Pankaj Sharma / Zee Research Group
India entered 2011 in a celebratory mood winning the Cricket World Cup but the euphoria and the feel good factor soon gave way to an overall environment of negativity and uncertainty. While this is not something new for the country what came as a shock to all was how the land known for its rich social and cultural values slowly but surely was turning into a nation where abuse had become the cornerstone of public discourse.
With several public figures liberally use derogatory words without any reprimand, the year 2011 witnessed several incidents of abuse in public domain, a trend the country at best would like to forget as it steps into the new-year.
While the most talked movement this year against corruption witnessed a huge support from people and united them for a cause, it also had some grievous side effects. The fight against corruption led by Anna Hazare won hearts of millions of people but some defamatory statements in the event also hurt the sentiments of some. Abuse became the style and substance of an argument.
Ironically, abuse heralded itself as the in thing on the screen, coming from a man most respected for his maturity as an actor, as Om Puri spewed venom on ‘netas’ calling them Anpadh and Ganwar. Yeh anpadh hain, inka kya background hai? Aadhe se zyaada MP ganwaar hain... Puri said in front of crowd assembled in Ramlila ground.
Former IPS officer, Kiran Bedi also launched an attack on Parliamentarians by accusing them of people who wear “several masks”. Both incidents drew the ire of politicians as both the Houses of Parliament issued privilege notice against the duo.
Though, Om Puri apologized for his remarks later, Kiran Bedi refused to do so as she believed she had done no wrong. Right or wrong can be a matter of debate but what was beyond doubt was that abuse was here to stay.
Psychiatrist Dr Sandeep Vohra argues that reduction in human patience gave abuse a space in the society. He opines, “On the one hand abuse is becoming a fashion but on the other hand it shows decrease in tolerance, thoughts and emotions for others. It shows public anger without any fear.”
A Member of Parliament and Congress spokesperson, Manish Tewari too came under fire for terming social crusader Anna Hazare a person with `myopic vision`. He also described senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, as `a loose canon` for making derogatory remarks on the Congress party. He later apologized to Anna for his remarks.
But, the comment of Gandhian Anna Hazare surprised everyone when he made the infamous remark "just one slap" after Sharad Pawar was attacked by a youth in Delhi.
Recently the fight between two senior politicians from main rival parties (Rashid Alvi and SS Ahluwalia) almost got into fisticuffs when they fought over a leaked document of a Standing Committee to a scribe.
Dr Vohra asserts that abuse in public domain is a dangerous practice while advocating the need for caution while choosing your words.
While in each case apology was made by the people involved, the bad taste in India’s public discourse lingers on.