Sunday, December 21, 2008

THE ANTULAY BETRAYAL

The sordid saga continues. The PM has not accepted Minorities Minister AR Antulay's resignation, the Congress party has not been able to decide on the action that should be taken against him and Digvijay Singh has added to the confusion by backing him.

It may be recalled that when the Parliament was united in discussing the NIA and UAPA bills post Mumbai 11/26, Antulay was making an allegation in the premises of the Parliament House suggesting that ATS Chief Hemant Karkare's death was the result of an 'inside job'. That preposterous allegation, and its timing, had led to vociferous demands for his resignation. The Congress too was quick to distance itself from his allegation, with party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi making the party's stand clear within hours. It was then widely expected that Antulay would be not only be asked to apologise but would also lose his job.

More than four days have passed but nothing has happened. Instead of aplogising, Antulay has dug his heels in and justified his allegation that supports the allegation that Pakistan has been making since November 26, 2008, that 'Hindu Zionists' were responsible for Mumbai 11/26. His statement has not only been picked up by Pakistan to make the case that what it had been saying all along was right, it has also led to some Muslim organisations in India voicing their support to this absurd conspiracy theory. There is a growing chorus within the community that the Hindu right was actually responsible for Karkare's death due to his investigation into the role and dimensions of Hindu terror in the Malegaon blast in September 2008.

Whom has AR Antulay really betrayed by his calculated outburst timed to cause maximum damage to the position taken by the Union Cabinet of which is a member?

Antulay has been in politics for 60 years. He has been repeatedly elected by a secular electorate in a constituency that has only 8% Muslims. Yet, no one is talking about that constituency. Vir Sanghvi believes that Antulay's rhetoric is aimed at "pleasing his Muslim constituency" whose credibility he has damaged. Barkha Dutt, in an even more strident vein, berates him for betraying "his own people", Muslims.

With that one damning statement, Dutt has dealt a devastating blow to secularism and communalised the most secular space in India's politics, as has Vir Sanghvi to a lesser extent. The unstated admission that all non-Muslims who cast a secular vote to elect Muslims are irrelevant "outsiders" is grave indeed. Perhaps that is exactly what Antulay has always believed himself despite the more than half a century of support that they have given to him "as one of their own".

Political leader Antulay's real "own people" are those secular Indians of all faiths who have put him where he is today, and on whose behalf alone he is entitled to speak. After 60 years of riding on their shoulders, and while still representing them, he cannot just ditch them without remorse and stake claim to represent a "Muslim constituency", and speak in the voice of those who have the blood of Mumbai 11/26 on their hands.

See the hollowness of the 'secularism' that some of us trumpet? No one is shedding any tears for the secular people of his constituency that Antulay has actually betrayed. Some of them like Dutt are dismayed that as a Minister and MP he has pushed his own community (Muslims) on the defensive and into a corner of clarifications yet again. Worse, they believe that he owes them "better than to stereotype them in the worst manner possible".

As far as our staunch secularists are concerned concerned, Antulay obviously owes nothing to the lakhs of non-Muslims who have got him where he is today. His sudden transformation from a secular leader to a communal one is perfectly justifiable. The only mistake he has made is that he has said something that, in their disconnected view, has let down those who have suddenly emerged as his "his own people".

May be that is why he continues to be in the Cabinet of Ministers.
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