By Abhishek Saha
Jun 10, 2015
Asking people to leave India for opposing anything favoured by the ruling party seems to be the latest fad among politicians. These politicos make it to the headlines and their tasteless comments are the focus of discussions on social media.
Controversial BJP lawmaker Yogi Adityanath has asked people opposing yoga and ‘surya namaskar’ to leave India or drown themselves in the ocean.
It’s a no-brainer to deduce whom the comments were aimed at – they came as a reaction to minority groups opposing a move to make yoga compulsory in schools, claiming that the sun salutation goes against the Islamic law that prohibits bowing before anyone other than Allah.
Home minister Rajnath Singh sought to clear the air, saying there is no compulsion on performing yoga in schools during the International Yoga Day on June 21.
The trend of asking people opposed to the politics of the NDA to leave India was probably kicked off by senior BJP leader Giriraj Singh in April last year. He had blatantly asked people “opposed to Modi” to go to Pakistan since they would have no place in India.
Last month, minister of state for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi asked those who want to eat beef to leave India and go to Pakistan.
Naqvi’s comment was an attempt to defend a beef ban in BJP-ruled states such as Maharashtra and Haryana. Beef, for many, was a staple food available at cheap prices.
For many, these comments reflect how vehemently the BJP-led government is pursuing the agenda of the Hindu right-wing.
Well-known Pakistani columnist Raza Rumi reacted to Adityanath’s comment by tweeting: “How many people will leave India? By this rate few would be left :)”
In March last year, Rumi survived an assassination attempt in Lahore by a Taliban-affiliated terror group and left Pakistan for the US.
Like Rumi, a celebrated film director, a journalist and a prolific writer have left India on their own, troubled by the disturbing state of affairs.
Discussing the reasons behind their departures might be more useful than frothing over the comments of insensitive politicians.
Anurag Kashyap, a poster-boy of independent cinema in Bollywood, left India to settle in Paris because he wants to make films where people have fewer boundaries.
"The idea of cinema in this country has become about crores and zeroes and that has become justification for what is good and bad,” Kashyap was quoted as saying in India Today.
Doesn’t Kashyap’s disillusionment signify all that’s wrong with mainstream entertainment industry? Will India be able to create an environment where a director like Kashyap will be able to tell his stories? Or will we be a people that just drool over “item numbers”?
Let’s move to the case of Gardiner Harris, the former South Asia correspondent of The New York Times, whose last dispatch from New Delhi was a scathing criticism of the city’s “true menace” – its air, water, food and flies.
Before leaving India for good, Harris emphasised how Delhi was “among the most populous, polluted, unsanitary and bacterially unsafe cities on earth”.
Of course, Harris didn’t say anything revelatory – with urban development and rapid industrialisation, Delhi’s air, the WHO says, is one of most poisonous in the world.
Shouldn’t our MPs, rather than threatening to deport people for opposing yoga, concentrate on cleaning this toxic air that the national capital breathes?
Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen was the latest to leave India, albeit temporarily, citing security concerns. She tweeted she was leaving as she felt threatened by Islamist groups responsible for hacking atheist Bangladeshi bloggers in Dhaka.
Nasreen, who rose to fame for her writing against Islamic fundamentalist, apparently sought a meeting with Union home minister Rajnath Singh after receiving death threats. She claimed she didn’t receive any response and had to leave. "Will be back when feel safe," she tweeted.
Her staying in India has been in the political discourse for a long time now, and it will be unwise to take a quick stand without proving the veracity of her claims. Nonetheless, a big question mark hovers over the safety of liberals, rationalists and whistleblowers in the country.
No beef-lover or yoga-hater will leave India, as Adityanath and Naqvi want. They will stay on, probably feeling vindicated. But there are other socio-political issues affecting the country which might force many, who are capable, to leave.