The absurdity of blowing up the Mangalore pub incident can be understood only in one context -- it gave secularists another handle to portray the Hindu right in a light that is so dear to them.
Every media channel and magazine turned a Navin Chawla against ideological adversaries, passionately discussing the Mangalore pub incident and the rights of women, completely ignoring the significant protest rally of retired soldiers in Delhi that demanded equal pensions.
It is the same crowd that eulogised the martyrdom of Hemant Karkare, not because of their respect for soldiers, but because it again gave them a chance to pounce upon the Hindu right.
Mangalore should have got a stern warning by those who govern. If pubs are bad and sinful, legislate and stop them legally. Bad things can't be stopped through petty methods like pickpocketing. Be brave and forthright and stand tall on whatever you think is good for all. Face the criticism with aplomb and respond if you have to. But that needs commitment.
A clear, transparent force that lights and shows a path that is free from a pathologically hypocritical high moral ground. At least politicians of the contemporary variety shouldn't venture in a place that's just not meant for them -- public morality.
But while everyone would like to condemn the incident, the media's attitude must also be analysed. The media blew the incident as if a national calamity had occurred, instigated by the Hindu right and related its thread to Malegaon. The columns and comments on the 'grave threats posed by Hindu extremism' must also be analysed and the real motives exposed.
I am strongly opposed to those who create a meaningless fuss over Valentine's Day or create a nuisance like they did in Mangalore. But the selective memory loss of the secular moral preachers is intriguing when anything of the same variety involves Muslims.
Last month, some zealots in a Mumbai mall beat up a Pakistani Muslim girl. A news report read: 'A Pakistani national, Saba Najam, 22, was roughed up at Hypercity Mall in Malad last Monday after some people spotted a tattoo in Urdu on her back. Some women suddenly approached her and assaulted her over the tattoo, which read 'Shukr Alham Du Lillah' meaning 'Thank you, God.'
'Riyaz Ahmed Talukdar, a member of Jan Seva Sangh, a local NGO, had first spotted the tattoo on Saba's back and informed his mother, Shabana Talukdar. Riyaz said, "When I saw the tattoo I was furious as holy words from the Quran were on her back." Shabana, along with a few other women, then came to the mall in the next 15 minutes and slapped the girl several times before the mall management intervened. The incident scared the girl so much that she left for Pakistan on Friday.'
Did you read anything about it in your newspaper? Or a discussion on television channels? Were any of the Muslim clerics or the so-called liberal voices who came to Delhi in a trainload complaining why they were being labeled as 'terrorists', interviewed on the treatment meted out to a girl from a neighbouring Islamic republic by Mumbai's 'moral police'?
It is this attitude that also encourages some fringe elements like those whom we saw at Mangalore.
Surely nothing must defend one wrong by citing another wrong as an example. But politicians must govern and not preach. And pray, who do they think they are? Can they be entrusted the job of preparing a charter for citizen dharma? Should we accept an organisation like the Ram Sene to take it upon itself to impose its own variety of decency by beating girls?
So now, Hindu Dharma, which was defined and elaborated once upon a time by the likes of Swami Vivekananda and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan will have to be understood through the Mangalore beatings of girls by brave young exponents of some kind of a conduct they call 'culture'?
What are we up to and what do we want to achieve? Why are women always the target of these social disciplinarians? They beat them up, abuse them, tell them what to wear or not, be a nice housewife because that's what the 'religious ideal' is, be a mother and an obedient wife, go to places of worship and read the holy scriptures.
There is nothing wrong with that, but do these worthies have a right and a moral authority to tell women all these codes of conduct while they flounder and abuse every bit of simple, civil behaviour in their life?
But the media certainly loves such 'shows'. It had advance information about the pub-attack, still found it prudent to wait till the news was 'matured' through a well-orchestrated attack. If the media had informed authorities those hapless girls would have been saved from humiliation.
Some time back a protestor informed the media about his self-immolation bid in Chandigarh and the media faithfully recorded the event without even once trying to save the guy, who died within minutes before cameramen and correspondents. This is an issue involving media ethics, if they have any or believe they should have them. News or the call of human values?
The use of the word 'culture' for the habit of frequenting pubs is also intriguing. But the whole issue boils down to one point, if one dislikes a certain social behaviour, how should a protest for it be registered? The vegetarians protested when fried chicken ads were aired on television channels and even when the 'eat eggs daily' campaign was launched. If some like non-vegetarian food, those who find it disgusting and against their ethics, do have a right to show their displeasure, but the matter must take a civil course.
Surely going to pubs is a different matter altogether and a large number of people find it nauseatingly unacceptable as some opinion polls by leading newspapers have shown. So what is the solution? The state wants revenue by selling alcohol and licensing for pubs, but at the same time it frowns upon them to get space in newspapers. This duality won't work.
The best that can be done is to propagate alternative ideas of healthy drink. Encourage milk consumption and dairy products and establish more and more dairies like Gujarat has shown. There is complete prohibition in Gujarat and though there may be some breaches, it has certainly helped to bring down the consumption of alcohol to a great extent.
Those who claim they are the followers of Mahtama Gandhi or Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, must respect the law and Constitution of the nation. They have an obligation to lead by example.
I must quote an inspiring story from the life of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, who once refused to turn on a transistor to listen to the news while travelling in a train -- and he travelled third class most of the time -- because the license fee for using it was yet to be deposited. It was obligatory in those days to have a license for using a radio.
Yes, times have changed; yet, religious bigotry must not be accepted in any circumstances.
How many of these moral preachers understand the reality that the place of a woman can't be different than that of a man? Please give us clean drinking water, good primary schools, functional and caring public hospitals, a corruption free administration and enforce the law to save genuine cultural moors. That will be more than what a citizen would need under any party's pronouncedly benign and heavenly noble governance.