“Why have you not written for the past few months?” my granddaughter asked. I did not want to tell her that I am a bit of a coward at heart, afraid of being dubbed “intolerant” and — the latest insult — “anti-national”! So, I produced the time-tested excuse of “being busy”, an excuse that can only be partially true, but always difficult to disprove.
Governments in power do not like criticism. Like god, they crave approval and praise. “The king can do no wrong” is the applicable proverb. But, unfortunately, there is democracy to consider and modern democracies throw up far too many voices of dissent.
Our present government came in riding on people’s expectations and hope. It came in on the back of a leader who promised to concentrate on development and governance. Nobody, just nobody, can say that he is not trying. The ministers at the Centre are running scared, even those who had acquired adverse reputations in the past are presently on good behaviour. There are some like Suresh Prabhu, Piyush Goyal and Nitin Gadkari, who are working overtime to deliver. Of course, there is also Smriti Irani. She was specially chosen to saffronise our temples of learning. And she is going about her job with a sledgehammer that is bound to prove counter-productive.
There are many plus points that this government can justifiably be proud of. The use of the Aadhaar card and the opening of bank accounts that the poor never dreamt of owning and the direct transfer of subsidies to their accounts is a miraculous cure for a vital deficiency in governance. There are many such healthy schemes that state the intent of the government. They will require time to bear fruit.
But at the cost of being classified as anti-national, I must boldly state that I disapprove vehemently of doctored and concocted videos designed to send leftist students to jail. To my mind, such concoction of evidence is worse than the crime the student is supposed to have committed and deserves a punishment equal to the one sought to be inflicted.
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It frightens people like me when Delhi’s lawyers ape their counterparts in Pakistan and go on a rampage in the hallowed precincts of our temples of justice, attempting to lynch prisoners in the custody of the police. It frightens people like me when the police force, of which I was once a proud member, stands and stares and does nothing when nationalists take the law into their own hands in the very presence of the upholders of the law. It frightens me even more when I suddenly realise that the man at the head of this force is studiedly selective in the enforcement of the law.
If shouting slogans against the injustices of the caste system or against the perceived inequalities suffered by the poor in our land is interpreted as being anti-national, I am afraid that many, many more students, activists and others crying out for justice are going to be branded in a similar manner. That is totally unacceptable.
And where will so many anti-nationals be sent? Our jails are full already. They cannot be sent to the developed countries of the “Christian” West. Those countries do not operate on the basis of religious beliefs. At present, they seem to be accepting only nationalists who welcome PM Modi every time he visits their shores. They are hardly likely to return to Mother India because they like the quality of life there. The people there do not care what religion you follow or what you eat and how you are attired. If you cheer the Indian cricket team though they are playing Test matches against your new country, that will not be cause for painting you as anti-national.
Assorted minorities (Sikhs exempted as they are partners in the Punjab government), Dalits, leftists, intellectuals, NGOs funded by the Ford Foundation and, of course, people like me who refuse to vote for the party on ideological grounds, have all been categorised as anti-national. The nationalists, on the other hand, are those who support whatever the party says or does, even if that entails murdering the father of an IAF corporal for allegedly killing a calf (which he did not) or beating up an accused in a courtroom for raising anti-national slogans (which he did not).
There are “nationalists” in Pakistan who speak and act in this very manner, all for their fatherland. Our nationalists are all for our motherland. The rub lies in the fact that both, the ones on the other side of the border and within ours, will not take up arms to fight in real wars. They prefer to prove their might against captives and soft targets. My suggestion to the high court and Supreme Court is not to send these nationalist lawyers to Tihar jail. They should be sent to the Kashmir front to fight the enemy that lurks there. At present many “anti-nationals” are part of our fighting arms, like Akhlaq’s son. They get killed at times. Why should out nationalist lawyers not be made to do some real soldiering?