Priya, a graduate from the London School of Economics, works as a research analyst in Singapore. Her free time is spent convincing people to sign a petition banning vampire teen fiction because it offends vampire sensibilities and deeply held beliefs. She can't step out during the day.
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A couple of weeks ago, I borrowed a copy of Laws of Attraction from a friend but found that the casing had Casino Royale in it instead. Not that I minded the replay, but I was a little disappointed at sitting through something I hadn’t signed up for – sort of like watching India Decides at 9 on NDTV 24X7 on January 7, 2013.
The video on the channel’s website is titled “police going easy on alleged hate-speech giver Akbaruddin Owaisi?”. But if you expect a debate on how the police were making Owaisi Junior’s life a breeze, you would be mistaken. As it turned out, the discussion on Owaisi’s arrest (or the lack of it) was an opening act for the rock star of “why don’t you arrest him panel debates” – and Raj Thackeray and his party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
Even though Sreenivasan Jain started by saying that it was a segment on why the police backpedals when it comes to politicians who give hate speeches, you could still have thought that the focus would be Owaisi. Congress’ Sanjay Nirupam was first asked why the government had dithered on action against Owaisi. After Nirupam sidestepped the question with statements like “the law will have to take its own course” and “I don’t think he will be able to get away from these kind of hate speeches (sic)” it was Venkaiah Naidu’s turn to throw in his entirely predictable two bits on vote-bank politics.
The meat of the debate was courtesy Retired Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Justice Mukul Mudgal, and Siddharth Vardarajan of The Hindu. Both tautly called out the ridiculousness of the leeway that Owaisi has been given and how there was no good reason to not arrest him after his return to India. Siddharth Vardarajan made the point of how the usual excuse of “arresting him will create a law and order problem” is a bizarre charade. It makes one wonder why there wasn’t a Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (MIM) representative on the show who could have been asked to explain the party’s stance on this.
It was at 10 minutes and 4 seconds that the Raj Thackeray “this is a wider problem” debate started with the Bharatiya Janata Party being put in the dock by Nirupam over how it invited Thackeray to the oath-taking ceremony of the Gujarat chief minister. The debate never really got back to asking the key questions that it should have about the Owaisi issue: When is a 4-day health reprieve justified? What contingency plan do the police and government have if violence was indeed to break out after his arrest? Was there a political motive to the timing of his speech and/or return? While a discussion on the “wider question” is absolutely justified, the debate was left wanting for the lack of depth and detail that Akbaruddin Owaisi’s individual case required. This is all the more surprising when you consider the fact that the same show had a similar debate on the January 3, 2013 titled “Hate Speech: different rules for netas and citizens?”
But hang on a minute. Hadn’t the BJP boycotted Sanjay Nirupam and refused to appear on any panel debate with him after his comments on Smriti Irani last December? Twitter though, knows and tells all. The national head of BJP’s IT cell, Arvind Gupta, alleged that NDTV had not told Venkaiah Naidu that Sanjay Nirupam was going to be on the show. It seems that Twitter feeds ke haat bahut lambe hote hain!
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