Saturday, November 10, 2007

DR ALL-OF-US & MR HYDE

Gujarat was one ‘Tehelka’ too many.

In March 2001, a Tehelka sting operation had shown a few top BJP and NDA leaders accepting bribes from journalists posing to be defence suppliers. As a result, though everyone knows how congenitally corrupt most of our politicians are, the BJP’s claim of being ‘a party with a difference’ took a deadly body blow. The media went virtually berserk in hounding the ruling combine for being corrupt and pulled out all stops to successfully ensure its defeat in the next elections.

The recent Tehelka sting operation on the Gujarat riots was even more dramatic and damning, so thought the bright team which had conceived it. When it was aired, the expected media cacophony began in right earnest. They all thought that, finally, they had got Narendra Modi, who was described in words that made great listening and reading.

The creators of the latest ‘soap’ completely forgot that the ordinary man had not forgotten the 1984 anti Sikh carnage which was led and encouraged by the Prime Minister himself. He already knew what the tapes had shown. This was not a simple, moral case of politicians taking money under the table for personal gain. The effect of the sting was, therefore, exactly the opposite of what had been anticipated by a hyper-creative think tank living in its own world.

On November 01, 2007, CNN-IBN for the first time connected the Gujarat and Delhi riots, and asked whether the Congress was as guilty over the 1984 riots as the BJP in Gujarat. In the SMS poll conducted by the channel, an astounding 93 percent said ‘Yes’. By a strange coincidence, a new book on the riots, ‘When a Tree Shook Delhi’, has also been published. This book exposes the role of top leadership of the Congress party and “indicts the guilty in chilling detail”, as Sagarika Ghose put it in the program ‘Face the Nation’ on CNN-IBN. and

The fallout of the public opinion revealed in the SMS poll has been dramatic. Many media luminaries and analysts, who were all ready to tear Modi and the BJP apart for the Guajrat riots in the name of their pet term ‘secularism’, seem to have lost their pens and their voices. They cannot hide the Congress party this time. The Tehelka of Gujarat has suddenly become a major liability, even an embarrassment, which now needs to be discarded and completely ignored, lest the BJP benefits from it even more.

What is even more disturbing than the dumping of Tehelka by the media is the manner in which it has chosen to ignore the shocking revelations made in the new book on the 1984 riots. Does it need any intelligence to know as to what they would have done by now had Congress leaders not been involved?

Rajdeep Sardesai is perhaps the only leading media personality who has questioned the difference in ‘our’ (media’s?) sense of outrage with respect to the 1984 and 1992 riots, even when the culpability of Rajiv Gandhi is a recorded fact while that of Modi is yet to be proved.

Writing in the Hindustan Times of November 9, 2007, Sardesai believes that the Congress escaped public censure while Modi has not, because the television media was virtually non-existent in 1984. Sardesai, like others within and in proximity to the media, tends to mix the real ‘public’ with these few.

The stark fact is that the real public never blamed Rajiv Gandhi for the reactive mania that overtook sanity in 1984. It was quite to the contrary. The same goes for Modi. The more the statement attributed to Modi, “Hum badla lengey”, is telecast, the more he will strike a deep-rooted historical chord somewhere, much like Rajiv Gandhi did in 1984. It is this much delayed realization that has led to the discarding of Tehelka as a weapon to beat Modi with.

That is why no one is talking of the 1984 riots. They have become hyphenated with those of Gujarat.

Deep, centuries old faultlines and prejudices haunt Hindus and Muslims, as Sardesai has mentioned. These need to be tackled and healed with understanding and a sense of responsibility. Unfortunately, our politicians think of little beyond vote banks. Mainstream English media does not seem to understand societal dynamics beyond the metros, a weakness which is mainly due to the cultural and educational background of those who gravitate towards it.

That is why there is almost an obsession with a weird type of ‘secularism’ which, paradoxically, instead of acting as a unifying social agent is creating newer faultines while deepening and widening old ones. Tragically, those who are propagating this are not even aware of the damage they are causing, comfortably ensconced as they are far, far away from the society they are harming with their influence.

Dr Modi is not the only one who is a Mr. Hyde, as Sardesai suggests. Mr. Hyde lurks in all of us, to surface when circumstances so demand. It is worth recalling that there was a certain Mr. Jinnah who led the bloodiest division of a country in the history of mankind. What did this very Jinnah, who had said that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together, have to say after he got his Pakistan?

This is what he told Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, even as mass slaughters were going on outside “…in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vaishnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free people long, long ago. No power can hold another nation and specially a nation of 400 million souls in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued his hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this.”

Is it not strange that in the ‘secular’ India that Jinnah left, but envisioned in Pakistan, we have not learnt the lesson Jinnah spoke of, and are collectively reinforcing the very angularities that led to our subjugation? Who is responsible for this? Multi-party democracy copied unthinkingly? Petty politicians blinded by lust for power? Rootless Indians dividing the society even more in the name of un-understood ‘secularism’?

In Pakistan, Dr Jinnah lost and Mr. Hyde prevailed. In India too, the same will continue to happen periodically, like it did in 1984 and 1992, unless we look to build an India like the Pakistan of Dr Jinnah’s dreams.

For that to happen, we have to first learn to rise above our petty, and often destructive “tu-tu, maen-maens”, and begin to unite rather divide Indians. Only then can we hope that the good Dr All-of-Us in us all will continuously prevail over Mr. Hyde.

My previous posts on the riots can be found here.