A sea of indifference

Santosh Kumar

India, Nov. 18 -- Praveen Togadia is a highly rated cancer surgeon, an MS in surgical oncology. But ironically in his capacity as the International Working President (IWP) of the right-wing Hindu outfit, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, his utterances are often cancerous to society, especially when it comes to the minorities. Who conferred the post of IWP on him is not clear but when it comes to the Hindutva cause, he is vituperative whenever he opens his mouth.

Recently he made headlines by stating that fishing should be confined to Hindus. Thus spoke Togadia: "The country's seas belonged to the Hindus. But, alas, now the seas and the shores have been taken over by non-Hindus." His reference especially as to the 580-km Kerala coastline.

This coastline has traditionally been dotted with a mixture of Muslims in the north, Hindu/Christians and an offshoot, rather a mixture, of Christian/Hindu Arayas in mid-Kerala and down south it was a mixture of fishing folk with no religious allegiance per se. The Arayas have had pre-eminence when it comes to fishing. The famous Malayalam author, the late Thakazi Sivasankara Pillai, immortalised the community in his Chemmeen.

And one of Kerala's most celebrated filmmakers Ramu Karyat made it into a classic celluloid treat that was the rage worldwide, not among Keralites alone. But the moot question remains: how did the venerable Togadia arrive at the theory that the entire Arabian Sea belongs to the Hindus? Even if one agrees with his postulate, what about the fish in the sea? Does Togadia know what religion they belong to? Are they also communalised in the depths of the oceans: Hindu vs Muslim vs Christians? Will all of them bite the bait dropped by fisherfolk of their respective communities? And will the bait be vegetarian or not?

Or shall we rename the Arabian Sea as Hindustani sea. Or divide it into various castes. But what about the Lakshman Rekha? What about the fishing boats and the nets made by people belonging to various communities? And of the idyllic old men who have taken to fishing. Maybe, Togadia has the answers. He is after all a wise man, destined to challenge the scourge of cancer, be it fishing or otherwise.

Santosh Kumar is a senior journalist

The views expressed by the author are personal

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.