I had written a blog in July about how people use religion and caste as their favourite tool for division and bring those into issues that have nothing to do with them. One of the examples I had used in that blog was a post from VT Balram, unfortunately an MLA from Kerala, whose favourite pastime seems to be finding ways to insert the (negative) term ‘Savarna’ the most number of times in his ‘viral’ posts, which outwardly look like a compassionate note for the oppressed, but in reality, are nothing but a portrayal of his cheap political tactics of ‘divide and rule’. You ask him the reason for Vikram lander crash-landing on Moon and I am sure he will find some way to prove that it has something to do with ISRO bowing down to ‘Savarna’ feudal lords.
Two days ago, Kerala saw a controversy involving a director and an actor from the Malayalam movie industry. Reports said that Bineesh Bastin, an actor who has appeared mainly in supporting roles, was invited to a college function and was later asked to delay his arrival by the college Union members. According to them the reason was that Anil Radhakrishna Menon, a director who was also invited to the function refused to share stage with a ‘third rate actor’. To be fair, this is all hearsay and people are still trying to understand what the truth is and whether the version of the Union members was fabricated or not. Bineesh, who was understandably upset about it, chose to go on stage, read out whatever he had written and then walk off. Sounds bad enough.
Now even if we choose to assume that the director did make the ‘third rate actor’ comment, the issue should have been this – an arrogant director who does not have the decency to respect junior actors and insulted one. If true, this issue warranted all the seriousness it can get. But as has been the trend for a while now, people do not want to give attention to issues for what they are and solve them for what they are. No, instead they would like to believe that every issue exists because of and revolves around two things – religion and caste. It is impossible for people to understand that serious issues that deserve serious attention can stand alone without the support of religion and caste. So obviously, Bineesh chose to start his speech with the line “I am not a Menon”.
And as always, without even understanding what the director really said or if he actually said so, people clung on to the one thing that mattered to them – “Menon”. And our dear MLA wrote yet another long, stirring post about ‘Savarna’ bullying and a college Union which bowed down to that. Just like in the other post I had written about, he was happy of course that the Union in question was SFI, student wing of his Kerala political rival CPM. (Oh! Please don’t think I have any love for the Party or its student wing – like every other one, they suck big time. But that’s a totally different story. So let’s leave it at that.) Two days after the social media uproar started, we still have people happily talking about how the “Menon” showed his ‘Savarna’ evil self by discriminating against a junior actor from another religion, someone who has come up from the lower rung in their words.
Once again, let me ask you – where did religion and caste come into this issue? What did it have to do with ‘Menon’ or non-Menon? What if the director was a well-known, senior celebrity from the Dalit, Christian or Muslim community? Would we have the same uproar? I doubt that. Because people are not fighting against the real issue – a senior from the industry insulting a junior. That hardly matters anymore to anyone. The only thing that matters is the golden opportunity to yet again resort to division tactics based on the age-old ‘Savarna’-‘Avarna’ equation. No question that it still exists and is still an evil. But does that mean that is the only issue we have? Does that mean we can never discuss anything else ever without involving this equation? I believe people should learn to have case-by-case discussions and keep the focus on what really is the issue in each case. But as long as we have political predators like VT Balram (he is only one of the so many), that looks like an impossible scenario.