Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Grow up, Kejriwal

Dear Arvind,         

I’m not surprised by your latest act of sob-sob over not being invited to the Republic Day celebrations.  You must have been particularly peeved by my presence in the VIP enclosure being chaperoned and parasoled by a senior security officer.  Come on, man, grow up.  Stop being a silly whimpering kid.

You’ve always been a kid, I know.  When I shared the platform with you during the India Against Corruption days, I saw through your silly infantile idealism.  You are a childish dreamer, Arvind.  You dream of an India without corruption.  I have grown up and grown out of impossible dreams.

I know you haven’t forgotten those days when I called Mr Narendra Modi all kinds of names for your sake.  I thought you were the leader, the Messiah, that India was waiting for.  But I am now grown up.  I know who the real leader of India is.  I know how the game is played.

Grow up, Arvind.  Shirk off your childish dreams and learn the politics of the adults.  Learn to use power when you get it instead of throwing it away like a kid who gets tired of his toy.  Learn to be a winner and not a whiner. 

Learn to rise to the occasion.  Learn to swallow your words.  Learn to switch loyalties according to situations.  Learn to put on masks.  Learn to betray friends.  Throw away idealism; be downright practical.  And you reach the Rajpath to power and VIPs come to hold the umbrella over your head. 

Wishing you a quick growing up,

Your former friend and ally,
Dr Kiran Bedi

PS. Inspired by a report in today’s Hindu: Bedi mocks Kejriwal, says he must grow up.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Two Superpowers Meet in Delhi

The American President, Barack Obama, has already embraced the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in the highly girdled airport in Delhi.  This is the second jaadu ki jhappi between the leaders of two nations with similar global interests.  Obama’s country has been the world’s moral police since the second world war and Modi’s India aspires to wrench that hegemony. 

About two decades ago, Samuel P Huntington wrote in his famous and controversial book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, that “If at some point India supplants East Asia as the world’s economically most rapidly developing area, the world should be prepared for extended disquisitions on the superiority of Hindu culture...”  Interestingly, Huntington added that the disquisition would have to be about “the contributions of the caste system to economic development” and a fundamentalist assertion of indigenous culture.  Huntington was not a divinatory astrologer but a Harvard University professor of political science. When he wrote those words India was still struggling to grow up from what was mockingly labelled as the Hindu rate of economic growth.  And now India has succeeded in creating a new caste system: a duplicate of what Obama’s country created originally.

Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister at a time when India had already achieved what Huntington calls “material success.”  So it is easy for the Prime Minister to proceed to what Huntington predicted as the natural outcome: “cultural assertion.”

The double jhappi between the leaders of the two global superpowers is more significant than the semi-literate Sangh Parivar missionaries of medievalist travesties such as ghar vapasi may ever be able to comprehend.  What Modi is trying to show the world is that India is not merely an economic superpower but also America’s competitor.

But what is the competition about?  That’s the billion dollar question really.  Is it an assertion of the Hindu civilization, as Huntington argued?  Or is it a political dominance, an assertion of power?

“Cultural assertion follows material success,” wrote Huntington.  “Hard power generates soft power,” he added in the same sentence.

That is exactly what Modi is trying to do.  He won’t be satisfied with mere material success.  He is like Hitler who will not be contented with anything less than racial garv.  That’s why he kept mum when the religious institutions of the minority communities in the country were vandalised time and again in different parts of the country including the national capital soon after he ascended the throne in what his minister, Venkaiah Naidu, wanted to be rechristened as Indraprastha or Hastinapur.  That is also why he keeps mum on issues like ghar vapasi.  That is also why the Central Board of Film Certification is being infiltrated with RSS minions.  Even the Central Board of Secondary Education has been similarly infiltrated and the history textbooks are being tinkered with. 

And yet, Modi is not a man to keep mum.  It is simply not in his nature to do that.  As an Aam Aadmi Party leader, Kumar Vishwas, said yesterday, “There was one prime minister who never spoke for ten years and there is another now who doesn’t stop talking.”  And yet, Modi chooses silence on certain issues.  We (should) know why.

He won’t say.  He would rather hug Barack Obama in what the most famous magazine of the latter’s country (which put Modi on its cover a couple of years back and called him “the most polarizing politician in India”) labels “a Soviet-style jamboree” and engage us, the gullible citizens, with Man ki baat on the All India Radio.

Wish you all a highly entertaining, patriotism-injecting, goose bump-raising Republic Day.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Godse, God and a little history

Indian history is poised to take some interesting diversions.  One of the many rewritings will be the deification of Nathuram Godse, the killer of Mahatma Gandhi.  The Hindu Mahasabha has been threatening (or promising, depending on which side you are) to construct a temple with Godse as the deity.   As India is going to celebrate the 65th anniversary of its secular Constitution in a function solemnised by none other than the President of a country which exported secularism whenever it found it opportunistic to do so, it may be worthwhile to take a look at the contribution of the new god being added to the country's overcrowded pantheon. 

Poona, 15 August 1947 – a flashback adapted from Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre

Independence from British rule is being celebrated.  The flag slowly moving up the staff in the centre of the 500 men assembled is not the flag of the independent India.  It is a saffron triangle with the swastika emblazoned on it.

