Integrated development, politics and social empowerment in India and beyond

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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Mr Pranab Mukherjee warned the nation against “the poison drip of inflammatory provocation” and “intolerance and violence”. He pointedly added that we need peace and united efforts for development and progress

Speaking Generally

Mr Modi’s Independence Day address was stirring but vague and with still no mention on how he plans to reign in the Parivar from harmful communal rhetoric.

By B G Verghese

Deccan Herald, 17 August, 2014

Mr Modi had mocked the UPA saying that he would accomplish in 60 days what it could not fulfil in six years. Everybody cheered. After days of silence when India was being trashed by acolytes of the ruling Parivar, the Prime Minister chose not to address what these divisive forces have been saying, nor countering his own endorsement of the fictional history of Dina Nath Batra, the reading of which in Gujarat schools has been made compulsory. If he spoke for India on Independence Day and asked his countrymen to get modern and “make in India”, was he speaking of Akhand Bharat and recalling our Vedic inventions of the stem cell, aeroplanes and television? Will the real Mr Modi please stand up.

The PM’s August 15 speech was stirring. He always is stirring. Little that he said has not been said before, by the UPA and earlier, and is in the Constitution. Mr Modi talked his talk. But what people are waiting to see is when he will begin to walk that talk. He was silent on the deteriorating communal scene, to which the Parivar and others have made a notable contribution, foreign affairs, prices and corruption. The media largely went gaga. But when do sections of it not go gaga on matters of little consequence, with ever ready commentators trying to wring elixir out of stone 24x7 in a competitive frenzy.

Meanwhile the RSS and the rest of the Parivar are pushing their own agenda. Amit Shah’s new BJP executive is filled with RSS cadres, including Ram Madhav, recently “loaned” to the Party by Nagpur. Mohan Bhagwat has also uttered a caution that let everybody understand that the recent election was not won by one man. The Government has let it be known that the Ram Setu will not be allowed to be touched even as a scriptural and archaeological search for the Saraswati seems to be programmed. Step Backward, Forward March appears to be the new mantra.

Sadly, few if any commentators took note of the wise words uttered by the President in his Independence eve address. This is the real message we need to heed. Mr Pranab Mukherjee warned the nation against “the poison drip of inflammatory provocation” and “intolerance and violence”. He pointedly added that we need peace and united efforts for development and progress. This, especially at a time when India risks a blow-back from the turmoil in parts of Asia and Africa, now threatened by the rise of a new, bigoted, medieval caliphate. Mr Modi, are you listening?

The last debate in the just-concluded Lok Sabha session had Yogi Advaithanath of Gorakhpur repeat his chant that all Indians are Hindus. They are indeed so, but not in the manner conjectured by the Yogi. Few Hindutva zealots realise or remember that the term Hindu was derived from the Arab al-Hind which the French pronounced Inde, hence India. The people of (H)industan were named Hindus or Hindis. When the Westerners came to these shores, this appellation given to a whole people, morphed into a label for a broad spectrum of Vedic faith(s) other than the Christian, Muslim and certain other categories that they knew or vaguely recognised.

All Indians are civilisationally and culturally Hindu or Bharatis. Hindutva on the other hand, is not a faith but an exclusivist and authoritarian political ideology that seeks dominance under the rubric of “cultural nationalism”. Once this distinction is understood, attitudes will change.

Mr Modi suggests he, the Pradhan Sevak, is a man in a hurry. Nehru said he was the “first servant of the people” and “aaraam haraam hai”. But here we have justice travelling at the pace of a crippled snail, with Justice G.T. Nanavati, heading the post-Godhra riots Commission, set up in 2002, reportedly seeking yet another extension after his current nth extension ends on August 31. Why? Because he may be travelling abroad, unmindful of his duty. Like Liberhan, famous for his Babri Masjid report that took 17 years to say nothing worthwhile, Nanavati’s premliminary report has shown him to be confused and partial and in no hurry to given up a very, very comfortable sinecure.

If these are the kinds of judges with which the Government would like to pack the Courts, we should be wary of the current efforts to set up a National Judicial Appointments Commission to replace the current Judicial Collegium through which the Government could have the last word in judicial appointments. The bureaucracy, private government offices and senior information officials are being handpicked and centralised, with the PMO acting as a supreme initiator and filter for everything. Even the Home Minister has been reduced to a nonentity in the matter of senior appointments, with his formal approval being sought only ex post factor after proposals have been moved before the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. It would be an evil day were the judiciary to be similarly subordinated. The CJI, Justice Lodha has expressed his distress at executive interference in the sphere of the judiciary. The three Estates must work in harmony and his fear, shared by senior members of the Bar, is that this delicate balance may be upset.

The Congress continues to be in disarray after A.K Anthony’s empty report exonerating everybody for the general election debacle.

The situation across the border in Pakistan meanwhile will be watched with concern. Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf has joined hands with a radical expatriate mullah, Tahirul Qadri, from Canada to march on Islamabad from Lahore to topple Nawaz Sharif for allegedly rigging the 2013 elections. The Government and military allowed a peaceful march but along the way Qadri’s cadres were involved in a fracas with the police resulting in 14 deaths. A Lahore sessions court has framed murder charges against Nawaz and his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Punjab. Something has to give and the consequences could further destabilise Pakistan’s fledgling democracy.

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