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The emperor has no clothes

May 09, 2013 14:32 IST

I was in school when I had first read the famous fairy tale by Hans Anderson titled The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Anderson’s story was about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes which would be exceptionally beautiful and yet have the remarkable quality of being invisible to any one unpardonably stupid or then, incompetent for his office.
Listening to the two weavers, who were actually swindlers, the emperor who was always fond of good and expensive clothes thought “If I were to be dressed in a suit made of this cloth, I would be able to find out which men in my empire were unfit for their places and I would also be able to distinguish the clever ones from the stupid.”
The climax of the story comes when the emperor parades before his subjects in his “new clothes”, with many of them expressing adoration for his supposedly extraordinary attire, and yet a child crying out aloud “But he is not wearing anything at all !”

Following the Central Bureau of Investigation’s admission to the Supreme Court that they had shared with the law minister as well as the prime minister their status reports on the coal-gate scam, the Supreme Court had severely chastised them for what they had done.
Observing that the CBI was like “a caged parrot”, the Supreme Court in its order on May 8 directed the CBI to stand up to all “pulls and pressures.”

The bench headed by Justice R M Lodha also disputed the CBI observation that though some significant changes had been made by them in their report at the instance of the law minister and the Prime Minister’s Office, the thrust of the report had not been changed. 

In its order, the Supreme Court said, “The heart of the report was changed on suggestions from government officials.”
The opposition’s anger with the government’s conduct has been widely shared by the media. The opposition’s minimum demand for allowing the House to function normally was that the law minister should resign, and the railway minister be sacked (after his nephew was arrested by the CBI for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 90 lakh for influencing a railway board post).
This year’s budget session of Parliament had just entered its last week. No business was being transacted for several days now because almost the entire opposition was angrily demanding that the government be made to pay for the two mega scams. The specific demand was for the resignation of the prime minister (who was coal minister when the coal allotments were made), the law minister and the railways minister.
Having decided to brazenly defend its two ministers, more particularly its law minister, whose dropping from the government would have made the PM’s continuance untenable, the government adjourned Parliament sine die two days ahead of schedule, on May 8, instead of May 10.
While both the print media as well as the television channels broadly reflected the opposition Members of Parlliament’s anger, I was particularly impressed by R Prasad’s cartoon in the MAIL TODAY, based on the above fairy tale by Hans Anderson. I wonder if the PM and the Congress president have seen it.
This cartoon reminds me of Abu’s famous cartoon during the 1975-77 Emergency depicting Rashtrpati Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed in a bathtub, telling one of his aides who is handing him a document to sign, “If there are any more ordinances, just ask them to wait.” 

Many papers and journals critical of the establishment and/or the Emergency were banned, or forced to close down. But Shankar’s Weekly, the one and only cartoon periodical of those days, decided on its own to wind up. In its last editorial titled ‘Farewell, dated August 31, 1975, the editor wrote a brilliant piece.
The editorial did not even use the word Emergency anywhere, but there can hardly be a more devastating comment on the authoritarian regime of that period than this one. The editorial ran as follows:
“In our first editorial we made the point that our function was to make our readers laugh -- at the world, at pompous leaders, at humbug, at foibles, at ourselves. But, what are the people who have a developed sense of humour? It is a people with certain civilised norms of behaviour, where there is tolerance and a dash of compassion. Dictatorships cannot afford laughter because people may laugh at the dictator and that wouldn’t do. In all the years of Adolf Hitler, there never was a good comedy, not a good cartoon, not a parody, or a spoof.
From this point, the world and sadly enough India have become grimmer. Humour, whenever it is there, is encapsuled. Language itself has become functional, each profession developing its own jargon. Outside of the society of brother-economists, an economist is a stranger, floundering in uncharted territory, uncertain of himself, fearful of non-economic language. It is the same for lawyers, doctors, teachers, journalists and such-like.
What is worse, human imagination seems to be turning to the macabre and the perverse.  Books and films are either on violence or sexual deviations. Nothing seems to awaken people except unpleasant shocks. Whether it is the interaction of the written word and the cinema on society, society reflects these attitudes. Hijackings, mugging in the dark, kidnappings and plain murder are becoming everyday occurrences and sometimes lend respectability by giving it some kind of political colouration.
But Shankar’s Weekly is an incurable optimist. We are certain that despite the present situation, the world will become a happier and more relaxed place. The spirit of man will in the end overcome all death-dealing forces and life will blossom to a degree where humanity will find its highest purpose discharged. Some call this God. We prefer to call it human destiny.  And on that thought we bid you good-bye and the best of luck.”

Article and image: Courtesy

To see the Mail Today cartoon on L K Advani's blog, click here

L K Advani