The swastika was on the saffron flag for the same reason as it had been on the banners of Hitler’s Third Reich.  The men gathered about it in Poona were all members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS].  Though India had extricated itself from a protracted alien rule, the men around the fascist flag in Poona cherished another historic dream, to reconstitute a Hindu Empire that stretched from the Indus River to Burma (Myanmar), from Tibet to Kanyakumari.  They despised Gandhi and his vision founded on religious tolerance, love of truth and nonviolence.  They held that the Hindus were the descendants of the Aryans, the people for whom Hitler committed unforgettable and unforgivable atrocities.  The Hindu Empire should only have those Aryans and not the descendants of the Mughals or the British colonisers.

The man standing in front of the gathering in Poona was Nathuram Godse, a man who would soon commit national parricide and then wait for over six decades in the tomb of history to be resurrected as nothing less than a god.  He was then just 37 years old.  With pads of baby fat still clinging to his cheeks, he looked innocent if not divine.  He delivered a moving rhetoric to the 500 listeners.  He told them that India was not yet free.  It contained people who were still alien.  All because of that man called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. 

The RSS had made no significant contribution to the freedom struggle.  In fact, at times it colluded with the British government.  Now when the British had left, Godse felt like a great leader. 

“All his life, from his school examinations through half a dozen trades, Nathuram Godse had been a failure at everything he’d undertaken.”  [Quoted verbatim from Freedom at Midnight]  Religion, particularly religious extremism, is a handy tool for such people.  Godse plunged into his religion, delved deep, swam in it and emerged as a polemicist.  Now he saw for himself a new role which he would carry out with vengefulness.  Not only that, he would also make sure that his soul would transmigrate into the very air of India and remain there for six and a half decades... and then transmute into a god, yet another god in the country of infinite gods.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Another God is Born

Subramaniam had no idea where he had been.  All he could remember was the shipwreck and the lifeboat which he was pushed on to along with a few others.  The huge waves that tossed the boat up and down.

When he opened his eyes a few men, naked except for the rags tied round their groins, were standing round his staring into his eyes.  There was fear in those eyes as much as curiosity.  A couple of the men carried a bow and arrow each. 

It didn’t take him long to realise that he had landed up on the island of some primitive people.  His ship had wrecked in the South Indian Ocean.  The people spoke a language that was curiously similar to Subramaniam’s own.  After all, his was a classical language, one of the oldest in the sub-continent called India, one which withstood many onslaughts from languages of the North.  At any rate, his ability to communicate with the island people did not surprise Subramaniam too much since he had read Gulliver’s Travels and knew that Gulliver could communicate with people who spoke languages which had nothing common with his own.

The people on the island turned out to be more friendly than Subramaniam would have hoped for given the context which he had left a few days back.  He came from a peninsula on which people were being hunted out for questioning the government.  Emergency, they called it.  “India is Indira and Indira is India” and such slogans had become popular. People who refused to bow to the divinity of the new Bharatmata vanished from the society.  Subramaniam’s best friends had all been arrested.  A few of them just vanished.  No one knew where such people went.  Slogans resounded in the vacuum created by “vanished” people.  “Talk less, work more,” “Be Indian, Buy Indian,” “Efficiency is our watchword,” and so went the slogans that bewitched a whole subcontinent.  Subramaniam must now count among the many “vanished” persons though he had just run away to escape being caught by the over-zealous police personnel of the Government of sweet slogans.

Soon Subramaniam became a hero on the pristine island.  He brought them civilisation.  He was a student of engineering and so he knew how to civilise a pristine island.  Civilised buildings replaced the huts made of mud and leaves.  People learnt to assert “I”, “my” and “mine”.  Currency was introduced.  Trade followed.  People began to buy and sell things which they had hitherto shared freely.  They made theories about what was right and what was wrong.  They made rule so that people’s liberties could be curtailed. They made boundaries and borders.

In the meanwhile, Subramaniam managed to collect enough materials to construct a hot air balloon.  When the balloon was ready to take off, he said goodbye to the people whom he had civilised.  They shed tears on the ascent of their Messiah into the heavens.

Four decades passed.

Another era of resounding slogans rose on the subcontinent.  “Good governance,” “Swachch Bharat,” “Ghar Vapasi” and “Make in India” resounded in the air.  The subcontinent once again witnessed goose bumps sprouting on its nationalist skins.  People did not start vanishing, however, though the Cassandras began to see auguries and omens of imminent vanishing acts.  Priests and oracles drew the boundaries and borders between Us and Them.  Some of Them were lured to become Us.

Subramaniam felt nostalgia for the primitive island which he had civilised four decades ago.  He found a way to reach there.

He was amused as well as surprised to see temples on the island with his image in the place of the deity.  He had become a God, the God, on the island.

Subramaniam was not a fraud, however.  He told the Elder (who was his bosom friend four decades ago) that he was just an ordinary human being with some skills which they had not yet developed when he entered their island.

“No, no,” protested the Elder.  “You are our God.”

Subramaniam protested more vehemently.

“Please,” pleaded the Elder, “leave this place immediately before anyone recognises you.  All the morals of this island are bound around the myth and if the people come to know that you did not ascend into heaven they will all become wicked.”

Subramaniam walked silently back to the boat that awaited him on the coast.

Note: Inspired by the ‘Sun Child’ in Samuel Butler’s Erewhon Revisited.