Elections 2019: Kamal Haasan is Yogi Adityanath with an accent

Death by semantics. Well, that is what is happening after actor Kamal Haasan described Nathuram Godse as “free India’s first Hindu terrorist”.

Addressing a campaign rally on Sunday, Haasan had said that the first terrorist of independent India was a Hindu, referring to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse.

One set of experts is weighing in with the idea that Kamal was wrong because- wait for it- “Godse was not a terrorist but just an assassin.”

Another group is claiming that Godse was more of an extremist and less of a terrorist.

This is the problem with having created a climate of political correctness in language, now everybody is trying to hide under its many folds.  Obfuscation is the separated-at-birth twin of nuance; sometimes it is difficult to tell them apart.

But to heck with the narratives. It doesn’t matter whether Godse is a terrorist or a Hindu terrorist or an assassin. He plotted and killed Gandhi and went to jail for it. Whatever is happening around it after is just polemics. Picking one strand out of a convoluted swathe of happenings is not advised. But if one takes into consideration every argument, all events tend to have a sense of inevitability to them. And that is too close to fatalism for comfort.  

That aside, that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter is an old cliché. But like all clichés, it too carries a ring of truth. In Tamil Nadu itself, there would have been harsher repercussions for Kamal Haasan if he had taken the name of LTTE as a terrorist group for taking out the lives of many Indians including the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The parties that are backing Kamal Haasan, the likes of DMK and DK, are the ones that are seeking pardon for the court-convicted killers of Rajiv Gandhi and others. And we also know that there are many parties that would never use the term “Islamic terror”, no matter how many Pulwamas and 2008 Mumbai happen.  

The point is every political grouping takes positions differently on different matters. Political convenience is the name of the game.

So Kamal’s speech has to be approached in political terms only. What he said was true. But equally true is the fact that he said that in a Muslim-dominated area. Every bit of info gets a colour and pitch based on the context it is uttered. Kamal’s words were meant for the Muslim voters. It is par for the political course.

When, say, Yogi Adityanath, makes a speech carrying an emotive appeal to the Hindus he is (rightly) pulled up for espousing Hindutva ideals. But liberals are loath to call out speeches aimed at appeasing other groups. This is where the nub of the problem lies. You cannot have two sets of rules for similar public discourses.

You cannot beat around the bush. Godse was a killer and he was a Hindu. At the same time, if Yogi Adityanath is provocative and polarising, then Kamal is too.

If Yogi’s words are deemed not kosher, Kamal’s too cannot be.

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