But alas, there was no dearth of blackguards and villains who did their damnedest to bring grief to Indians. While we must remember the heroes of the year, letting the villains go scot-free would be wrong. Here is an attempt to find out the villain of the year.
With bomb blasts on a regular basis and the government in deep coma or asleep (except when a Bengaluru terror suspect was caught), it is a difficult job. Heroes were easy to identify but, on the other hand, if one were to have a contest for finding the villain of the year, it will be a tough one.
With the memories of Mumbai terrorist attacks still fresh, one is inclined to think of the sole surviving murderer as a suitable candidate. But there were two problems in his case. First is if is he a human being or a low life from Pakistan, and the latter disqualifies him from the contest. A second objection is that his colleagues at Nariman House killed a pregnant woman while those at Taj Mahal hotel proved far more villainous. Alas, like the religious burial that he may not get, he also misses out on the top slot.
But for the Mumbai attack, Raj Thackeray could have easily walked away with the first position. After all, by targeting poor Bihari labourers with his henchmen, he single-handedly defamed Maharashtrians and destroyed the nationalist legacy of the great Shivaji. But alas, the Mumbai attacks and the fact that he is untraceable make his case weak.
As the head of the home ministry, with over 1400 killings in a year, the former home minister (whatsis name?) is a strong contender for the honour. But one realises that merely being stupid and inefficient is not sufficient for becoming the national villain. The former Maharashtra home minister who focussed his police forces on 'bar dancers' and left the terrorist to have a free run, also comes close to the other Patil. But again, he failed when it came to the viciousness that one expects from a genuine villain. So let us leave the ex-home minister to his chore of changing clothes and the former state home minister in search of bar dancers.
Another promising candidate for the top spot is the 'human rights brigade'. Unfortunately, presently shell-shocked by the Mumbai attacks, most of them have gone back into the woodwork. They would resurface once the terror trial begins and demand 'justice' to the terrorist, tarnish the reputation of NSG commandos who saved lives, and launch an agitation. They will again invoke the Babri masjid demolition to justify the terror acts. But all that is likely to happen in 2009 and hence they do not qualify in this year's contest.
Finally, we can cite the perfect villain in no less a person than an august Union minister. Yes, I refer to A R Antulay. Since public memory is short, let us remind the readers that he is the same person who had to resign as Maharashtra chief minister on corruption charges in the infamous 'cement scandal' many years ago, which adds to his pedigree.
When Antulay rose in Parliament and cast doubts about the circumstances of death surrounding Mumbai's three top police officers, he killed several birds with one stone. First and foremost, he came to the rescue of a beleaguered Pakistan, who now could flaunt his statement to peddle conspiracy theories of how the whole thing was a joint operation by Mossad, RAW and CIA. He also tired to divide the Mumbai police into pro and anti groups so that they should become ineffective. And finally, he pointed figures at the Armed Forces as possible conspirators in this incident as well as the Malegaon blasts. A great leap of faith indeed.
In sheer audacity and brazenness Antulay leaves behind the Gabbar Singhs, Dannys or Prans of Bolywood by miles. And like a champion villain, after doing his deed, he flashes a 'V' sign! A mark of true villain who is proud of his villainy. My vote goes wholeheartedly to Antulay as Villain of the Year 2008.
But there is a tiny doubt in my mind, Antulay's villainy is out in the open, yes, but ought we not to consider who prompted him and continues to protect him? After all, he still continues to be an honourable minister in the Union cabinet. Wouldn't his protector be the true Villain of the Year?