Political Cacophony over a loudspeaker amidst big failures

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At this critical stage of national life when countless crises threaten to pull us down, the last thing that should come to mind is the loudspeaker. When the economy is badly bruised, unemployment has acquired dreadful dimensions, the social fabric is in tatters, institutions have weakened unbelievably and the international scenario is posing newer challenges, why should there be a debate on a loudspeaker at all? And loudspeaker, not in terms of its technical ability to amplify sound; it is being raised in the context of Muslims using the instrument for azaan, demonstrating an evil intent to invent another communal flashpoint to disturb social peace. A great democracy that aspires to be a global superpower should spend its time and energy on solving its problems and deploy its resources to consolidate its position instead of laying landmines of self-destructive diversions. Whose interest is served by such diabolical ploys to derail the national discourse? Every politician should introspect whether indulging in mindless trivia is essential when the nation is indeed grappling with serious issues. If the intention is to divert attention from the actual ground reality by inundating the gullible masses with trivia, this debate is rendered irrelevant. Then the situation is far more dangerous and worrisome. The nation should wake up and collectively deal with this suicidal tendency; it is the duty of the political class as well as the civil society to set the nation on the path of a constructive debate in which real problems are analysed and resolved.

Aberrations are unavoidable in such a vast country. A Raj Thackeray, or a Rana-couple, would have been negligible aberrations, had the BJP and the media not offered their loudspeakers to amplify their little, inaudible voices. It is tragic that the murmurs of the fringe are now so easily transformed into a mainstream roar. While fringe players in politics have their own games to play, the tantalising lure of incendiary discourse attracts the media more than the substantive issues, enabling the trouble-makers to reach a larger audience. There is no denying the fact that Raj Thackeray would have received no attention if he gave a clarion call for fighting poverty or generating jobs. If Navneet Rana or Ravi Rana sat on a hunger strike against savagely rising prices, nobody would take note of it. When they chose to whip up passions by declaring their intent to play Hanuman Chalisa in front of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s residence, they knew the potential of the divisive plank to trigger larger political ripples. Even if the campaign of Raj Thackeray and Ranas were not masterminded by the BJP, it was obvious that the BJP will jump in, to fish in troubled waters. The BJP would not have lent its might to these fringe players if they campaigned for unity and harmony in society. Have we really become so cynical and self-destructive? Will politics operate at this level, abandoning even pretensions of nobility and constitutionalism?

Raj Thackerays and Navneet Ranas of the world should know there are better ways to draw attention and enhance political clout. Raj Thackeray yesterday said, “We will play Hanuman Chalisa at a higher volume than azaan.” What will that achieve? Is that the purpose of being in politics? What will happen if organised criminal gangs start doing such disruptive politics? Politicians have a moral duty to mobilise public opinion within the framework of constitutional spirit. Nobody has the power to declare that loudspeakers should be removed from mosques by a certain date. Raj said, if Muslims don’t understand nicely, they will be shown the power of Maharashtra. This is a threat that should not be delivered in the garb of Maharashtra’s wish. Maharashtra has given a mandate to the government to deal with issues of governance and administration. Loudspeakers in mosques isn’t the most pressing national issue today. If loudspeakers have to be removed, after all, let the stakeholders negotiate peacefully and decide. If individuals and groups are allowed to dictate terms to communities and governments in this manner, there will be anarchy in the country. What if Muslims organise themselves to create an unreasonable demand of their own from the Hindu community? Or they are not allowed to behave irresponsibly because they are in the minority? Have we accepted the might-is-right principle? Have we discarded the Constitution? These are vital issues the Prime Minister and the Union Government should speak about. The Supreme Court too should take note of these sinister developments and intervene forcefully to enforce the rule of law in the country.

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