Saturday, August 11, 2007

Barkha Dutt's secular shrillness

I have to say I am annoyed by those -- like Barkha Dutt -- who try to claim a moral high ground simply by saying, "Here's my outrage, where is yours?" The immediate provocation for this renewed claim is the appalling incident in Hyderabad in which the Bangladeshi writer Tasleema Nasreen was attacked at a public event by a bunch of thugs, including legislators belonging to a party which also happens to be an ally of the Congress government in that state.

I don't know what Barkha is on about. It's not as if people have been silent. Among the bloggers I read regularly, Sujai has been eloquent in condemning the atrocity in Hyderabad; he also points out that for every violent loon behind such an incident, there are probably thousand other loons giving their tacit support. And I am sure many others have said expressed their indignation in a similarly eloquent fashion (no, I am certainly not keeping track!). [Update: I tried googling for protests against the attack on Nasrin; see the end of this post for a partial list.]

It's one thing to be outraged by atrocious incidents and by those who encourage them through their support or active exhortations. It's totally another when people start being outraged about the lack of competing outrage from others. Since when have people been given the right to demand that outrage be available, er, on demand? And since when has being-the-first-with-outrage started being equated with moral superiority?

Barkha has the advantage of having a mike in front of her pretty much all through her waking hours, so she can afford to be a professional outrage-dispenser. Her job gives her an opportunity to express her outrage one half of every minute, and to bask in the warm glow of indignant splendour during the other half. But, even with her prolific output, I am sure she has failed to express her outrage about something or the other in China, Chile or Chad -- or, for that matter, in Chikmagalur, Chittaranjan or Chinmayanagar. In the non-news-channel world, people have other things to fill their day (their day jobs for example), and they have to -- by necessity -- choose their battles they want to fight. Going frothy-mouthed all the time is not good for people's hearts, nor is it good for their mouths.

While it is obvious that a religious fundamentalist would keep mum when an atrocity is perpetrated by his/her fellow fundamentalist, it is equally obvious that not everyone who keeps mum is a religious fundamentalist. Through her meta-outrage, caused by what she calls "secular silence," Barkha seems to be implying the latter. Her column is not just an insult to her secular friends, but also to all our intelligence.

Barkha should stop this secular shrillness.

* * *


Contrary to what Barkha Dutt implied, there have been many, many protests -- large and small -- all across the country. Here's a quick sample, compiled with the help of a couple of minutes of googling:

The newly elected Vice-President of India, Hamid Ansari.

People's Union for Civil Liberties together with Socialist Unity Centre of India.

Women's World (India), together with Asmita Resource Centre for Women (Hyderabad)

Coimbatore Press Club.

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

(from the same report): Women's groups, including All India Democratic Women’s Association, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Guild of Services, Joint Women’s Programme, National Federation of Indian Women, Young Women’s Christian Association and the Muslim Women’s Forum.

(from the same report): The Prince of Arcot, Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali.

(from the same report): All India Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organisations.

On the Website of The American Muslim: Mike Ghouse.

When I wrote this post yesterday, I could not put my finger on what really annoyed me about her column. Now I think I know what it is. It's the timing. Her column starts with insistent questions: "Where are the placard-waving protestors this time? What happened to the street marches, the irate editorials and the lament for creative freedom?" And she was demanding these things within 24 hours after the event! [The attack took place on Thursday, and her column went online 11:48 p.m. Friday night (which implies she wrote it during the day Friday). Instant journalism!


  1. Pratik . said...

    Agree with you fully. What has been Barkha Dutt's response in Singur, or Nandigram?

  2. Anonymous said...

    Many are the ways to hide the secular hypocrisy. Try to discredit any person who criticizes you as a hindu fundamentalist. When that cannot work for obvious reasons (wont work for Barkha Dutta, will it?), chastise her for "secular shrillness". Innovative term this one.

    Funny how your came out frothing at the mouth against Barkha and were just doing your day job when lawmakers are airing death threats on national TV!

  3. Tabula Rasa said...

    is the typo in the title intentional?

  4. Abi said...

    Oops, TR! I checked for the spelling of "Barkha Dutt" in the post several times to make sure that it is correct. Didn't realize it would be mis-spelled in the most prominent place of all. Terribly embarrassing ...

    Thanks for pointing it out.

    Pratik: Thanks for your comment.

    Anon: Spare the snark. Read the stuff about "secular friends" before dreaming about secular hypocrisy.

  5. Anonymous said...

    Agree with you, Barkha Dutt is being very shrill.

    However, in my opinion, there has been a lack of vociferous criticism of this barbaric attack by moderate muslims. While a few Muslim organizations have come out to strongly condemn this attack, the majority of them do remain silent.

    Why doesn't a cleric issue a fatwa against such pointless violence?

    different anon

  6. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    Abi - your post, and particularly the update, absolutely nails it.

    Have you written to the HT? Anyway, I hope some of them read your blog.

  7. kuffir said...


    a group of journalists, some dalit groups, a few women groups and the bjp held protest marches the very next day in hyderabad. several telugu writers/poets have spoken out, on television, against the incident. i wish some of these 'national' presswallahs would someday learn an indian language, at least hindi, so that they can see what's happening/and not happening in the country.

  8. Patrix said...

    Minor quibble:

    Shouldn't it be "politburo" or "political bureau" and not polit bureau?

  9. Anonymous said...

    Abi, while I usually dislike her, I actually think she makes a valid point.

    Maybe people are tired of protesting? I don't know... but then why do same issues draw very different reactions?

    Anyway... she is definitely shrill :)

  10. Anonymous said...

    As soemone who has probably begun feeling like a professional protestor by now (especially as I do not have a mike and cameras in front of me mot of the time), I find your reaction to Mme B Dutt's ire perfectly justified. To every such reaction of Mme D, there are thousands who can tell you that ninety nine times of of hundred (maybe even less), it is the likes of Mmme D and Monseiur Sardesai who black out every voice of protest - except the fundoos H and M - so that they can become and remain the voice of the secular conscience. No wonder, most such protest only exists now on blogs.

  11. Rakesh Singh - राकेश सिंह said...

    Barkha Dutt is one of the most biased Journalist in India. She do not believe in Indian traditions & Values, & always try to show the bad picture of Indian Traditions. She is pucca biased.

  12. Anonymous said...

    ndtv employs avery clever trick while having discussions like "we the people" with a so called audience who are nothing but a bunch of paid artistes who act as mere puppets the way ndtv wants them to.