Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Slander as Rejoinder

If you can't fight activists on an intellectual plane, or if they don't submit to your blandishments, discredit them. Question their integrity. Impute motives. Allege links with fanatical organisations. That is the strategy of the government which flip-flops between ignoring activists, then falling at their feet and then getting firm with them.
When Anna Hazare didn't give up his fast and the government was forced to constitute a drafting committee with civil society activists for the Lokpal Bill, the slander campaign was directed against Shanti Bhushan and his son Prashant, both members of the committee. Allegations about shady land deals and evasion of stamp duty were planted in the media, which was anyway critical of these activists. The Bhushans had a rejoinder but his got much less play than the allegations. Then came a CD which had the father-son duo reportedly speaking to Amar Singh about fixing some judges. The Bhushans got a lab test to show the CD was doctored; the government got another test to show it was genuine. Only a few newspapers carried the Bhushan version. See this story in a media website for more details.
The idea was to show that the crusaders against corruption (the Bhushans have been at the vanguard of the movement against judicial corruption and also behind the public interest litigation on the 2G scam) were not lily white.
Now it is being said that Baba Ramdev has evaded stamp duty of Rs 58 lakh and has grabbed fertile farmland. And Home Minister P Chidamabaram is on television right now, saying that Ramdev is an RSS agent. Questions are now being raised about the extent of his empire and shady deals are being hinted at. Enquiries have been ordered into the medicines and formulations his ashram produces.
Like I have said before in my previous posts, I have huge problems with the Hazare-Ramdev gang. But their analysis of problems and solutions to them can be countered at an intellectual level. Their pronouncements are so ridiculous that it's very easy to do this. They have been able to capture the popular imagination only because of a trivialising, sensation-seeking electronic media.
But that does not justify slander campaigns against them.
If Ramdev is a stamp duty defaulter, why was action not taken all this time? If his empire is involved in shady deals, why had they not been put under the scanner and action taken? If his formulations were suspicious what were the relevant authorities doing all this time? Did his political clout have anything to do with it? And was the government using all this to bargain with him to be its pawn in dividing the anti-corruption movement? Is all this coming out now only because he didn't play ball?
The latest weapon that this government and the Congress deploys against anyone who crosses their path is The RSS Slur. Chidambaram is on CNN-IBN detailing how Ramdev is a front for the RSS. The television media has been going on about it ever since Sadhvi Rithambra appeared on the stage at Ramlila Maidan. There were some Muslim leaders too. Using that same logic, Ramdev should be the front for some hardline Muslim organisation too! Parts of the media have picked this up willingly, with one shrill television anchor writing a column saying this anti-corruption movement is part of India's right-wing nationalist revolution, if you please.
This is meant to scare the urban English-speaking middle classes away from glorifying (deifying, in the case of Hazare) these activists. It is a kind of McCarthyism at work. If you are not with us, you are not just against us, you are also with fanatical organisations.
The fact that this government and the Congress has only this method to counter a bunch of loose cannons shows its utter intellectual bankruptcy.

1 comment:

rajesh sinha said...

It only shows a complete, stubborn unwillingness to do anything to check or punish the corrupt. Campaigners are tainted, but Raja was clean as per this government. If government's intentions were clean, it could have taken the wind out of the entire movement by one bold announcement. Instead, it is working overtime trying to run down protestors and trying to discredit them and their suggestions. If what is proposed is flawed - there are many problematic things in the draft - the flaws need to be set right, and not by making a weak law.