Among all the Anna Hazare news over the newspapers, one news from the City (Nagpur) caught up my attention today. Veteran actor Vikram Gokhale had been in the city yesterday for staging some of his play. He visited the ongoing protests by Anna Hazare supporters at the RBI Square. Donned with a Gandhi cap reading “I am Anna Hazare”, all the local newspapers have published his photo in their respective city editions. Marathi daily Sakal quotes him saying “The youth should not stop their movement until a system change.” The leading Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar quotes him advising the government not to teach the people about democracy. He goes on to say “This movement is nonviolent because the youth respects the democracy, but I wonder what way the youth will turn if something happens to Anna during his fast.” I want to analyze both of these statements in light of a past incident related to the Mr. Gokhale.
Mr. Gokhale is a veteran actor of Marathi Cinema and stage. He has also worked in a few Bollywood films (Remember Aishwarya Roy’s musician father in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam). He is a respected figure in his field; we expect the same respectful behavior from him in the other fields of life.
I must mention here a personal incident. Some five years ago, in February 2006, as I was a student of BAMS, we had a state level university youth festival at Jalgaon Khandesh. Medical students all over the state were participating in this annual event managed by Maharashtra University of Health Sciences. Mr. Vikram Gohkale, our actor in question, was one of the chief guests at the ceremony. During his speech, almost completely out of context, Mr. Gokhale advocated Vande Mataram to be the National Anthem and said “Our blood must boil up when we are asked to sing Jana Gana Mana as our National Anthem.” He was speaking from state-run stage, he was sharing the dais with the vice chancellor of the university, he was speaking in front of thousands of students all over the state, did he make any sense making such controversial, potentially nearing to treason, statement? No voice of protest came up, neither from the students nor from the dais. Everyone, including me, remained silent. As a student, we were among the audiences. We hoped someone from the dais would ask clarification to Mr. Gokhale, but no one spoke, and the issue ended there only.
Now coming to the sentences from the news papers, what system change Mr. Gokhale wants? We live in a multiparty, secular democracy and a welfare state working to ensure social justice among all sections of the society. Does Mr. Gokhale mean a change in this system? Does he mean a system that would favor Vande Mataram over Jana Gana Mana? The views that Mr. Gokhale expressed from the university dais are the stated views of the Sangha Pariwar. Wasn’t he using the state platform to condemn our national symbols? Wasn’t he using the opportunity to propagate the Sangha pariwar philosophy in from of a large number of malleable youth?
In the second statement, he wonders what turn, instead of a nonviolent movement, would the youth take if something happens to Anna; doesn’t it suggest violence?
As a student, I had no means to express myself back then, but I can certainly raise these questions now from my own platform. The mainstream media kept mum then; and now too I wonder if anyone from the biased media would ask these questions to Mr. Gokhale.