The acclaimed writer Mridula Garg, who won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2013 for her novel Miljul Mann, is the latest personality from the world of the art and culture to raise her voice against the growing atmosphere of intolerance in the country.

Mridula Garg. Credit: YouTube

The Prime Minister of India has finally broken his silence after the events in Dadri. The question is, has his speaking helped improve the prevalent atmosphere of intolerance? Not at all. After all, what did he say apart from making the inane statement that Hindus and Muslims should fight poverty and not each other.

Strangely enough, or perhaps characteristically, Prime Minister Modi did not promise severe action against the killers of writers, rational thinkers and ordinary people suspected of eating beef. Or against any of his own Members of Parliament and Ministers for making inflammatory speeches and redefining culture. On the other hand, he seemed to put his seal on the non acceptance of beef-eating by slamming Lalu Prasad for saying that Hindus also eat beef. How is what Lalu said an insulting statement? What has one’s religion to do with what one eats in a so called secular state?

By the way, we need to replace this word secular by something more meaningful. By definition, all state power is secular, not spiritual. So secular is a redundant word when applied to the state. What we ought to say or mean is a ‘non-religion oriented state.’ But that is exactly what we are not. Instead of keeping out of all religious functions (which, by definition, belong to the private or individual domain), our government emissaries turn up at all of them with loud fanfare, destroying any spirituality left after a crass display of money power to show just how secular they are! There is irony for you.

I can’t understand the media’s preoccupation with whether the meat in victim Akhlaqh’s fridge was mutton or beef. Why are we even discussing this question? By doing so, are we not giving our tacit consent to the belief that beef eating is wrong? Are we not conspirators in the murder of free expression, of freedom to life and all that it entails? Are we not as guilty of killing rationalists and free thinkers as those who actually wielded the murder weapon?

Meanwhile, violence with cow slaughter as an excuse is escalating. Is it not time for the government to take strong action? To declare that there is no such thing as a sacred animal for all the people. Each one has to decide for himself what he wants to hold sacred with no right to tell others what to do.

What about law and order? Does the government abdicate its responsibility in that matter also?

For how long will the Prime Minister go on putting the onus of everything on the people, while giving us catchy but meaningless slogans? One example out of many is the slogan ‘beti bachao, beti padhao’ (save your daughters by educating them). A good slogan! But may one ask, how? Where are the schools? I mean, not just in name, but schools where actual education is given with non-absentee teachers. Where are the employment opportunities which the parents can avail to send them to proper schools, not run by an indifferent government?

True, the people elected him. That onus rests squarely on them. How long are they going to bear the burden of this? A minimum of five years, I guess. And if by that time all democratic and rational institutions are corrupted and right=thinking people destroyed, then I suppose forever!

Prime Minister Modi is a voluble speaker. He even broadcasts a nationwide radio programme, ‘Mann ki Baat’ or ‘Words from the Heart’. At least that’s what it means, literally and superficially. But the word mann has larger and deeper connotations in Hindi. It can also mean wishful thinking, something we dream and spin stories about but are unable to practice. He builds a fantasy world for us in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ and then does nothing to make it come true. If that is all he has to say and is not ready to be held accountable for the distortion of our so-called ancient culture and the bashing of intellectuals in word and deed by his ministers and MPs, then I prefer that he remain silent. At least we are spared dodgy slogan mongering.

Mridula Garg is the author of over a dozen novels, including Uske Hisse Ki Dhoop (1975), Anitya (1980) and Miljul Mann (2013)