Editorial

Dangerous culture of intolerance

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It speaks to the deeply divisive times we live in that Team Anna activist and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan was savagely assaulted in his own chamber — and in the full glare of television cameras — for the “crime” of saying something that his attackers disapproved of. In the past, intolerant groups who seem to have no problem breaking the law with impunity, have targeted writers, artists, journalists, scholars, and activists whose work they did not like. Mr. Bhushan has lately been in the public eye for going full-throttle against high-level corruption, both in his capacity as a lawyer and as part of Anna Hazare's spectacularly-mounted and hugely resonant Jan Lokpal Bill campaign. As a petitioner in the 2G scam case, he has taken on some of the most powerful names in politics and industry. Yet if Mr. Bhushan has rendered himself vulnerable today, it is for his daring work in the field of civil liberties. In recent years, he has braved criticism to defend those accused of terrorism, taken up the cause of Binayak Sen and spoken out against the violation of human rights in Kashmir. Indeed, Mr. Bhushan was set upon in his office by right-wing fanatics because he suggested at a conference on Kashmir that a referendum may be an option failing other measures such as withdrawal of the Army and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. That the Ram Sena activists had worked themselves into a frenzy ahead of the attack is evident from a YouTube clip containing the speech in question. In the digitally altered clip, Mr. Bhushan appears with his face blackened, and there is a warning to Anna for harbouring a traitor: Brashtachari ko phansi to desh drohi ko kya? (You are advocating death to the corrupt, what about traitors?)

The brazen manner of the attack on Mr. Bhushan — with the goons obviously enjoying being on camera — exposes the extent to which lawlessness and intolerance have corroded the Indian political culture. The attack is also proof — if any were needed — that corruption and communalism cannot be fought separately. If anything, today's right-wing intolerance is a product of the failure of past anti-corruption campaigns to recognise the dangers of communalism. The RSS was an integral part of the anti-corruption movements of 1977 and 1989, and the Anna campaign too suffers from the perception that its ranks have been permeated by RSS foot soldiers. Fortunately, Team Anna has dissociated itself from the dubious elements that once shared its anti-corruption plank. It must also help the group that it can count among its members men of such impeccable credentials as Mr. Bhushan. For once the UPA government must shed its customary apathy and proactively prosecute the culprits in the case, especially in the light of Thursday's ‘follow-up' attack by Ram Sena thugs on supporters of Mr. Bhushan. For its part, Team Anna needs to be as watchful of right-wing ascendancy as it is of all-pervasive corruption.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 6:09:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/dangerous-culture-of-intolerance/article2535104.ece

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