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Only the gods can save India

September 01, 2006 15:30 IST

Prakash Karat damns the Election Commission for 'bias'. Every Congressman is secretly convinced that he can do a better job as prime minister than poor Manmohan Singh -- if only Sonia Gandhi listens.

The BJP condemns the Speaker for his prejudiced views, and Somnath Chatterjee thunders back that he will resign if he is not respected. Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha descends into chaos as MPs from the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Janata Dal (United) engage each other physically.

Watching all this from afar I raise my eyes to the heavens, praying that our current crop of leaders lives long. Ask me why, and I can only invite you to consider the alternative...

Several of the top guns in politics arose from student unions. The list of luminaries includes Arun Jaitley of the BJP, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Sharad Yadav, and Marxists such as Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury. It is a fair assumption that some of tomorrow's leaders shall arise from the student unions of today. Can you, honestly, contemplate this future without shuddering?

Professor Nishi Pandey of Lucknow University complained of being harassed by student leader Ram Singh Rana last year after she tried to stop him from entering the women's hostel. This year, the Samajwadi Party has made Rana its candidate for president of the Lucknow University Students Union.

In Delhi, Jamia Milia Islamia University shut down in July after students went on a rampage against the vice-chancellor and the proctor. They were supported by the National Students' Union of India president Nadeem Javed, who promised to take up their case with Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh. (The fact that the vice-chancellor in question is the renowned historian Mushirul Hasan did not get him any support from his leftist friends.)

But all this pales into insignificance beside the tragedy in Ujjain, where Professor Harcharan Singh Sabharwal died of injuries after he was assaulted, allegedly by activists associated with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. This has been denied both by the ABVP and by the BJP; the spokespersons of both pointed out that the television footage does not show any ABVP member hitting Professor Sabharwal.

You know what? I don't care, the footage that I did see was damning enough!

I saw Vimal Tomar, organising secretary of the ABVP in Madhya Pradesh jabbing away at Professor M L Nath of Madhav College in Ujjain. I saw him mouth offensive words at the assembled faculty, abuse that the television channels prudently bleeped out. I heard him say something to the effect, "You have called us goondas, now we shall teach you a lesson!" We also had the 'privilege' of watching Shashiranjan Akela, president of the Madhya Pradesh unit of the ABVP, argue vehemently with his teachers.

Even if you can lay aside the assault on Professor Sabharwal -- and I for one find it absolutely unpardonable -- how can you explain away the fundamental lack of decency exhibited by the likes of Vimal Tomar? There may not be any evidence of ABVP members assaulting Professor Sabharwal, there is plenty of proof of their vulgarity against the other teachers. For this alone, they should be drummed out of the university, and kicked out of all political activity as well.

Lawyers will argue endlessly whether Professor Sabharwal's death was 'murder' or 'manslaughter'. Investigators certainly have their work cut out to see whether there was any NSUI involvement given that the Congress-backed body was just as unhappy with Professor Sabharwal as the ABVP itself. But if there is a moral dimension to politics, then Vimal Tomar and Shashiranjan Akela are guilty of creating an atmosphere where violence against teachers could flourish.

Let me quote from the RSS web site: 'Devotional worship of the Guru is one of the most touching and elevating features of the Hindu cultural tradition. The relationship of Guru-shishya is one unique symbol of our Hindu Dharma.'

The RSS takes this so seriously that one of its great annual events is Guru Purnima, when every member is expected to make some token offering to the Guru. I can remember seeing the likes of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani perform Guru Dakshina even when they were in high office.

Why, given this tradition, weren't Vimal Tomar and Shashiranjan Akela drummed out of the ABVP the moment they were seen insulting their teachers at the gates of Madhav College? Does Guru Purnima hold any meaning any longer, or is it empty ritual?

The ABVP was formed when M S Golwalkar was the Sarsanghachalak. The 'M' in his name stood for 'Madhavrao', and he himself was affectionately known as 'Guruji'. What irony if the centenary year of his birth is marked by insulting Gurus in the precincts of an institution named 'Madhav' College!

Will anybody emerge with clean hands from the Ujjain tragedy? When last heard, over 20 NSUI members had been arrested in Ujjain -- on the basis of a list of offenders given to the police by the principal of Madhav College. Sanjeev Jain, of the Nationalist Congress Party's Disha Kisaan Sangathan, also surrendered to the police in the same case. With associates of the BJP, the Congress, and Sharad Pawar's NCP named, fears of political interference are bound to grow.

And these are the people from whose ranks India's future leaders may arise. Ponder over that.

I read that GMP Dwivedi, who is heading the Criminal Investigation Department team, started the probe after praying at the Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain. I understand exactly how he feels. When politics vitiates the atmosphere in temples of learning so much that students insult their teachers, well, only the gods can save India.

TVR Shenoy