TOI Editorial : Barbarians At Work

The attack on Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen at a book-release function in Hyderabad is best described as barbaric. The assault makes a mockery of the liberal and secular values enshrined in the Indian Constitution and is an insult to all Indians who abide by it. What makes it worse is the fact that members of the Andhra Pradesh assembly led the attack. Those who are supposed to be custodians of law turned savages, attacking the author with chairs, flowerpots, books and anything else they could lay hands on. It's ironic that the attack, orchestrated to muzzle Nasreen's voice, took place in the Press Club...

...That legislators broke the law they are meant to keep is disturbing enough. But their defence of the incident gives more cause for concern. Akbaruddin Owaisi, an MIM MLA, is reported to have said "We are not bothered about our MLA status. We are Muslims first. And it's our responsibility to test those who have said anything against Islam in whichever way possible". Is it the business of our elected representatives to act as custodians of faith? Surely, their loyalty must be primarily to the Constitution and not extra-constitutional ideologies and doctrines.

Unfortunately, this is the reality in a country that claims to be secular. Whether in Mumbai or Gujarat earlier, and in Hyderabad now, legislators of all political hues put their religious and ethnic loyalties first and get away with violent, unlawful acts. Nasreen is not the first, and will not be the last, to upset people and polarise opinion.

But violent expressions of any grievance, especially from elected representatives, are simply unacceptable. Nothing will put the message across better than tough penalties for offenders under provisions of law.


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