Daily Archives: June 13, 2011
The Congress – Government face-off that is now publicly evident in the
manner in which Baba Ramdev was received by 4 ministers at the instance of
the Prime Minister and invited for negotiations at Claridges Hotel – only to
be followed by the volte face of Police atrocity against 50000 innocent
citizens at Ramlila Maidan in the dead of night of June 4.
Some points occurred to me and I am sharing my thoughts aloud. This follows
articles by me (Sandhya), Smt Nancy Kaul and Smt Radha Rajan on this subject
at www.vijayvaani.com <http://www.vijayvaani.com/> and subsequent exchanges
with friends. Setting aside all emotions, I personally feel that the episode
– Whatever overt power she may still exercise over Congress and
Government, Sonia Gandhi is on a weak wicket, which is getting weaker,
though this may not be readily apparent as yet
– In fact, Sonia Gandhi may derive more power from the pusillanimity
of the BJP and some RSS ‘thekedars’ who primed Baba Ramdev to lead a
movement that was destined to be aborted [by them, for her] and thus help
Sonia to maintain her stranglehold over the Government via the NAC and the
Anna Hazare-Lokpal agenda – except that that is moving towards utter failure
– Sonia Gandhi’s Western support base has fractured and she knows
it, which is why she is desperate to ram Rahul Gandhi into the PM post, but
this desperation is making her and Rahul make costly mistakes [like Muslims
are surely going to perk up to the fact that Christian surrogates are being
primed for the post, and they will let their resentment show in some way.]
– The political establishment in London and Washington can see that
she is politically in the ‘diminishing returns’ mode and that Rahul is a
non-starter. So they are unlikely to invest energy in her. Just as they
dumped the unpopular Mubarak so that they could stay put behind the scenes
in Egypt, so they will not give momentum to her fight with Manmohan Singh
and the sections of Government and Bureaucracy that are uncomfortable with
Sonia and her behaviour.
– That leaves Sonia Gandhi with only the Church (Vatican and all the
rest) and their approach is muscular and aggressive, as if India is Latin
America, and this mistake will prove costly for her.
– Sonia is left with very poor allies who determine her agenda in
public [because she does not speak so as not to commit herself to a position
from which she may need to resile later; ditto for Rahul Gandhi]. These are
Digvijay Singh [who never recovered from the shock of his defeat in MP],
Anil Shastri who attacks her enemies via the Congress mouthpiece, and Kapil
Sibal who is actually a lawyer and not a politician. There is not a single
Congress stalwart batting on behalf of Sonia Gandhi today, and hence she is
not going very far. Pranab Mukherjee, who is the Government troubleshooter,
quietly slunk away when he realised the agenda has shifted from Government
to Congress/Sonia, and that should tell us a lot. Even P Chidambaram is
keeping a low profile.
These are my random thoughts on the events of the past week, and I just
wanted to put them across.
Published: Friday, May 6, 2011, 2:21 IST
By Francois Gautier | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
One hopes that the people of India are not blind to the utter cynicism of some of its politicians. The way they are efficiently and ruthlessly killing the whole Lokpal movement with the help of deceit and slander is frightening. All the while, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, whose party is not only the main recipient of corruption but has actually institutionalised it, throw decoys at us with declarations of ‘zero tolerance of corruption’.
It is funny how this government is hell bent in preserving what is corrupt, untruthful, inefficient – as symbolised by the deal they have made with Karunanidhi that they will not touch his family – and fanatic about destroying what is free of corruption and is prosperous.
Sonia has been on a personal vendetta against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for a long time. She had a useful tool in Teesta Setalvad, who, it is now discovered, has bribed witnesses, filed false affidavits, and committed repeated perjuries in court. Teesta’s usefulness is nearing an end as she may soon land up in jail, so the Congress has now found another willing tool in Gujarat police officer Sanjiv Bhatt to implicate Modi in the post-Godhra riots.
