By V. Sundaram, Retired IAS officer
If you are capable of guaranteeing a 24- hour "No Questions Asked Servility' to Sonia Gandhi with fear, nervousness and reverence and if you are capable of bumptious and sanctimonious humbug on every sensitive political issue at her supremely dictatorial bidding from time to time, then you qualify yourself to be a Union Cabinet Minister in Sonia's surrogate government in New Delhi. Judged by this internationally known secular yardstick, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, Union Minister for Information (Insinuation!) and Broadcasting (Blustering) is the most outstanding Central Minister in the minority non-functional government of India.
Playing the cheap and crude Congress politics of "anti-national secularism' three days ago, he said that "Taslima Nasreen should apologise for hurting the sentiments of the Muslims. Ours is a pluralistic country, where every religion is given equal respect. I have nothing against her writing but that does not mean that she can use her pen to insult and offend the religious beliefs of Muslims or any other community for that matter. If Nasreen wanted to stay in India or any country, she had to respect the philosophy and identity of that country. "
Priya Ranjan Das Munshi went even further and demanded that Nasreen apologise with folded hands and tender an unqualified apology to the Muslims of India whose sentiments she has hurt and expunge those pages from her book.
The Information and Broadcasting Minister recalled that when Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses had sparked off a controversy, it was banned in India. "She cannot be an exception,' he added.
Making a similar statement in Parliament in December, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had also pointed out that the controversial Bangladeshi writer should behave like a guest and should desist from doing anything which will hurt the sentiments of a group or community in the country.
Thus Priya Ranjan Das Munshi wants that Taslima should bow down before the Muslims and apologise with folded hands for hurting their religious sentiments. While appreciating his sensitive concerns for the feelings of Muslims in India, I would like to ask him as to why he has not shown the same political courage to demand an apology from the known anti-Hindu DMK president Karunanidhi for having deliberately hurt the time-honoured feelings of millions and millions of Hindus in India and abroad by asking these questions: "Where did Lord Rama get his Engineering Degree from? What are his qualifications? Is he not a drunkard?'
Priya Ranjan Das Munshi has no respect for the law in so far the Hindus of India in majority are concerned. That is why he has not cared to take note of the brutal cultural attack of Karunanidhi on the sentiments of the devotees of Lord Rama. By insulting Lord Rama in his official capacity as Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, he has violated Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code which states "Deliberate or malicious acts indented to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs'. Will Priya Ranjan Das Munshi dare to demand an apology from Karunanidhi for having blatantly injured the religious feelings of the Hindus in India?
Why has Priya Ranjan Das Munshi forgotten the fact that it is the Congress party and it is his own government which deliberately hurt the feelings of the Hindu majority by insulting Lord Rama, Ramayana and Rama Sethu, in both Houses of Parliament and the Supreme Court? Why did not the Union Cabinet apologise with folded hands to the Hindus of India? Does Priya Ranjan Das Munshi have the political guts to demand an apology from his "Know Nothing' Prime Minister for having allowed the Union Minister for Culture Ambika Soni to file the objectionable "anti-Hindu and anti-Rama' affidavit in the Supreme Court of India?
To quote Mr. B R Haran in this context: "Ok. Priya Ranjan Das Munshi need not demand apologies from his bosses Sonia or Manmohan. Will he, at least, dare to demand an apology from those two sworn enemies of Lord Rama - Ambika Soni and T R Balu? Does he mean to say that the religious sentiments of majority Hindu community could be hurt with Congress impunity and impudence, but not so the sentiments of Muslim minorities? This "POLITICS OF APOLOGY' is unpardonable!
Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, with a pseudo-secular bravado, has referred to the example of government ban on The Satanic Verses of Salman Rushdie.
In this context, I would like invite his attention to the famous "Quran Petition' which was filed in the Kolkata High Court in 1985. Three heroic sons of India, namely Chandmal Chopra, advocate of Calcutta High Court, Hamangshu Kumar Chakraborthy and Sital Singh filed an application in the Calcutta High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India on 29 March, 1985, praying for a writ of Mandamus directing the State of West Bengal to declare each copy of the Quran, whether in the original Arabic or in its translation in any of the languages, as forfeited to the government In their petition they had stated, among other things, the following reasons for moving the above petition:
"In terms of Section 95 Cr PC read with Sections 153A and 295A IPC every copy of a book is liable to be forfeited to the government if the book contains words or sayings which promote, on ground of religion, disharmony, enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities or which outrage the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India or insult the religion or religious beliefs of that class of people. This is so whether the book is classic or epic, religious or temporal, old or new.'
"For example, the Quran incites violence by saying, "Believers! make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Let them find harshness in you' (Surah 9: ayat 123) or by saying, "Do not yield to the unbelievers, but fight them strenuously with this Koran' (Surah 25: ayat 52) or by saying, "If you do not fight He will punish you sternly and replace you by other men' (Surah 9: ayat 39) or by saying, "When the sacred months are over, slay the idol-worshippers, wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them and lie in ambush everywhere for them' (Surah 9: ayat 5)".
The judgment in this case was delivered by Justice Bimal Chandra Basak of the Calcutta High Court on 17 May 1985. He dismissed the petition on this ground: "Quran is of divine origin and that the Quran has no earthly source, based as it is not on any evidence but on mere religious beliefs.' If that is so, in respect of Quran, how can the Supreme Court of India and the several High Courts demand a scientific proof regarding existence of Lord Rama and Rama Sethu from those Hindu organisations that have approached them for a similar direction?
Both the Congress and the Communists (whether in West Bengal or in Kerala) believe in the pseudo-secular philosophy of meekly surrendering to the violence of minorities and more especially to that of Islamic terrorists. When the Muslims resorted to violence on the streets of Kolkata recently, the Marxist government collapsed like a pack of cards and took action to immediately despatch Taslima Nasreen to Rajasthan in order to placate the Muslims of India.
I can give similar instances of Congress political surrender to the blackmailing of Muslims of India right from the days of Khilafat Movement in 1921. Mahatma Gandhi began this policy of Muslim Appeasement in India with Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Pranab Mukherjee following this tradition.