AA Edit | Abusive speech must have no space in our public life

Parents, case, religion, community, nothing is beyond the subject and range of vocabulary considered kosher for public discourse

A portion of the last day in Parliament was spent in discussing the comments of a leader; in this case, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and her remarks on the judiciary and the government. The Chairman of the Upper House, who is the vice-president of India, took her on and chided her for her words.

Earlier, the Supreme Court itself pointed out that certain speeches and their contents regarding the appointment of judges being discussed in the public domain fall short of either import, or the highest standards expected of debates in a democracy on such crucial matters.

Earlier, the remarks of Union minister Piyush Goyal created a furore. His comments on an entire state, using Bihar as a pejorative, signifying bleakness and a dark society, were castigated by political opponents.

Meanwhile, down South, a filmstar-turned-politician produced a slipper and threatened to hit his rivals with the footwear for making certain comments against him. The speech of the actor-turned-chief of Jana Sena Party in Andhra Pradesh went viral and he was cheered by his fans, but political decorum had been breached.

In another instance in the state, shameful comments were made by a ruling YSR Congress Party member against the wife of N. Chandrababu Naidu, which led to the former chief minister breaking down sobbing before the public.

In the neighbouring state of Telangana, politicians routinely use abusive language and make foul comments against rivals. When challenged to take a narcotics test to prove his innocence, Bharatiya Rashtra Samithi minister K.T. Rama Rao wondered if the Opposition leader would beat himself with slippers in his turn, and dared agencies to remove even a hair from his head.

Chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, member of legislative council K. Kavitha, and Opposition leaders, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president A. Revanth Reddy or BJP state chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar, are all guilty of resorting to language that would shame any decent audience. In Tamil Nadu, BJP chief Annamalai said journalists are “jumping like monkeys”, and then explained the “distinction” between calling someone a monkey or a donkey versus calling out a specific trait in them as resembling an action of the said animal.

Parents, case, religion, community, nothing is beyond the subject and range of vocabulary considered kosher for public discourse. The subsequent justification is a standard one — it is either my rival used such language first, or I have been misquoted, misinterpreted even.

The basest instincts of people in a bitterly divided polity are thus fuelled and put in the service of a perpetual war started and egged on by social media trends, and a rationalisation that lack of decency is merely “popular” and pro-TRP. As a result, it is political discourse that is compromised, but who is complaining?

Nevertheless, there is hope on the horizon. People are wearying of this practice, and disappointed; some have also begun to see through this political tactic. Politicians, whatever their actions are, or their results and delivery, and howsoever strong their desire is to win an election or to dominate the media cycle, must not resort to language that shames. Speak better, please.

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