It is a relief! Finally, the Prime Minister has spoken out, albeit a bit too late. We are at least aware what the “official” line ought to be. I refer to the recent Kashmir unrest and also to the lynching cases by so-called cow protectors. I notice with precise regularity, every time there is a jolt of any nature, the top echelons of the establishment invariably retire to a state of suspended animation. Whether it is the ongoing Kashmir unrest and the role of the security forces or it is the lynching of innocent people in the hands of so-called “gau rakshaks,” whether it is hapless women being assaulted on suspicions of carrying beef or the suicide of a young scholar at Hyderabad, whether it is the murder of a bright young techie in Pune or the killing of a person at Dadri on suspicions of storing beef, there follows the ‘customary’ stunning silence on the matter, for a protracted period, of an otherwise extremely communicative and articulate leadership, and then comes the admonition. Meanwhile, the monthly philosophical monologues on the radio continue with clockwork punctuality studiously avoiding mentions on these conflicts.
The silence-now-outbursts-then-silence-again method! I have also studied that during the silent interregnum, the poor spokespersons of the ruling party would fumble, stammer, sweat and eventually come up with naïve comparisons with erstwhile regimes in their valiant attempts in defending the indefensible. One gets the uncomfortable feeling of people in high places running helter-skelter seeking somehow something to say but without any clue on what to.
The Kashmir unrest similarly showed complete silence from our leadership for more than a month and well after losing 60 precious lives, we saw the Pakistan Prime Minister making all sorts of untrue remarks, even the UN Secretary General making uncalled for comments. Yet, our leadership protractedly kept its counsel. My point is communication should be fast, clear and transparent so that citizens have an idea of what really follows. Again, what was finally now spoken was what was already known, on laptops etc. ‘Insanyat, kashmiryat and jamhooriat,’ these have been spoken 15 years back, what’s new? We didn’t venture to spell out for example, how exactly is it that we assuage the feelings of the Kashmiri youth? How do we actually plan out the healing touch: For example, what is the future of the AFSPA, its timeframe; I think the common man must not be left to his own devices for interpretations.
The Common “Tag”: The next part is even more dangerous. Imagine the Head of the Executive pronouncing from a public platform. “If you want to shoot, shoot me but spare my Dalit brothers.” How well does it augur for the polity of the world’s largest democracy, a 2 trillion dollar economy? What is the international investing community seeing in us? And more – why do we have to mention “Dalits” always with exclusivity? It was indeed true only Dalit persons were attacked. Does it mean we don’t care if the victims are non-Dalits? Why should victims of inhumanity always carry a label of ‘Dalits’ or ‘minorities’ attached to them? Victims of irrationality, inhumanity and barbarism can never carry tags of sects with them. The only tag they could carry is that they are victims, in my opinion.
Action following the intentions: And now you are in for frustration. Is it only dossiers that the state governments should make? Law and order is indeed a state subject. Cow slaughter banned or not – why should it take time to punish the culprits soonest? What proofs are the law-enforcing machineries waiting for? Why are instructions from the Union Home Ministry not sent immediately to the states to book the criminals? What happens to the juridical process and how soon should the process be carried to logical conclusions? In a recent sting carried out by a channel, I saw the culprits clearly declared they belong to sister organisations of the ruling party. In most cases, not only an action would not follow, it is seen life continues pretty much as usual. So when certain leaders cry hoarse in support of people lynching people statedly consuming beef, earlier than any action against culprits, cases are booked against the victim’s family itself, purportedly for defying certain “bans.” Similarly, there has been no action against people in high positions having publicly made most objectionable and divisive remarks pitting people against people.
I think a lot depends on actions and not mere intentions. Dossiers would help restore people’s confidence only if followed up with visible action. Since no action is ever taken, the possibilities of relapse of the disease are sure and certain.
The inferences which follow: Unless there is swift visible action, a crisis of confidence is bound to build up. People are certain to take the closest inferences possible. In the latest case of the admonishments of “a few” of these perpetrators who have “opened shops” merchandising hatred, some quarters are not at all relying on the sincerity of the emotional appeal made so very eloquently by the Prime Minister. Some of them are vocally of the view that the outburst should not be read much into. The realignment of Dalits and minorities in Gujarat and UP, in fact, sparked the reactions. I remember Jyoti Basu in his later years once in our Bengal chamber was passionately exhorting workmen to shun frequent agitations and that same evening we nearly missed our flight when Basu himself was leading a huge agitation, blocking all roads. I overheard a trade union leader remarking, “All that Jyoti Babu says at management events, he doesn’t really mean.”
In conclusion: We are in thresholds of quantum growth. We have a distinct economic agenda ahead of us. We must act and act decisively. We cannot as a nation afford to be a silent spectator to these short-sighted, unthoughtful acts of a handful. The prime need has to be that of honesty; honesty of intentions and honesty of actions and with speed.