Will Karnataka's politicians continue to condemn hateful comments?

United by condolence Karnatakas politicians condemned targeting of Siddaramaiah over his sons death
news Wednesday, August 03, 2016 - 17:40

In a rare display of unity beyond party lines and political persuasions, Karnataka’s politicians stood firmly behind Chief Minister Siddaramaiah as many people made disgusting comments about his deceased son Rakesh.

There has been considerable ire against the Chief Minister for the suicides of IAS officer DK Ravi, DySP Ganapathy and the death of a woman in an ambulance which got caught in a traffic snarl caused by the CM's convoy. But as a self-declared atheist, proponent of social justice, and a progressive thinker, Siddaramaiah also became a target of a section of the public, Hindutva advocates and supporters, and many opposition cadres.

So it was no surprise, that within hours of Rakesh Siddaramaiah’s death on Saturday, many people began to make comments either expressing happiness over his death, maligning him, saying that Rakesh had paid for the “sins” of his father and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and those of the Congress party. Siddaramaiah being an atheist was also part of the discussion. 

Media Adviser to the CM, Dinesh Amin Mattu told The News Minute that he had compiled a list of comments that concerned the Chief Minister or sought to malign Rakesh. “Rakesh was a private person, and therefore anything said about him only concerns me to the extent that it reflects on the CM. Many comments do. I have collected such hateful comments and will place them before the Home Minister. Taking legal action is his prerogative. I will also place these documents before the chief minister at a later date,” he said.

On Tuesday evening, a day after his son’s burial, Siddaramaiah released a statement, personally thanking everyone – including his fellow politicians – who stood with him and his family during the time of personal tragedy. He made no mention of the vitriol directed either against him or his son Rakesh.

But many people – including the state’s politicians – have roundly condemned such behavior. The three major political parties in the state have played dirty games with each other in the past and will continue to do so. But nearly all of them – including leaders from the BJP and JD(S) who have targeted Siddaramaiah fiercely since he took office – called this state of affairs “shameful”.

KS Eshwarappa, who is generally outspoken and not too tactful, said: “Celebrating the death of someone is shameful. I condemn it. I do not accept this sort of a politics.”

Former chief minister and union Law Minister DVS Sadananda Gowda too expressed sadness over this. “I am pained by the poison that is being spread on social media. Those who cannot show humaneness even at the time of death have a perverse mind,” he said.

JD (S) leader YSV Datta said, “It is not a sign of humaneness that such perverse enjoyment is expressed on social media over someone’s death. This is not a good development.”

On the day Rakesh died, Gowda had said in Belthangady, Dakshina Kannada district: “The pain of losing a son can only be understood by those who have gone through it themselves.” He should know. He and his wife Datty lost their eldest son Kaushik who was killed in a road accident in Sullia (Dakshina Kannada district) in May 2003.

“In this respect, Siddaramaiah and I share the same grief. May Siddaramaiah have the strength to carry out the work of the state while experiencing such profound grief. May Rakesh’s soul be at peace,” he said.

On the day of Rakesh’s last rites – performed by his young son Dhawan – pictures of Gowda and Siddaramaiah, both in tears, sharing a hug went viral in the Kannada-speaking world. Editor-in-chief of Kannada daily Vishwawani Vishweshwar Bhat tweeted three images of Gowda sharing Siddaramaiah’s grief.

 

Bhat is, otherwise, a fierce critic of both Siddaramaiah and the Congress.

The media too was largely supportive of the Chief Minister’s position, even though it has targeted Siddaramaiah in different ways. Some media reports pointed out that Siddaramaiah had often said that public figures should not cry openly, but on Monday, he was but a man who had lost his son.

That the political establishment was not just supportive, but condemning of the celebration of the misfortunes of a political opponent is a welcome development. Because this is probably the first time in Karnataka that leaders of political parties have done so.

But one would have to be living in a fool’s paradise to hope that the state’s political leaders would continue to condemn hateful comments – which do not threaten violence – against political opponents. These voices – from the BJP at least – were practically non-existent when such celebrations were seen over scholar and rationalist MM Kalaburgi’s murder, and before that, writer UR Ananthamurthy’s death. 

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