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The Dog That Won’t Stop Biting Minister VK Singh

By Mumbai Press Club

BJP's Jitan Ram Manjhi, Aam Admi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal and CPM's Brinda Karat are not known to share a common platform. Retired army chief VK Singh proved to be the one thing on which they all saw eye to eye. Now Minister of State for External Affairs, Singh’s horrendous comments on the burning of two Dalit children has drawn flak from opposition parties as well as his own.

While commenting on a case of arson involving a Dalit family in Faridabad, which resulted in the death of two little children, Singh told reporters that the Centre could not be held responsible when a person throws a stone at a dog.

In the good old days before television journalism, politicians routinely blamed the print media for having misquoted them. That Singh attempted to do the same despite his comments being captured on camera is proof, either of his own intellect, or his opinion of other people’s intellect.

His apology was as callous as his comments. He first stated, thrice over, that he had been misquoted and misinterpreted, and then went on to apologise in the event that the misinterpretation of his comments could have hurt anybody’s feelings.

But after watching reruns of video footage of his comments at least a dozen times (here’s a link to the footage)  it’s virtually impossible to understand what he felt he was misquoted on. Here’s what he had to say__ Parivaron ke beech main mathbhed tha.... voh mathbhed kis roop mein parivartit hua, kahan par intazamiyan ka failure hain, administration ka? Uske bad voh sarkar ke upar aata hain. To har cheez par, ki wahan par pathar maar diya kutte ko to, sarkar jimmewaar hai. Aisa nahi hai.”

Singh was answering a question on the Faridabad murders. To imagine that one sentence uttered by him in the course of his reply had nothing to do with the previous sentences, or was taken “out of context” stretches one’s imagination. Unless of course, Singh thinks he is Virginia Woolf__in which case no two consecutive sentences need to have anything to do with each other.

The callousness of this comment virtually overshadows another equally callous assertion he made in the course of the same conversation. He put down the burning of the Dalit children to a family dispute, thereby virtually ignoring the role of caste in the atrocities. Caste violence in India has routinely been dismissed as a mere family dispute.  In the past, cases of Dalit boys force-fed human excreta have also been dismissed as family disputes. As a society, we tend to live as families and our feuds, too, are often familial. This, in no way, dilutes the role of caste in these crimes.  If caste was absent from the equation, how can one explain the absence of upper caste families being burnt or tortured by Dalits in equal measure? VK Singh’s comments reek of utter ignorance of the way caste plays out in India.

His apology shows that he cannot stomach criticism, especially when it involves the media. In his clarification he says journalists who "misquoted" him should quit journalism and be admitted to the Agra Mental Asylum. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0ct4l0LY4U. The last time he was upset with the press, he coined the term “presstitute,” a fowl pun on the word prostitute, indicating that the media had “sold” itself. While it’s true that some in the media may not be above board, this is true of every profession in this world. Surely Singh does not believe all politicians are lily white.

By tarnishing all journalists with the word “presstitute,” Singh not only exhibited his contempt towards the fourth pillar of democracy, but also ended up sorely offending commercial sex workers, who, in an interview with Seema Chishti of The Indian Express, spoke of how they had long been fighting to replace the abusive word “prostitute” to describe them, and along came a minister who used it as an insult.

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Mumbai Press Club
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Article posted on 28/10/2015

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