Shobhaa From | Friends with ‘fringe’ benefits come at a huge price
History has proven time and time again that all it takes is one fatal mistake for mighty empires to crumble and fall.
Years ago, I enraged my mother by having my bangs cut, like the one popularized by a movie star named Sadhana. In fact, across India, the “Sadhana cut” was all the rage, and frankly, it looked gross. This week has been dominated by another kind of “fringe” – one that contains “elements”. Suspended BJP spokesman Nupur Sharma and expelled head of the party’s Delhi media unit Naveen Kumar Jindal have been misrepresented as “fringe elements” by BJP top guns, after that both gave epic boos that India will be forced to deal with for quite some time. everything to come. Right now we are in the khachra ka dabba, with countries like Libya, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Afghanistan joining Qatar, Kuwait and Iran to convict the culprits (Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal) who landed the nation in one of the most embarrassing diplomatic debacles in recent memory. Rahul Baba, quite a “marginal” himself, added his two elements to the debate by saying that “the Fringe is the heart of the BJP”.
Simply dismissing the two loudmouths with this pretentious (“fringe elements”) is like ticking off juvenile sex offenders as “overactive”. That means nothing, given the severity of the crisis. The “marginal elements” don’t have to be in such sensitive positions to begin with. Photographs of Nupur Sharma with all the senior BJP brass went viral right after his gaffe during a televised debate. BJP netas follow Ms. Sharma on Twitter. Call it “fringe”? Come on, BJP damage control wing – you can do better. It is believed that the party had appointed Ms. Sharma and Mr. Jindal to these key positions after doing due diligence. Did they ignore their hateful anti-Muslim leanings? Or were they chosen because of them? Here is the problem. Did they receive their posts by default or on purpose? Their rabid, anti-Muslim rhetoric pushed them back into the past. Perhaps they were even “rewarded” for crossing all civility lines. But this time, their incredibly horrifying comments backfired – and how! Did they expect to be protected again after shooting each other and triggering an avalanche of worldwide condemnation and criticism? During the first days that followed these scandalous remarks claiming to be “provoked”, there was radio silence from the bosses.
History has repeatedly demonstrated that all it takes is one fatal mistake for mighty empires to crumble and fall. Is this error? The BJP’s carefully constructed narrative appears to be on shaky ground after this major international misstep. All the official rhetoric crumbled, after the duo shot each other in the foot (and the country). Maybe a pat on the back was given privately – we’ll never know.
Such demonic standing is not unique. Every political party recruits, trains, and lavishly rewards canines that bark, spit hate, and cause irreparable rifts. Some favorite dogs receive prominent designations with corresponding perks, while others do so for free in order to suck up bosses and show them how far they’re willing to go to indulge themselves. Chamchagiri and the passing of the brief come easily to desis. Toads move up the food chain much faster than those who play it safe. However, in this case, the BJP has a gigantic omelette in its face, given the open snub India faced when Qatar’s deputy emir canceled a planned dinner with India’s vice president (M Venkaiah Naidu) who was on a state visit. “Health reasons” were cited for the cancellation. A clumsy apology did nothing to appease vexed Middle Eastern leaders, who minced no words in condemning the comments and accusing Indian authorities of a slow response. Irony: some of these leaders are guilty of far worse transgressions.
But should we follow the bad example of “illiberal countries” to justify our insults to other religions?
Frankly, who can blame Ms. Sharma and Mr. Jindal for their total lack of decency?
They must have sincerely believed that they were doing their job and putting Muslims in their place. This is a terrible and common position adopted by minions to impress their sectarian netas. But the scariest thing is that they do what they do at someone’s request! But wait – the real problem is with the original melody – not the chorus! If officially appointed spokespersons can be suspended and called ‘fringe elements’, what does that say about those who appointed them?
I posted a tweet about ‘bangs’ but tagged the wrong Sharma. Within seconds, the other Sharma had fired back, calling me a “botoxed floozie” and worse. I think she was upset, I didn’t know who she was! Well…that’s the level of pathetic ego we face on a daily basis. As of this writing, a kind of truce has been negotiated with our allies in the Middle East. We are interdependent after all and can ill afford a long stalemate given the precarious global situation at the moment. Embracing and reconciling this time around is not going to be a walk in the park…too many personal goals left India vulnerable at a time when we were standing pretty smart and scoring big in foreign policy. Despite our best efforts, sweeping this diplomatic disaster under the rug will take a lot of work. We literally played the game of the Indian baiters and gave the critics enough ammunition to shoot us all over the world. Meanwhile, the disgraced “fringe elements” may have been told to lay low and wait out this ugly imbroglio. I am taking a small bet… they will soon be housed and well received at home, once the heating is off. Let’s not make Nupur Sharma a vamp and call Naveen Kumar Jindal a villain – they are just puppets and mouthpieces, and they weren’t speaking in a personal capacity. Firing them won’t solve anything. It just distracts the real culprits and lets them off the hook.
The international community is watching what happens next. The meticulously organized hate has reared its ugly head again and Indian civil society is mortified. Has the mood of the nation shifted paradigm? Will the pleading desi press bow even more and keep crawling? Will at least a few independent voices speak out and openly condemn those who insult religious sentiments? How long are we going to pretend we had nothing to do with this heinous “Fringe Festival of Hate”?
Has India finally reached the tipping point?