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Posted at: Jul 12, 2018, 12:30 AM; last updated: Jul 12, 2018, 12:30 AM (IST)

Crossing the line

Jayant Sinha should have weighed his public responsibility
Crossing the line

AVIATION Minister Jayant Sinha has tried to wriggle out of an unseemly controversy, entirely of his making. An online petition to Harvard University seeks the withdrawal of his alumni status, citing his “intemperate behaviour”. It may be to escape the mounting international approbation that he has expressed conditional regret for giving a warm, if not rousing, welcome to eight cow vigilantes convicted of lynching a meat trader, Alimuddin Ansari, on suspicion of carrying beef in Jharkhand last year. On bail, the convicts had visited the minister. In what came across as a fatuous defence, Sinha clarified: “When these people were granted bail, they came to my residence and I wished them well. The guilty will be punished and the innocent set free.”

The clarification and the conditional regret is prudent politics, one would say, except that it came a bit late in the day. Politicians and convicts can’t be seen as one or an extension of one. Did Sinha Jr need reminding of the frightening reality of lawlessness and barbarism that has, of late, manifested in the form of lynchings? When a union minister bestows “honour” upon 11 convicted perpetrators of lynching, it is perceived as an act of condonance. Such irrational exuberance can be misconstrued as implicit encouragement. The last thing the country needs is unchallenged mob fury.

Sensing an opportunity for BJP bashing, political parties weren’t far behind to condemn the act. Rahul Gandhi is among the signatories to the petition. Political leaders know the weight of their words; they understand how these may be used to polarise the electorate for gains. What they have forgotten is their responsibility toward all people — minorities, Dalits included — of the country, and not just themselves and their party. The minister’s father and leader Yashwant Sinha tweeted: “Earlier I was the Nalayak Baap of a Layak Beta. Now the roles are reversed. That is twitter. I do not approve of my son’s action. But I know even this will lead to further abuse. You can never win.” Our leaders are careening on thin ice. In this game of one-upmanship, the real issue is lost. And we all lose.


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