On Monday, as I participated on television debates over the young actress Zaira Waseem quitting the movie industry and ‘returning’ to her faith, a Twitter user asked me archly about why I had not spoken of the vandalising of a temple in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk.
Having spent many hours on TV that day and given my now diminished presence on social media, I was taken aback that this news had not made it to any of the TV channels and people like me who track such incidents had no idea of this occurrence so close to home.
Even more surprising since the Delhi media, referred to as the ‘national media’ which is often criticised for being NCR-centric, had given this story a pass.
Now good sense would advise that in such volatile situations where religious sentiments are involved, it is important that these issues are dealt with sensitively to avoid flare-ups. However, this has hardly been the media’s or the commentariats’ approach when other religious sentiments have faced affront.
In the past, soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office for the first time, there was a viral news item that gained traction even in the international media about churches under attack and the rise of the intolerant Hindu. Since this was one of the first of a calibrated and heavily loaded narrative, it caused apprehension in many.
However, this ‘church attack’ theory was soon debunked. But the damage had been done, the ‘truism’ of Modi being bad for minorities had been seeded. That was the point in any case. Politics was driving reportage and media narrative.
Now just a few years later when a 100-year-old temple in the Chandni Chowk area of Delhi was attacked, allegedly by a Muslim mob, there has been silence. Especially amongst a certain section of the media who was till as recently as a few days ago debating if India’s minorities are living in fear.
This incident in Chandni Chowk hardly points to fear, but to street-level thuggery and it is not an isolated incident. Have communal relations in this country had a fragile past? Most definitely. But as we move forward we must assess how we want to deal with issues that are communal in nature.
Will it be carpet bombing coverage if a Muslim is a victim and complete silence if a Hindu or a temple is attacked? This sort of selective outrage further fuels communal divisions.
In the Chandni Chowk incident the belated media reports suggest that an altercation over a parking spot lit the spark. Fuelled by WhatsApp rumours, a mob of people allegedly belonging to the Muslim community descended on the home of the Hindu resident who had objected to the parking.
In the ensuing aggression and what must have been a terrifying experience for the Hindu family confronted with this mob, the temple was vandalised.
A video of the vandalised temple have been posted on social media by rebel former Aam Aadmi Party legislator Kapil Mishra. This video at last count had nearly 260,000 views, despite a lack of media coverage, or maybe because of it.
The video which articulates the damage done to various idols in the temple, will live on in social media and WhatsApp groups.
It must be noted at this point that the ‘intolerant majority’ community (as per the ‘liberal’ narrative) in the area has not retaliated and peace was maintained. Will the tolerant Hindu, who in the face of destruction of idols in an ancient and revered temple held her peace, be acknowledged?
No, that will not happen because the depiction of a brutish ugly and intolerant Hindu is currency in these times to gain access to the hallowed enclaves of intellectual and ‘human rights’ groups that acknowledge only one kind of victimhood.
There is no room for religious intolerance in a civilised democracy, whoever are the perpetrators, irrespective of their religion, are a threat to the society and the pact that we have all entered as citizens of this country.
But the passage of time and the selective treatment of these incidents lead many to believe that the real villains are those who claim victimhood at even the smallest opportunity but deny it when it doesn’t suit their agenda or narrative.
Advaita Kala is an author, screenwriter and a columnist. The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.