Smriti Irani’s Lok Sabha Reply: Rohith Vemula’s suicide, JNU issue

In her reply yesterday in Lok Sabha to Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the JNU issue, the Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, tried to impress, satisfy and counter every question which is being raised by her, her party and rivals with respect to BJP’s form of nationalsim, religion and aggression. Yes, she didn’t stick to the topic and digressed a lot.

In her response to over four-hour-long discussion, Smriti tried to be seen as a non-chalant orator, who has the answer for anything and everything under the Sun. Her speech was a mix of emotions, rhetoric, substance and melodrama (anger, loaded pause, tears rolling and occasional choking with emotions). But was it perfect? it depends how we look at it.

To I, the speech seemed yet another case of speaking just too much. The speech was repetitive and tried to say one thing: Hindu Religion is One large Uniform Monolith; and Nationalism starts and ends with Hindutva.

When BSP Leader Mayawati demanded that she wanted a Dalit on the panel investigating Rohith Vemula’s suicide, Smriti Irani countered the demand by questioning Ms Mayawati — Did Mayawati not have faith on a Judge?

On the face of it, the counter appears very fitting, but irrespective of the faith we have on Judiciary, the legislature is always Supreme. Hence, what Ms. Mayawati demanded was an informed take on the issue. If a legislator can’t speak or demand something from someone in a Parliament, where she can.

Countering the argument that the HRD ministry coerced the Ambedkar University Administration to take firm action against Rohith Vemula and others; Ms. Irani selectively quoted many letter where she replied to and accommodated the demands of the leaders and legislators from rival political parties on various other issues. First of all, replying to letters doesn’t mean anything. In the same league, accommodating the justified (legal) demands of the fellow legislators, is not wrong as well. What is wrong is accommodating to the demands which must not be agreed to; Or doing something which lets one go out of quota given to any legislator.

On the question of the attempts to saffronize the education; Ms. Irani tried to present a picture where talking about any minority view, be it dalits, tribals, Muslims, Sikhs, immigrants etc. is politicizing education. I think, it’s reasonable to teach children to be respectful of other person’s custom, tradition, belief unless it harms the broader human rights. What these broader or Universal Human rights are?

These are the rights which have the potential to increase or decrease the quality of life of human beings. Thus a tradition can be opposed if it affects women rights or child rights negatively. Some examples are: Sati Pratha, Dowry System, female foetecide or; the right of a woman to love, choose her life partner and her right to public places without discrimination.

Thus a group of people beating couples on Valentine’s Day or beating women in pubs can be criticized.

If you don’t go or encourage others to infringe on the above rights of humans, then in all likelihood you are being taught these values in your Childhood :  The teaching that don’t envy or judge people based on their religion or lifestyle. And you know it’s much better than bigotry.

Irrespective of how Ms. Irani sees it, but it’s always good NOT to show anger with the fall of a hat. Hence, it’s reasonable to teach teachers of 4th or 6th grade to curb on their tendencies to contain Maratha Nationalism.

Mumbai is a cosmopolitan place, where schools admit children of every belief system. Will it be good if the teacher of class 4 or class 6, tries to indoctrinate children kids with aggressive form of Maratha nationalism? The reasoning can be applies to every Indian city. Usually it happens that when we talk about minorities, we stop at religious minorities. Actually, work immigrants in any city are minorities as well. And for them majority local sentiment is the same as being religious minority.

As a parent, you may agree or disagree but teaching aggression, in any name is not good. The child becomes one faceted.

Finally lets come to the issue of celebration of Mahishasur Shahadat Divas at JNU. The HRD Minister tried to present it as blasphemous.

Blasphemous to who? To her party’s concept of Hindu religion.

Ms. Irani tried to win the argument by calling the another perspective of Mahishasur as anti-Hindu. She used the word ‘Sex Worker’ in her counter argument. If she had been so hurt by the presence of a sex-worker in the pro-Mahishasur version of the story; then she must also explain why the clay Durga Idols created during Navaratras in India, do have a fistful a clay from the house of a sex-worker. If Ms. Irani was so hurt by the narrative, then she must not have used the word.

The problem with BJP is that it wants to get the votes of people outside its Hinduttva vote bank, but it’s not ready to accept their traditions and cultures. What is being seen as anti-hindu is the resurgence of the classes which have been sidelined for long. They are claiming their public places with their own versions of stories, traditions and cultures. They are not content with those stories which usually depicts them as someone eager to be helped. If they see a right on some heroic deed, they demand that. They ask why Mahishasur looks like a Tribal?

Overall, Ms. Irani should not say she questioned Rohith Vemula’s caste, to sympathize with him or his mother. Do you think it can be taken as Truth?