June 1, 2002


 Search the Internet
Send this column to a friend
Print this page Best Printed on HP Laserjets
Recent Columns
All Aboard The Mainstream
Life and death: the
     pseudo-patriot way
George tells the truth
ABC of violence
Bet you didn't know:
     traitors are traitors

Dilip D'Souza

Time for the Trump

I had this paragraph in a column last September. I see no particular need to rewrite it now apart from minor alterations, so here it is to begin this column.

When a leader of a party called the Shiv Sena, Anand Dighe, died in the Singhania Hospital in Thane at the end of August 2001, the crowd of party faithful that had gathered "spontaneously" expressed their "grief". How? They destroyed the ground floor of the hospital. They looted and burned a Raymond showroom nearby, then burned a godown opposite. They stole the petrol from several ambulances, overturned them and set them on fire. They smashed over 30 cars in the hospital compound, and three buses outside. They assaulted several journalists; two from the TV programme Aaj Tak escaped death only by falling to the ground and feigning it. They chased nurses and patients all over the building, trying to batter down the doors they hid fearfully behind. One patient who had to run for his life was suffering from renal failure and had actually been in the bed adjacent to Dighe in the ICU. "I had given up hope," his son told Mid-Day. "I thought I would lose my father."

The hospital, or what they left of it, has since closed.

When Laloo Prasad Yadav's daughter Rohini got married in Patna recently, we all read about the obscene scale of the celebrations at the venue. But there were some very interesting happenings -- you might even call them obscenities -- on the sidelines as well. "Party workers" of Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal "forcibly lifted" -- the news reports use that phrase, I don't know why they don't just say "stole" -- five expensive vehicles from the TELCO stockyard in the city. They apparently also similarly "lifted" about 50 new air-conditioned cars from other car dealers across Patna. These "lifted" cars were used to transport the various VIPs who descended on Patna for the wedding, we learn, though I suspect that's just an eyewash. Neither Yadav nor Rohini has said a word about them. None of the "lifted" vehicles has been returned.

Faced with this banditry, TELCO has closed down its office in Patna and shifted operations to Calcutta.

Last October, BJP faithful from all over the country gathered in Agra to commemorate their party's 50th birthday. As part of the back-slapping bonhomie, Sports Minister Uma Bharati told the congregation that unlike the Congress, whose workers were known for being 'rowdy', the BJP's workers were 'disciplined'. Her words so inspired the BJP's youth wing that, in their thousands, they set off to visit the Taj Mahal and went -- no other word quite fits -- berserk. They plucked flowers and uprooted plants, rinsed their mouths and bathed in the fountains, heckled honeymooners and foreign women tourists, and urinated publicly all over the lawns. "By the time the rampage was over," wrote Deepshikha Ghosh for on October 14, "the Taj and its surroundings resembled one vast garbage heap."

Fortunately, the Taj Mahal has not closed.

These three random tales, to show you how our political parties have taught their faithful to behave. You know as well as I do that there are similar tales for the telling about every other party in India -- whether the Congress, SP, DMK, CPI/CPI-M, AIADMK, TDP, BSP, NCP or any other. Choose a party: you can be sure that many of their workers are, by now, indistinguishable from ordinary criminals. That's come about because our politicians are either indulgently tolerant of crime, or active instigators of crime, or simply criminal themselves.

For a Vajpayee who winks at defence skullduggery in the Tehelka scam, we have a Sonia Gandhi tainted by the Bofors scam. For a Jayalalitha accused in cases involving vast amounts of money, we have a Thackeray named by an official inquiry for provoking riots across Bombay. For a Kanshi Ram who belabours journalists, we have ... but why go on? With the example such leaders set for their partymen, should we really be surprised when those partymen steal cars or trash the Taj?

The point being, these are people whose pronouncements on anything, whose every action, fill us with scepticism and disgust. These are people you would not trust to take your child to school in the morning. That's how low they have sunk in our minds.

Yet our scepticism and disgust and disillusionment mean nothing to the men in our political parties. Very possibly, they even laugh at us. Because they know they carry a trump card. Using it will turn us all instantly into fawning, drooling supporters of all they do; turn our attention swiftly away from all their crimes and misgovernance. If we think they have sunk low indeed, they know they can quickly drag us just as low. Make us forget we have minds and can -- must -- ask questions.

Just by using that trump card. And it has just one word on it. "Pakistan".

Preferably, war with Pakistan.

Yes, our political class has learned one lesson very well. Whenever they are faced with a tide of public revulsion over something else they have perpetrated, or stolen, or plain misgoverned, all they need do is mutter about the evil of, the threat from, Pakistan. Suddenly, we will drop the revulsion and prepare ourselves for the war they say we have to fight. The very same fellows who destroy hospitals and steal cars: let them mention Pakistan and we are ready to swallow every last phony word that drips from their lips.

So it is, this time. For weeks, unending killing in Gujarat dominated the news. The slimy effort to rationalise the massacre of hundreds of innocent Indians, the lack of will and desire to halt the bloodshed, disgusted us nearly as much as the bloodshed itself did. It had come to the point that there were actually political calculations being made about a possible alternative government. Somebody even sounded out that old stalwart, Jyoti Basu, about whether he'd be willing to head one. Now I hardly think a Basu-led coalition can, or would want to, give us better governance than even the bumbling NDA. But given how Modi and Vajpayee and Advani and their cadres reacted to the murders in Gujarat, given their cadres' complicity in the killing, they deserve no less than to be thrown out of office. Regardless of what kind of misbehaving misfits wait to take their place.

In that climate of disgust and disillusionment with Vajpayee and gang, a tragedy happened in Jammu.

Thirty-one people died in Jammu. Yet, awful as it was, Jammu was just one more in a long sequence instigated by men in Pakistan. And their indifference to giving that country governance only matches what we see here. Their interest in directing their citizens' anger across the border, therefore, also only matches what we see here.

So Jammu happened, and suddenly Vajpayee and gang had their trump card out. War on Pakistan! they shouted, and within minutes all their fellow politicians, whatever their party, their followers, and the rest of us had fallen in line. Dropping our various wrangles with the government, we all began bellowing the same belligerent theme.

On that side of the border, the general shouted back: War on India! Within minutes, he had his followers and critics falling in line behind him. Dropping their various wrangles with him, including the recent referendum in which 110 per cent of Pakistan voted for rule by general.

But here in India, what's been driven from the news, from our thoughts, by war hysteria and pumped-up patriotism? The continuing violence in Gujarat. Which is, as far as Vajpayee and his friends are concerned, just what the doctor ordered.

Here's where we are. These are people who have made vandalism and theft and destruction and murder respectable; who watch as their followers do those things. These are leaders who maintain a silent collective collusion to see that none of them pays for a crime, in any way, ever. These are fellows who talk grandly of Hindutva, or Communism, or fighting corruption, or being the voice of the poor.

But despite these apparent ideological differences, you know what they all share: you would never trust your child to them.

These are the people who tell us we must go to war.

Terrorism in J&K: The complete coverage
The Sabarmati in Flames: Complete coverage of the carnage in Gujarat

Dilip D'Souza

Tell us what you think of this column