If there is anything more interesting than the controversies that Justice Markandey Katju stokes (or wishes to) by way of blog posts, then it is the comments made by people there. Take his latest post which argues that Mahatma Gandhi was a ‘British agent’ because he was openly Hindu, economically regressive and because Satyagraha diverted the freedom movement from true revolution helmed by people like Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad. Gandhi has his faults, but these are somewhat shallow arguments. For one, even if true, they don’t make Gandhi an agent, just a religious conservative who believed in non-violence.
But let’s bypass that to comprehend the mystery of why Katju would even want to write on Gandhi suddenly out of the blue. It seems totally without context, except the one Katju himself unwittingly supplies. He begins with these words, ‘This post is bound to draw a lot of flak at me, but that does not matter as I am not a popularity seeker.’ The point then, one would surmise, might actually be to draw flak. Just as popularity can give someone a high, so can the publicity that comes from shock value.
And there is really nothing wrong with it. Especially because of the amusement that Katju inspires, and that is why we must head to the ‘Comments’ section underneath his post, where there is someone who says sarcastically Gandhi was the first non-Muslim to lead a jihad in South Asia. Another commentator makes Gandhi the forefather of the RSS. The Father of the Nation thus has the unique status of being both a Muslim and Hindu fundamentalist. Someone else has bypassed the topic under discussion and posted something related to El Nino in which is included this ultimatum, ‘BEGONE AL GORE’. Absence of context begets absence of context. It is not a medley of exchanges to stimulate the intellect, but you do not come back from Katju’s blog feeling that this was time wasted. The utility of shock, outrage and noise is a formula that television news channels have long perfected, and Katju, when he was chairman of the Press Council of India, probably caught on to the trick. You could be charitable and call him outspoken, but outspoken men don’t suddenly get up one morning and decide, ‘This is a Tuesday and so I will call Gandhi a British agent.’
The one he wrote before the Gandhi post was headlined ‘Feudal Filth’ and that term is aimed at all those who questioned an earlier post in which he said Muslim women should stop wearing the burkha, even by choice, and Muslim youth should encourage them in this. It is a debatable but reasonable point of view, but he also compared the wearing of the hijab to the practice of sati, perhaps unaware that there is a slight difference in scale between coercing a woman to jump into a fire and forcing her to wear a veil. Another recent post is titled ‘Two Idiots’, about Indians and Pakistanis, the context for this label being India’s pointless decision of sending its foreign secretary to Pakistan. He calls Pakistan ‘a fake, artificial entity (I refuse to call it a country) [that] will disappear.’ A large number of Indians would clap at this, but that doesn’t make it any less silly.