The government has subverted its investigative instruments such that the CBI goes after Modi even as it closes its eyes to the wrongs that chief ministers of the Congress or its allies, such as the DMK, are openly doing.
For example, the CBI requested the judiciary to drop the case against Jagdish Tytler, who was seen by innumerable witnesses leading mobs to murder Sikhs, while it is going all guns blazing against Modi, who at best was caught off guard when the riots in Gujarat broke out in 2002, or at the worst, delayed in calling the army. But did not Rajiv Gandhi do the same thing (“When a big tree falls, the earth shakes,” he had said) after his mother was murdered by her own bodyguards? Rajiv also delayed calling in the security forces.
It is illogical that the legal instruments of Indian democracy are used to pin down the CM of India’s most lawful, and prosperous and least corrupt state, which impresses even non-BJP tycoons such Ratan Tata, when a Lalu Prasad was allowed to loot Biharand keep it in the most desolate state because he was an ally.
Is it logical today that the Indian media only highlight the 2002 Gujarat riots, carefully omitting the fact that they were triggered by the horrifying murder of 57 Hindus, 36 of them innocent women and children, burnt in the Sabarmati Express? Riots of that intensity do not happen in a day; they are the result of long-term pent-up anger and a spark – like the killing of Hindus, whose only crime was that they believed that Ram was born in Ayodhya.
It is widely known that the dreaded Khalistan movement in Punjab was quelled in the ’80’s by supercop KPS Gill in a ruthless manner by a number of ‘fake encounters’ that killed top Sikh separatists. This was done under a Congress government, both at the Centre and in Punjab. Rajiv was the PM then, but he was never indicted. This is so because terrorists have no law and they kill innocent people; and sometimes ruthless methods have to be used against them.
Why is Sonia going so single-mindedly against Modi? Because, he seems to be the only alternative to her son Rahul Gandhi becoming prime minister in the next general elections. We should give credit to Sonia for her cunning and ruthlessness.
It is no good being a Hindu in Sonia Gandhi’s India. It is better to be a Quattrocchi, who was exonerated by the CBI. Or a terrorist like Sohrabuddin from whose house in Madhya Pradesh 40 AK-47 rifles, and a number of live hand grenades and bullets were confiscated, who was declared “Wanted” in five states with 40 cases registered against him. Then you stand a chance to be protected by the government of India, while those who have at heart their country’s integrity go to jail.
Sonia has achieved such terrifying power, a glance of her, a silence, just being there, is enough for her inner circle to act; she has subverted so much of the instruments of Indian democracy and she controls such huge amounts of unlisted money that sooner or later this ‘karma’ may come back to her under one form or the other.
Yogi Sikand (in Rediff)
April 22, 2011 14:53 IST
The men behind the new party insist that it is not a Jamaat front, though critics argue otherwise, pointing out that the top-brass of the party are mostly senior Jamaat activists, reports Yogi Sikand
The floating of a new political party, styling itself the ‘Welfare Party of India’ [ Images ], by the Jamaat-e Islami Hind late last week has, predictably, set off a vigorous debate in Indian Muslim circles.
The men behind the party insist that it is not a Jamaat front, though critics argue otherwise, pointing out that the top-brass of the party are mostly senior Jamaat activists and that everyone knows that the party has been set up under the orders, and with the blessings, of the Jamaat top-brass. The party, for its part, explains its agenda in predictable terms: of promoting ‘genuine’ democracy, secularism, human rights, social justice and so on. The subtext that underlies its justification for its formation is that Indian Muslims have been denied justice by existing political parties, and so a new party is necessary to secure justice for them, in addition to other marginalised communities.
No sooner had the WPI been officially launched in New Delhi [ Images ] than Muslim supporters as well as critics began posting their comments on various, mainly Indian Muslim, websites, arguing for and against the party. Some, mostly members or sympathisers of the Jamaat, hailed the new party as a welcome development.
