Eminent Indians: Sedition, hysteria, social media
C.P. Surendran, senior journalist based in India/Gulf News
If Modi’s government could be influenced by letters, it would not be Modi government
Recently, an amorphous but ubiquitous bunch, ‘Eminent Indians’, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The group, always at the forefront of all the good things in life, included film directors Aparna Sen, Mani Ratnam, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Anurag Kashyap, historian Ramachandra Guha and 44 other personalities. Eminent Indians is a fluid tag. The constituent members may change. But they all remain eminent.
The letter said that the Modi government had a responsibility to put a stop to lynchings — mostly of dalits [so-called untouchables] and Muslims — by Hindus: “Dear Prime Minister … The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately. We were shocked to learn from the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) reports that there have been no less than 840 instances of atrocities against dalits in the year 2016, and a definite decline in the percentage of convictions …. You have criticised such lynchings in parliament Mr Prime Minister, but that is not enough … We strongly feel that such an offence should be declared non-bailable …” the letter said.
Ojha is Patna’s answer to Strachey
The liberal social media naturally took it upon itself to align with the Eminences. A good cause is like sauce. You can’t have enough of it. Except, comes along a serial litigant Sudhir Ojha, a lawyer by profession, but really a kind of limited, local variant of, shall we say, Lytton Strachey. I believe Ojha is Patna’s answer to Strachey. Strachey in the second decade of the 20th century was already an eccentric iconoclast in the Bloomsbury literary circle before he wrote the Eminent Victorians, a tear-down of British vanity. He was prowling around for long for a bunch of Eminences to vent his high venom. His final list included Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale Thomas Arnold, and General Gordon, all greatly admired by the affluent and virtuous London grandees. In Eminent Victorians, Strachey makes short work of their puffery in blistering phrases and richly ironic insights.
Ojha is not quite in the same literary mould. He just lays into you if you are eminent. He has in recent years filed some 730 Public Interest Litigation (PIL) cases mostly in the courts of Bihar, not a region famous for probity. Literature, or law: so long as the hook does the work.Ojha has taken to court big stars like Hrithik Roshan and Amitabh Bachchan, and the former prime minister Manmohan Singh, a Victorian from Punjab. According to media reports, in 2007, Ojha filed a PIL against the makers and actors of a cacophonous movie, Dhoom 2, accusing them of promoting obscenity by filming a kissing scene. According to Ojha, the case was dropped after the lawyers of the film-makers and actors declared they would not keep kissing scenes in future films. There have been kisses in Indian cinema since. Never mind, we in India now know on the rare occasions we kiss that Ojha is watching.