Police are asked by their politician bosses to speak nonsense: Girish Karnad

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“Everything you see today has its roots in Emergency… we need not see it as a creation of the RSS alone, says the playwright of the present climate of violence,” the playwright-actor says.

Playwright and actor Girish Karnad, who has spent the last year finishing his latest play, Rakshasa-Tangadi, made a rare public appearance when he joined the large gathering marking the first death anniversary of Gauri Lankesh. Said to be on the killers’ hit list, too, the writer spoke of the increasing normalising of violence and the importance of the Constitution as a safeguard.

You made a loud and clear statement at the Gauri Lankesh death anniversary event by carrying a placard [that read “Me too Urban Naxal”] through the event. How do you view the reactions it has elicited?

About the reaction, I would say they have a right. By law they can go and complain against Girish Karnad and someone did that. I cannot object to that. I can say I don’t agree with it, but I cannot say they shouldn’t have done it. A television anchor asked if it does not seem to me like the crushing of liberalism. What crushing of liberalism? I am not particularly upset about it because it is a process of law. I do know that the complaint is completely nonsensical because it says I am a Maoist. Obviously the complainant is out for publicity. But what must be said is that the complaint is no more absurd than the charges made by the police against the five people (writers, activists arrested by the Pune police for ‘Maoist links’ in nation-wide raids). That is why I protested.

Have you seen those accusations made by the police, who represent the state? It’s complete nonsense. The police are clearly asked by their politician bosses to speak nonsense. All that they claim must have been vetted by the bosses. Why are the political bosses telling the police ‘you can talk nonsense’? Because if you get people used to the idea that police can talk nonsense, then you can get them used to the idea that the police can do nonsense. There is no logic expected — they can do what they like. You are telling people ‘Don’t try to make sense of what I am saying. We can say what what we like. We can bring any charge.’ What they are doing is the first step to Fascism. If you look at the history of German fascism, you see how they twisted German language… But fortunately our courts are still strong. The Chief Justice of India rapped the Pune police on the knuckles.

The fact that ‘Me too Urban Naxal’ was taken literally, as if it was a confession to being Naxal, is also a kind of twisting of language. Would you agree?

Yes, it is part of the fascist move. Look at the phrase ‘Urban Naxal’. Suddenly there are ‘Urban Naxals’ everywhere. This is very dangerous and I was protesting against it precisely. Tomorrow it can affect all of us, our friends, family, everyone… Of course I am not a Naxal and I am against any ideology that takes recourse to violence. I think they are as dangerous as the fascists. We have a Constitution and we shall have the Constitution. It is only by the Constitution that we survive.

Do you already see illogical, absurd things becoming acceptable in society?

Yes, take for instance lynching. It was not quite part of our vocabulary. Now every other day, we hear about someone or the other getting lynched. Some poor Muslim here and another there. It has become acceptable, normal. This is what the Americans did with the Blacks. It is a deliberate strategy.

Do you see all these happening in a context?

We are heading towards an election which is very worrying. In the last election, Narendra Modi got a majority that was unthinkable.

Five years have passed, and what has he done? Forget other things, not even Ram Janmabhoomi is a reality. I am not for it, but they were the ones who threatened to do it. So what has been done? Now they have to create these games. It is not new. The late Sanjay Gandhi had said there were attempts to kill him. Everything you see today has its roots in the Emergency. We need not see it as a creation of the RSS alone; it was that of the Congress really.

How is the situation today different from the Emergency?

Then it was only the family. Now it is the whole party. But really the party is just two people — Modi and Shah. Now Shah is in charge of the next election. I am not at all sure the whole of BJP supports him in all this. Earlier, the Congress had only the dynasty when the BJP had lots of leaders — Advani, Vajpayee, Jaswant Singh and many more. And we thought here is a party that creates leaders. We may not like their ideology, but they come from the people. We have to accept it because it is our democratic system. Now where is Sushma Swaraj? What is Jaitley doing besides parroting what he has to? The party has got reduced to two people.

Why has the coin flipped?

I don’t know if we are like that as a people. I don’t know if we are moving towards a presidential form of government. Automatically there is one Jayalalithaa here, one Mamata there… All parties seem to gravitate towards one person.


Lead Image Courtesy: V Sreenivasa Murthy

Lead Image: Girish Karnad gestures during an interaction with The Hindu in Bengaluru on September 11, 2018.

The interview was first published in The Hindu

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