One such enthusiast praised the Jamaat as supposedly being a team of dedicated and sincere Muslims, and hoped that the new party would help bring ‘morals and ethics’ into the Indian political system where, he said, they were badly missing and sorely needed. He even opined that the WPI and its ‘value-based politics’ would be ‘a role- model for other political parties inIndia.’
Another supporter claimed that by setting up the WPI, the Jamaat was working for the broader ‘Islamic cause’ because, he claimed, echoing the Jamaat’s consistent line, ‘Islam is a complete way of life, with solutions to all problems, and it does not recognise any distinction between religion and politics.’ The WPI, he hoped, would help the Jamaat in its agenda of ‘establishing Islam’ or iqamat-e deen, in all spheres of Indian social life — possibly a subtle reference to working for the eventual formation of an Islamic State (on which the Jamaat’s understanding of Islam is based) in India.
Yet another ardent supporter welcomed the formation of the party by expressing the hope that it would consolidate Muslim votes acrossIndia, which would make Muslims a political force to reckon with, as a result of which other parties would no longer be able to ignore them or take them for granted. This, he argued, would be a powerful counter to forces that were bent on further marginalising Muslims.
The floating of the party was met with trenchant criticism by many other Muslims, however, who feared that it boded ill, rather than auguring well, for Indian Muslims. One such critic, who identified himself as a ‘Salafi’, thereby indicating his affiliation with Saudi-style Salafi Wahhabism, argued that by forming a party that would operate within the Indian system of democratic politics, the Jamaat had accepted democracy and, therefore, had turned its back on its original agenda of struggling to establish an Islamic caliphate in India. In doing so, he claimed, it had abandoned the vision of the Jamaat’s founder, Syed Abul Ala Maududi, who had been viscerally opposed to democracy as a man-made, and, therefore, ‘un-Islamic’, system. He warned the Jamaat that if truly wished to establish the caliphate, which considered an Islamic imperative, ‘it could not do so by remaining enslaved to the existing false and polytheistic political system.’
Criticism of the WPI on such supposedly ‘Islamic’ grounds seemed to be less of a concern for most other Muslim opponents of the party who commented on it on various websites and online discussion groups. Instead, many of them expressed the worry that by entering the field of electoral politics, the Jamaat would give a fillip to anti-Muslim Hindutva forces. If the WPI intended to consolidate Muslim votes, it was bound, they argued, to further widen existing antagonisms between Hindus and Muslims, which would only benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ] and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
An irate Munaf Zeena, an Indian Muslim based in London [ Images ], remarked that the WPI ‘seems destined to create a predictable onslaught on the Muslim community of India’, predicting that the party would also fail in its ambition to politically unite the Indian Muslims because most of them were not ideologically linked to the Jamaat. Instead of setting up ‘separate’ platforms like the WPI, which could only result in ‘chaos’, he sensibly urged that ‘all Indians should work together for the benefit of all.’
Another such commentator argued that the WPI would serve as ‘a boon and bonanza for the RSS’. He reminded the Indian Muslims of the advice given to them by Abul Kalam Azad soon after the Partition — to desist from setting up their own political party on the grounds that this would strengthen Hindu reactionary forces. Sadly, he said, the Jamaat leaders had ignored this sage advice, and he accused them of being politically illiterate. Rather that jumping into the political arena, he went on, Jamaat leaders should concentrate on promoting modern education among Muslims, including among themselves, which, he remarked, was woefully lacking.
Yet another critic, a certain Dr. Mookhi Amir Ali, likened the WPI to the BJP and opined that the two would have a symbiotic relationship with each other while posing a grave danger to secular, democratic and progressive forces. He scoffed at the claims of the WPI of being a ‘truly’ secular, and not an exclusively Muslim, party. Simply because one of its several vice-presidents was a Catholic priest who recited the Gayatri Mantra at the inauguration of the party, it did not make it secular, he insisted.
