By Sushil Kutty
Either the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) thinks Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn’t read newspapers or there must be another reason why the BJP cannot keep its national spokesperson Shazia Ilmi in check. It rankles the VHP no end that an “import to the BJP” can be so bold as to find fault with a prized body of the Sangh Parivar while being part of another equally prized body. Shazia, a founding member of the Aam Aadmi Party, has got the VHP’s goat and the BJP is like the silence of the lambs with not a bleat out of it!
Is Shazia Ilmi more powerful than the entire Sanatani fold? Shazia, who left Kejriwal’s outfit early in its existence, wrote a piece titled ‘Doing right by Bilkis Bano’ in a national daily and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad can’t take it that Shazia spoke her mind while sowing a seed of doubt on the VHP’s conduct vis a vis the remission given to Bilkis Bano’s 11 convicted gang-rapists.
The VHP wants the BJP to come clean on Shazia Ilmi, clear its stand and reveal on whose side the saffron party is on? Actually, Shazia happens to be one of several BJP female leaders told to contest the remission given to the 11 convicted rapists of Bilkis Bano. The BJP did not expect opposition to the remission would explode on its face in a most telling manner. The party has been striving to keep its pro-women impression alive.
Shazia Ilmi had placed herself in Bilkis Bano’s corner after her party initially chose to stay aloof. In fact, the BJP spokesperson happens to be one more BJP Muslim woman leader given the task to correct the BJP’s anti-Muslim, and anti-woman, image after it took a hit following the remission given to the 11 gang-rapists.
Before Shazia Ilmi, there was actor-turned-politician Kushboo Sundar, whose Muslim name was Nakhat Khan, to come out in support of Bilkis Bano. That said, the VHP’s treatment of Shazia Ilmi is indication of the deep-seated rancor the Sangh Parivar harbours against Muslims even if the feeling is mutual.
It’s also an irony to witness VHP spokespersons and Shazia Ilmi aligned on the same side of the divide in TV debates. Clearly, Shazia’s “party duties” often take her to be strange bedfellows with the anti-Muslim, including in supporting suspended fellow BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma!
In fact, the BJP should compensate Shazia Ilmi with twice the remuneration she is paid for her trespasses against her faith while serving her party. Post her write-up in the newspaper and the subsequent VHP outcry, Ilmi tweeted “If VHP members had not felicitated them (the convicts), then I stand corrected and apologise for the same.”
In her article, Shazia had written that those who felicitated the convicts on their release by remission were all VHP. At the same time, the former journalist cleverly distanced Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the felicitation, and the remission. This was what the Hindu outfit hadn’t expected from a Muslim “import” from another party.
Come to think of it, nothing would have been found amiss by anyone if the VHP hadn’t made an issue of it. Ask the Doubting Thomas, and he would say that nothing escapes Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and that it would be foolish to think that Ilmi sent her analysis to the newspaper without first submitting it for vetting by senior party spokespersons, and the high command.
Such important pronouncements wouldn’t have made to the public domain without first going by select party eyes. Bilkis Bano and the 11 convicts are an international issue now. Thanks to fact-checkers, there is very little leeway for ‘othering’ and colouring.
Bilkis Bano’s gang-rape did not stun in 2002, but the same cannot said about the 2022 remission given to her rapists. Bilkis Bano has been “internationalised”. The eyes of the global media are now firmly on the BJP’s trespasses. And if not Prime Minister Narendra Modi, EAM S Jaishankar isn’t unaware of this. At least, he wouldn’t want another ‘Qatar’. Besides, the last eight years have transformed Narendra Modi. He is no longer the Modi of 2014. Modi has gotten sensitive to international criticism. The problem for both Modi and Shazia Ilmi is the same: What to do with the Frankenstein? (IPA Service)