box office, will choose: good sense or insensitive remarks.
This choice has to be made no matter who makes the comment — the not-so-common men and women or the aam aadmi.
In the Sania episode, the BJP government at the Centre has taken the right call.
Information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar's statement that the tennis player is a proud daughter of India is more than welcome.
Intolerance everywhere: recent controversies
Sania Mirza episode: Telangana BJP leader K Laxman opposed the appointment of tennis player Sania Mirza as the brand ambassador of the state. His argument was 'non-local' Sania was the daughter-in-law of Pakistan and had done nothing for Telangana's statehood. Sania responded by issuing a statement, saying she will always be an Indian. With Laxman facing flak and opposition parties upping the ante, the Centre termed Sania as India's pride.
The chapati controversy: Some Shiv Sena parliamentarians faced the music for allegedly thrusting a chapati into a Muslim canteen supervisor's mouth. The man was on Ramazan fast. The MPs were protesting against the quality of food served at Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi. Thane MP Rajan Vichare later said he was sorry if religious sentiments were hurt. The Shiv Sena, however, said the matter was blown out of proportion.
Ashok Singhal and Pravin Togadia: VHP chief patron Ashok Singhal recently said the Lok Sabha polls had shown that an election could be won "without Muslim support" and it was time the minority community learnt to respect Hindu sentiments.
Close on the heels of Singhal’s controversial comment, Pravin Togadia said in Indore that Muslims may have forgotten the 2002 Gujarat riots but would remember the Muzaffarnagar riots of last year. Both Singhal and Togadia were widely criticised for their comments.
Swaroopanand lashes out at Sai Baba: Dwarakapeeth Shakaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati triggered a controversy by saying Sai Baba of Shirdi "should not be worshipped as he was a human being and not a god". Sai Baba's devotees burnt Swaroopanand's effigies in several places across the country, while several mahants of various ashrams of Varanasi expressed their solidarity with the Shakaracharya.
(The views expressed by the writer are personal)