‘The Welfare Party of India, spawned from the Jamaat-e Islami Hind, reminds one of the BJP, the offspring of the mother RSS. Its Christian vice-president Father Abraham Joseph brings back memories of the BJP’s almost permanent vice-president, a Muslim Sikandar Bakht. When Ashok Singhal of the VHP hears of the Gayatri Mantra being chanted at the launch of the WPI, he will exclaim, “I am loving it!”‘ Mookhi caustically remarked.
In a similar vein, in a mail sent to members of the progressive Indian Muslim online discussion group, The Moderate Voice, a critic, calling himself simply ‘Ansari’, mocked the claims of the WPI of being genuinely committed to secularism, democracy and social justice. ‘”Welfare Party” by Jamaat-e Islami? Hahaha! Must be a joke,’ he scoffed.‘The main aim of the Jamaat is to establish an Islamic State in India on the lines of the caliphate. […] The Jamaat is a mirror image of the Hindutva parties. Let it first deny [this] claim before trying to fool people in the name of welfare.’
In a similar vein, a certain Dr Irfan Waheed, writing in NewAgeIslam.com, claimed that the WPI might give a boost to unwanted tendencies among Muslims, and that it might incline them even more towards conservatism, and even possibly extremism. ‘There is a possibility,’ he wrote, ‘that the rise of a right-wing Muslim political party like the WPI will give rise to radical Islamic thought and a rigid un-pluralistic outlook among the Muslims who have very successfully integrated themselves into the secular and cultural atmosphere of the country while retaining their religious identity.’
Dr Waheed also noted that the claims of the WPI of being genuinely committed to social justice could easily be questioned by its critics. For instance, he explained, the WPI would be unable to deny that the Jamaat’s ideological mentor, Syed Maududi, was on record as having declared that ‘he did not bother if the Hindus treat the Muslims of India worse that the mlechhas’ because ‘he was only bothered about making Pakistan an Islamic state at any cost.’
Further, he went on, the Jamaat could not deny that the Pakistani Jamaat-e Islami, then under Maududi, ‘not only extended ideological support to the Pakistani military’ in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation struggle, ‘but actually formed a militia whose members fought the Bengalis, killed and raped both Muslim and Hindu women and declared that no library in Bangladesh would have any book on secular topics either by Hindu writers or Muslim writers.’
In other words, what Dr Waheed seemed to suggest, the devastatingly stained record, as far as secularism, democracy and social justice were concerned, of the Jamaat’s own founder Syed Maududi rendered the Jamaat morally totally incapable of defending what it presented as the rationale for the floating of the WPI.
Challenging this view, a few commentators opined that the WPI would actually help promote moderation and act as a dampener to fringe extremist elements among Muslims, rather than promoting radicalism. Thus, a certain Ilyas Ameen pointed out that what he characterised as a radical Islamist outfit, the Popular Front of India, was spreading ‘like cancer’ across the country, and noted that this boded ill for Hindu-Muslim relations. He suggested that the Jamaat could act as a counter to the Popular Front, by weaning away Muslims who had been attracted by the Front’s rhetoric.
Another such critic, who chose to remain anonymous, said that because Muslims lacked an all-India party till now, ‘some extreme groups tried to fill the vacuum’, but this had ‘brought only humiliation’ to the Indian Muslims. Hence, he hoped, the Jamaat’s political party could help curb such radical tendencies.
Critics voiced their apprehensions about the WPI using other arguments, too. One anonymous commentator scoffed at the claims of the Jamaat of being sincerely committed to Muslim welfare by pointing out that it had done little, if at all, all these years for the social and economic development of the poor among the Muslims, accusing Jamaat leaders of being interested only in feathering their own nests.
‘Many of them have sent their children abroad, to the Gulf and even to the USA, where they live comfortably and have become exceedingly rich. That is a true measure of their supposed commitment to the plight of the Indian Muslims!’ he remarked. He further noted, ‘The Jamaat and WPI harp on democracy and secularism in India, where we Muslims are a minority, but they, like other Islamists, vehemently denounce secular democracy as anti-Islamic in Muslim-majority countries. Is this not hypocrisy? Why don’t they condemn the persecution of non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries, often in the name of Islam, if they are really sincere about social justice, which is what they claim the WPI will struggle for inIndia?’
