Integrated development, politics and social empowerment in India and beyond

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Jamila Verghese
Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

While the corrupt must be brought to justice, India should not become a police state or return to permit-licence raj. Nor should it be seen as investor-unfriendly when 10-12 m new jobs must be created annually and high growth sustained to eliminate stark poverty.

Breaking News: More Political Capers

Both hawks and doves are aflutter. As the PM spoke quietly to editors, the BJP sought a return to its narrow Hindutva roots.

By B G Verghese

Deccan Herald, 2 July, 2011

The Prime Minister has spoken belatedly and, rather than address a televised press conference, done so through a select group of print editors. This admittedly was not the ideal choice but it was a genuine effort at communication by an essentially reserved and soft-spoken leader. The outcome has been greeted with dismay by critics. But, despite the reservations expressed, it would be fatuous to dismiss Dr Manmohan Singh’s remarks.

He warned against creating a climate of cynicism and despair, amplified by a media often prone to playing God’s magistrate. He cautioned against ex-post facto judgements on decisions taken much earlier in a world of uncertainty and a tendency to equate what might turn out in hindsight to have been erroneous judgment with wilful corruption. While the corrupt must be brought to justice, India should not become a police state or return to permit-licence raj. Nor should it be seen as investor-unfriendly when 10-12 m new jobs must be created annually and high growth sustained to eliminate stark poverty.

The government, he said, was sincere about legislating an effective lok pal bill. Here, if some political parties disdain prior consultation on the draft Bill so be it. And if both Anna Hazare and Ramdev insist on continuing on what increasingly seems an ego trip, let them do so and not expect to be bailed out from much tom-tommed fasts. They sound like the White Knight who, responding to Alice’s query about the nature of a fine pudding he had lost, sadly replied: “I don’t know if the pudding ever was cooked. I don’t know if the pudding will ever be cooked. But it was a very clever pudding to invent”.

The BJP-Parivar is, meantime, preparing to take power from what it believes is a tottering Congress. The battleground of choice is to be Uttar Pradesh, which goes to the polls early next year. Uniquely, the Parivar-BJP seem to believe that retreat is the best form of advance. Hence, back to Hindutva en route post haste to Nirvana.

Hindutva has little to do with Hinduism, being a doctrine of narrow, exclusive “cultural nationalism”, far removed from faith, which it distorts. It is a political doctrine, imitative of fascism, espoused by Savarkar and Golwalkar in “We, or our Nation Defined. That such a negative and discredited doctrine has been resurrected is disquieting in this day and age. But this is the plain meaning of Uma Bharati’s reinduction into the BJP to carry the flag in UP and her proclamation nailing “Hindutva and Ram (Mandir)” to her mast.

The Ayodhya issue is under appeal from a High Court order that seemed to open the door to a fresh, forward looking solution to a well-worn legal wrangle. Rather than move forward, it would be a pity to move back to square one. This can only stir acrimony and divide communities who need and mostly wish to live and work together for the common good.

The charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency against Swami Aseemanand and his co-conspirators in the Samjhauta Express, Malegaon, Ajmer, Hyderabad and other terror bombings, allegedly in revenge for attacks on Hindus and Hindu shrines, is something the Parivar should ponder. Nothing is as yet conclusively proven but the net is closing in on a group of people and a philosophy that are both distasteful and dangerous.

Meanwhile, even as the BJP is busy scoring brownie points against the Government, sometimes stooping low to conquer, the Modi administration has again put its credibility and bona fides on the line by claiming – yet disclaiming – that it has shredded many of the vital documents and dossiers connected with the Sabarmati Express-Gujarat pogrom of 2002 even while the Nanavati Commission and Supreme Court are seized of the matter. If true, this would be an unpardonable offence and a deliberate effort to thwart independent investigation and justice. As it is, the record of the Modi administration in prevaricating and obstructing the 2002 inquiry is disgraceful.

As worrying is a recent report, only one among many that disfigure news reports from time to time, that three young girls in Orissa were barred from entering a village temple as they are dalits. This is clearly an offence under the Prevention of Atrocities Act and flies in the face of constitutional guarantees. Yet, as all too often, fatuous inquiries are made and no action follows against the offenders. An FIR had not been filed for days. Some dalit leaders believe that the episode shows that the dalits have stood up and will no longer brook gratuitous insults to their citizenship. This is welcome and true up to a point. But millions of dalits face daily indignities and are blatantly denied their rights of access, livelihood and enjoyment of statutory guarantees such as minimum wages. Some of these are feudal manifestations but caste status – or the lack of it – is equally evident.

The Parivar and other self-appointed custodian of Hindu rights and culture like sundry Sants and Swamis, the Sadhu samaj and other bodies seem disinterested, helpless and complicit through silence on such cruel conduct that is a dark blot on India. The Church too has not covered itself with glory for insisting on dalit Christian reservation - surely a contradiction in terms!

Social reform takes time. But is has been late and little. There is a limit to what the state can do. Much depends on society and social reformers, of whom, alas, there are all too few these days. A much needed uniform civil code has been very long pending on totally false grounds. A UCC could do more for women’s rights than the will-o’-the-wisp women’s reservation bill, a good cause but sought to be clumsily legislated and subject to an OBC reservation veto.

Returning to the BJP, regression on its part shows its lack of policy and programme and reflects the on-going inner-party struggle for supremacy between the modernists and locked-in-the-past conservatives. A split is likely sooner or later and Gopinath Munde’s tantrums show that self-aggrandisement is the driving force behind many so-called leaders. That the Congress should be wooing him is shameful and unprincipled.

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