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Nupur Sharma and Salman Rushdie: A tale of two blasphemies and hypocrisy

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In Nupur's case, PM Modi and BJP were hauled over the coals, because they didn't do enough to punish Nupur. Again, the PM is in the line of fire because he hasn't been forthright enough to support Rushdie, though he too is accused of blasphemy.

Here is a tale of two individuals - both accused of blasphemy and scurrying for their lives in the face of threats to their lives by Islamic zealots, and of hypocrisy practiced by the Indian 'left-liberal' pack.

The famed Indian origin author Salman Rushdie, 75, is recuperating from near fatal stab wounds in a New York hospital, and the suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma, 37, is in hiding to save herself from a similar sad fate. Both - Rushdie and Nupur - have since, apologised for their alleged "blasphemy crime" and sought believers' forgiveness, that seems nearly impossible to come by, any time in future.

Nupur Sharma and Salman Rushdie: A tale of two blasphemies and hypocrisy

The similarities between the two, however, end here. Rushdie has almost the entire non-Islamic world, 'left-liberals' at his back. Several global leaders, including the US president Joe Biden and the French President Emmanuel Macron, have extended support to the author under seize.

On August 20, literary and advocacy group PEN America, which Rushdie had helmed as President, his publisher Penguin Random House, and several other organisations hosted the 'Stand with Salman: Defend the Freedom to write', a special solidarity event at the New York Public Library. Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America said, "when a would be murderer punched a knife to Salman Rushdie's neck, he pierced more than just the flesh of a renowned writer. He sliced through time, jolting all of us to recognise that horror of the past is haunting the present."

Nupur Sharma and Salman Rushdie: A tale of two blasphemies and hypocrisy

In India, intellectuals, both of right and left, too have shown solidarity with Rushdie and been questioning Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence on the issue. And while doing so, they reveal an opportunistic and hypocritical facet of their character. These very characters roiled Modi and BJP over Nupur Sharma's random remarks in a TV debate on May 26.

This pack successfully painted Nupur as an epitome of 'hate and blasphemy'. None discussed or debated what she had said in a heated TV debate or how it amounted to hate speech. Her style may have been brusque, but none so far has questioned the contents of what she has said. The quantum of her 'guilt' hasn't been decided on the merits or demerits of what she has said - but by the outrage displayed by enraged Muslim mobs in their country-wide protests.

A little flashback. On May 27, a self-proclaimed fact-checker Mohammad Zubair cleverly edited Nupur's video clip, which went viral. An avalanche followed. Editorial writers went berserk; millions of words were written down to demonise Nupur. It was lynch mindset at its peak. A total of nine FIRs, in quick succession, were filed against her in different parts of the country. Subsequently, they were clubbed on August 11 by Supreme Court.

The 'Left- liberals' instead of standing by Nupur's right to free speech, let loose a massive hate campaign against her, in tandem with Jihadis. Nupur started getting rape and death threats. Since Nupur's remarks were projected as blasphemy against the holy Prophet, Islamic nations too joined the chorus, seeking action against Nupur. Violent protests broke out in many cities with slogan raised 'Gustakh-e-Nabi ki ek saza, sar tan se juda'. Two brutal murders, one each in Udaipur & Amravati, four fatal assaults and death threats followed. The 'left-liberal' pack, played the role of agent provocateur in this macabre drama.

Look at the double standards and height of hypocrisy. In Nupur's case, Modi and BJP were hauled over the coals, because they didn't do enough to punish Nupur, 'guilty' of blasphemy. Again Modi is in the line of fire now, because he hasn't been forthright enough to support Rushdie, though he too is accused of blasphemy. How can one have diagonally opposite approach in the two cases?

According to 'left-liberal' narrative, attack on Rushdie is an onslaught on free speech. But what about Nupur's persecution, at the hands of 'left-liberals', Jihadis and Law? How's her case (or crime) different from that of Rushdie? Nupur's 'crime' is contained in a few seconds tailored video. Rushdie's Satanic Verses, is a book of 1.40 lakh words spread over 500 pages. The sad fact is, for the pack, any trope or excuse to beat Modi and India is good enough, notwithstanding collateral damage to national interest or to the values they claim to uphold.

While Nupur's case is a recent one, that of Rushdie's goes back by over 32 years. The two episodes also bring out the stark difference in the commitment level of Indian intellectuals' and western intelligentsia to values like freedom of expression and pluralism. Rushdie spent 13 years living under a false name and hiding under police protection. During those years, several publishers and translators were attacked, including the book's Japanese translator, who was killed in 1991. However, during these three decades of hide and seek with prospective assassins, Rushdie had unflinching support of the US, entire West and intellectuals of all hues - right, left and centre.

Rushdie gradually re-emerged into public life in the early 2000s. "I was 41 back then, now I am 71, things are fine now," Rushdie told AFP in September 2019. How wrong was Rushdie in thinking that "things are fine now". On August 12 last, while about to start a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, he was repeatedly knifed by a 24-year-old Hadi Matar, a resident of New Jersey, born in the US to Lebanese parents who emigrated from South Lebanon.

An analysis of Matar's social media accounts by Law enforcement agencies showed him to be sympathetic to Shia extremism and the cause of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an ideology driven branch of the Iranian armed forces committed to protecting the country's Islamic system from hostile foreign powers and internal dissensions.

What are the takeaways from these sordid episodes? One, formal education has its limitations and many a times can't subsume psycho-identity biases formed over generations. Hadi Matar was born in the liberal US environment. But it didn't change his mindset. He tried to kill a man who he didn't even know at a personal level. A 'fatwa' issued by a man, dead for over three decades, mattered to Hadi, more than anything else. Second, for the Indian 'left-liberal' pack, its commitment to its agenda of hate against Modi and India, overrides all other considerations and the values, it purports to hold.

(Mr. Balbir Punj is a Former Member of Parliament and a Columnist. He can be reached at: punjbalbir@gmail.com)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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