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Peppering parliament with appalling acts

 | February 14, 2014

India must really hang its head in shame watching its elected representatives behave like hooligans.

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Once women vulnerable to rape or robbery in India were asked to carry a can of pepper spray. Today, men, and that too members of parliament, are carrying these tiny arsenals to create mayhem in the house.

India must really hang its head in shame watching these elected representatives of the people behave like hooligans, turning the sacrosanct parliament into some kind of sordid street, converting what should have been dignified debates and discussions into petty brawls, violent and vindictive to the core.

On Thursday, parliament was disrupted in the most horrendous way, when a member of the Telugu Desam Party brandished a knife, while an expelled member of the ruling Congress Party sprayed pepper in the air inside the house.

Is this what we can call Indian culture?

These men were opposing a bill which sought to bifurcate the state of Andhra Pradesh.

The fracas in parliament made four members ill, one, a heart patient, collapsed. The three others complained of suffocation and irritation in the eye. All of them were sent to hospital.

And only a day before that Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History, was banned, and the publisher, Penguin, was forced to recall all the copies from the shelves. The 779-page tome was banned because it reportedly denigrates the Hindu culture and religion.

This kind of double standard shocks me. While on the one hand, members of parliament get into an ugly fight (legislators were throwing chairs at one another in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly a few days ago) and seem to feel that there is no question of denigration here, no question of disparagement of something as hallowed as parliament, on the other hand, it is felt that Doniger’s book shamefully belittles Hinduism.

In the case of the book, one can chose to either read it or not read it. Yet, the publisher allowed itself to be browbeaten by a little known radical Hindu group, which saw everything in the book as scandalous, but did not as much bat an eyelid when it chose to call the author “sex hungry”.

Many books have been banned in India. Recently, the cartoons about BR Ambedkar, one of the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution, had to be withdrawn from some school textbooks.

Such bans are part of a climate in which anything written can be contested, anything filmed can hurt religious and cultural sentiments.

In the final analysis, while books such as Doniger’s are viewed as culturally debase, some parliamentarians have no qualms about behaving in the most distasteful of manner.

Is such behaviour not an affront to India’s culture? Or, is it that only a book or a movie has the power to dishonour this country. And shame it too.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at [email protected]


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