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  Opinion   Columnists  24 Feb 2024  Shobhaa De | Agreed, nation always comes first… but what about Sita?

Shobhaa De | Agreed, nation always comes first… but what about Sita?

Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. You can reach her at: @ShobhaaDe(Instagram) and @DeShobhaa(Twitter).
Published : Feb 24, 2024, 2:13 am IST
Updated : Feb 24, 2024, 2:13 am IST

"Sarvapratham Bharat": BJP's Vision for a Unified Nation and Political Landscape Shifts

Sarvapratham Bharat emerges as BJP's guiding vision, steering political discourse amidst controversies, crime concerns, and the ever-evolving dynamics of India's social and political landscape. (PTI File Image)
 Sarvapratham Bharat emerges as BJP's guiding vision, steering political discourse amidst controversies, crime concerns, and the ever-evolving dynamics of India's social and political landscape. (PTI File Image)

“Sarvapratham Bharat” sounds like the title of Vivek Oberoi’s next film, starring him and Akshay Kumar as soul-brothers. It will not be a “family-oriented” blockbuster. That idea belongs to INDIA (with or without the full stops in between the five letters). Union home minister Amit Shah spelt out the BJP’s “Sarvapratham Bharat” vision at the Prabuddhjan Sammelan in Jaipur/Udaipur. In simple lingo, Shri Shah is telling voters that the only way forward is to toe the BJP line and place the country first. And last, too. Hello! Country First has always been the driving force and commitment for Indian citizens, regardless of which political party is in power. Khair… Shri Shah reminded us that under Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi’s leadership, “Sarvapratham Bharat” will be a single-point mission, which will not only guide India and Indians, but “the entire world”. Amidst lusty cries of “Abki baar, 400 paar” and “Jai Shri Ram’’ from the audience, Shri Shah said his government will “not allow any community riots”. Operative word: “Allow”.

A pity that so many citizens are not evolved enough to appreciate these noble intentions, and continue with silly behavior. Like members of the Bengal VHP who went to court over a lion named Akbar and a lioness named Sita, sharing the same enclosure they’d happily been occupying as compatible roomies at the Tripura Zoo. Which law was breached? Why was the precious time of the Siliguri bench of the Calcutta high court wasted by cheap publicity seekers? Err… did anybody ask the lion and lioness what they felt about being separated by idiotic humans? Absurdities piled on absurdities as the Akbar-Sita jodi “news” made waves. To start with, we need to rethink the concept of zoos -- it’s cruel to remove animals from their natural habitats and place them in enclosures to be gawked at by humans looking for amusement -- at the expense of those mute creatures. Then comes this debate over names. Where does it end? It’s zoo animals today, but it could be you and me tomorrow, if we dare to call our kids or pets by names that hurt “religious sentiments”. I’m seriously thinking about our nine doggos -- are their names politically-correct? Should we be worried that someone will sue and separate our beloved furry friends from us?

Speaking of Sita (the real one), my school friend Rashna Imhasly- Gandhy, psychologist and author, wrote a strong and thought-provoking piece for The Wire titled “In Ram’s hailing, Sita was forgotten. Her revival would have symbolised healing for men and women…”, which provided a much-needed perspective in the aftermath of the Ram Mandir’s opening in Ayodhya. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken, after consecrating the Ram statue in the new premises, of the need to create a Ram Rajya that embodies the virtues of a just, inclusive and compassionate rule.’’ She argues it would have been a fitting moment to not only welcome back Ram but also resurrect his consort…’’ She concludes her essay by stating: “A new, peaceful and respectful movement should start today for every Sita to rise in the hearts of every woman.”

Coincidentally, while I was still thinking about the countless Sitas in India over the past two millennia, I encountered another inspiring, iconic woman -- Draupadi. “Jaya -- The Victory!” is a rock musical of the Mahabharata, produced and directed by Lillete Dubey. I was moved to tears during the dramatic “vastaharan” scene -- the turning point in the epic. Ironically, we have two extraordinary, indomitable women -- Sita and Draupadi -- symbols of courage and resilience. Both deserve our veneration and respect. Instead, we are busy creating leonine separations in zoos!

A social environment that encourages puerile “controversies” instead of throwing them into the dustbin indicates a political hawa that’s sympathetic towards any and every matter which can be manipulated to generate suspicion and hate between communities. People who claim that things are not soooooo bad need a reality check. In our zeal to reclaim what we perceive as our lost legacy, we are encouraging bigotry and feeding into hate. Political philosopher and Harvard professor Michael Sandel, often described as an intellectual “with the global profile of a rock star”, says: “As an interested outside observer, I’m struck by the deep polarisation in India now…’’

Inciting riots is the job of hired goons without anything at stake -- not even their own lives. These are professional rioters, paid to generate trouble. Some of them double up as actors, donning different costumes, assuming identities and parroting lines given to them by riot organisers, who in turn are agents of different political parties. Social media manipulation has never been as easy. Anybody with a smartphone can shoot potentially dangerous videos and upload them to generate narratives that are neither accurate nor authentic. But hey -- does anyone bother to cross-check?

Skewered takes on practically anything and everything have swamped and choked the social media. Deepfakes and AI-generated material are so rampant that it’s near impossible to counter them. If even top stars like Vidya Balan and others have to invest time, money and energy to protect their reputations in the aftermath of scams featuring them, imagine the rest of us. A single line plucked out of a long podcast can so easily be converted into a mega controversy with just a super-imposed, inflammatory heading. We live in a post-truth era where diminishing attention spans lead to massive misrepresentation and conjecture. Political parties pounce on exactly these golden opportunities to shame their critics/opponents. No point whining about it, since there’s little or nothing that can be done to actually prevent such blatant misrepresentation in future.

“Sarvapratham Bharat” is here. “INDIA” doesn’t count. The mother and son (Sonia and Rahul) are stuck in quicksand. Rats have abandoned the sinking Congress ship and been welcomed by the BJP. In 1957, Chairman Mao Zedong urged his countrymen to “let a hundred flowers bloom… and a hundred schools of thought contend”. Ostensibly, the Chinese intelligentsia were invited to publicly criticise the political system… but it turned out to be a deadly trap to flush out and identify all the dissidents. Those who aired anti-Mao views were executed. A lesson worth remembering as thousands of lotuses bloom across India.

PS: I think Vladimir Putin has a hell of a lot of rizz. So does Donald Trump. Most despots through history possessed rizz-plus… No rizz. No power. Comprenez???

Tags: amit shah, shobhaa de column