Of irresponsible speech-making

In politics one cannot be footloose and fancy free. Every comment made by leading politicians is weighed against the prevailing situation and the larger repercussions of what such statements might have. Across the political spectrum there is much loose talk – from dragging names of former prime ministers through the mud to utterances that are intimidatory in nature and are intended to incite violence. This is the nature of politics in India and it is only getting more crass by the day. Sadly politicians tend to get away with their irresponsible statements, that is only until Sunday when the police went knocking at the doors of top Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The police want Rahul to validate his statement made during the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kashmir in January this year that women are still being sexually assaulted. In a state like Kashmir or Nagaland/Manipur etc., where the security forces have been known to violate the human rights of citizens, especially women, such statements cannot be said to be sacrilegious.
Under the prevailing circumstances this act by the Delhi Police was quickly interpreted as one of vendetta against the principal opposition and another of the Modi government’s “anti-democratic” acts. Coming to the crux of the matter, what the police sought from the Congress leader was evidence to support his widely reported statement in Srinagar that “women are still being sexually assaulted (in the Valley).” The police ostensibly sought to know from Rahul Gandhi where he got such information and who those victims are. Politicians make statements not out of empathy but to win votes. Such a statement in the Kashmir valley is aimed at reinstating the Congress as a Party with empathy for Muslims. But following the revocation of Article 370 there have been more attacks on Kashmiri pandits and largely male members. Hence Rahul Gandhi’s statements seem misdirected.
Rahul Gandhi’s reported reply to the police is that he said many things during the Bharat Yatra, all of which he could not recollect. In a state like Kashmir where militancy is induced by agent provocateurs from across the border, politicians are expected to be more circumspect and not to seek to score political brownie points at the first opportunity. In India we seem to have reached a point of political desperation which sets off political opponents to make statements they later seem to have no explanation for. Political discipline across the political divide is imperative. Sadly, political rivals are seen as bitter enemies deserving no respect whatsoever. This is exacerbated by the fact that even the illiterate with no control over their thoughts and utterances sit and legislate over the collective future of the nation and its citizens. Clearly a line needs to be drawn on how far to take political speech-making without intruding into the domain of national security.

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