Recently, an elderly Sikh man was humiliated in the United Kingdom. The Sikhs in India strongly condemned the incident and demanded steps to be taken at the diplomatic levels to address the issue. The video of the appalling treatment that was meted out to the 80-year-old man by a teenage girl went viral and the media gave it continuous coverage.
Fair enough. It is always important to ensure that our nationals get due respect on foreign soils. Whether one is a Punjabi or Keralite, he or she should always be seen as an Indian under attack abroad. The Punjab government's words on Sikh sentiments getting hurt are understandable.
Mahadalit killed in Bihar over hoisting Tricolour: How much impact did this story have?
But what is not understandable is that how many of the media channels or sympathising politicians who are so much agitated by the bashing up of the old man expressed an equal concern when a Mahadalit was killed and 40 others were injured in a clash with upper-caste people over the right to hoist a national flag on a disputed land on the occasion of the Independence Day. The deceased man was also 80-year-old. How many dislikes for this shocking incident could be seen in the national media which was regretting the loss of national prestige abroad?
If racial equality of Indians abroad is such a big headache for us (we have raised voices whenever an Indian faces an unwelcome treatment abroad, whether it is Australia or Ireland), then why social equality in our own land goes largely unnoticed? The Bihar tragedy was not just a one-off case of social injustice but in effect an indicator to the state's changing caste equations following the divorce between the ruling JD(U) and the BJP a couple of months ago.
Is communal hatred only about religious polarisation? What say, the seculars?
It is very strange that the secular media and politicians of this country only mean religious animosity as an aspect of communal tension. That one-dimensional view of everything communal is not right. In various parts of India, inter-communal tensions are still defined on caste lines and despite all sorts of social engineering and election mobilisation by leaders, the hostility doesn't look to lose its teeth.
Did Nitish Kumar's political gamble harm the social equation?
Here is how Nitish Kumar has lost the plot by deciding to terminate his party's relation with the BJP. He erred because he judged Narendra Modi by the occurrence in the latter's state in 2002 and not the implications that his own state could witness in 2013. The result has perhaps begun to show.
The JD(U) leader must have thought that by ripping apart a stabilising social coalition just to project a 'secular' face on religious terms which was completely unnecessary, he was doing a great harm to those social classes who are at a disadvantage. If the BJP's vote-bank, the upper castes, continue to intensify the attacks on the JD(U) vote-bank, then what's there in store for the much talked-about Bihar model of growth that has brought Nitish great accolades in the past.
Why disadvantaged sections' plight doesn't get highlighted?
But it is not the caste politics and its patronage that matter here. The caste factor is unavoidable in Indian politics but what is alarming is that none of the country's elitist forces are ready to cover the woes of the backward sections. The national media as well as those politicians who feel very proud about their secular credentials, will do the nation a big service by bringing issues like the Bihar tragedy on the national platform.
Right to a life of dignity: An exclusive club?
If the life of a Sikh abroad is very dear to us, so should be the life of a Mahadalit. If a Sikh has the right to live a life of dignity in a foreign country, how can not an Indian have his right to hoist the national flag in his own country? Why didn't the prime minister address this issue in Bihar?
Let's set our priorities right, gentlemen. This country isn't just confined to one or two places and neither are its problems uniform in nature. We can no just explain everything in a fixed language and viewpoint. Like the humiliated Sikh, the killed Mahadalit also deserves a place in our mind. Otherwise, the democracy remains a sham.