Similarly, a certain Pervez Yusuf mocked the claims of the Jamaat, including the men behind the WPI, of being dedicated to the welfare of the Indian Muslims. ‘Their social work is only visible in ‘Abul Fazl Enclave’, he sarcastically remarked about the Jamaat, referring to the Muslim locality in New Delhi where the Jamaat has its national headquarters.
Questioning the Jamaat’s and WPI’s claims of disinterested community activism, he added, ‘They collect funds from Middle East,’ leaving it to readers to make of this not-so-cryptic statement what they wanted. Likewise, a certain Wajid caustically remarked that the leaders of the Jamaat were ‘intellectually corrupt, ambitious and power hungry’ and suggested that the WPI could hardly be expected to live up to its tall claims.
Other critics feared that far from consolidating Muslim votes and thereby empowering the Indian Muslims, as it claimed it would, the WPI would only further fragment the Muslim electorate. One anonymous critic pointed out that numerous Muslim parties in the past had failed, such as the maverick politician Syed Shahabuddin’s Insaf Party, the short-lived Ulema Council of India, the Tamil Nadu Muslim Makkal Katchi, and so on, and raised the possibility that the WPI could go the same way, too.
A certain Tahira Hasan suggested that the WPI might follow other such Muslim political parties, which, in her words, ‘just do not work for community’, but, instead, enter into pacts with ‘mainstream’ parties in order to promote the interests of their leaders. Such parties, she went on, ‘never raise voices against assaults on Muslims’, while ‘secular’ non-Muslims do so, thus suggesting that Muslims must look to the latter rather than the former for hope to secure justice for themselves.
Another such commentator, Zaheer Ali, opined that by entering into the political arena, the Jamaat would be forced to make ideological compromises, indicating, for instance, the recent support given to the CPI(M) by the Jamaat in Kerala [ Images ], although ideologically the Jamaat was vociferously opposed to Communism.
Several of these comments on the WPI, whether for or against, were hosted on okhlatimes.com, a website run byAsad, a young Muslim man based in Okhla, the same locality in New Delhi where the Jamaat has its national headquarters. In an article on the WPI hosted on the website, a commentator noted that from discussions about the party on Facebook, for instance, ‘it could be made out’ that the Jamaat ‘is fast losing its respectability.’ In another article on the WPI on the same website, tellingly titled, ‘All is Not Well With the Jamaat-e Islami Hind’, Asadhimself wrote:
‘Over the years, the JEIH [Jamaat] has undergone a sea change. Of late, it has built swanky offices in Abul Fazal Enclave, equipped with all the latest facilities. Also, its senior members don’t miss the opportunity to share a podium with powerful politicians. Most of the senior JEIH leaders have adjusted to the changing time well by giving up a frugal lifestyle. Will it also adapt to the Indian politics that is out-and-out corrupt?’
And that is a question that is troubling numerous Muslims concerned about the implications of the WPI for Indian Muslim politics.
A comment on a mail group:
Beware of nefarious ideology & its supporters, local as well as foreign based in their aims of “Breaking Hindusthan” Outsiders/enemies just need excuses to intervene similar to the way it is being played in Libya & other muslim countries. It is just a precursor of things to come, of course being furthered by evil, corrupt, anti-national congi-commie seculars on firengee payrolls.
Ramesh Khazanchi (Times of India)
10 June 2011, 09:20 PM IST
The ongoing crusade for probity in public life has brought into sharp focus the revulsion of Indian elite, not necessarily civil society, for anything remotely associated with the saffron shade of opinion. Historically, ethno-cultural India– as conceptually opposed to Western civil society — has its roots deeply embedded into the saffron soil.
And, saffron unambiguously means the mainstream nationalist Hindu India that draws its sustenance from those inhabiting the faraway hamlet to ones in the nearby urban cluster. The countryside India is as much part of the civil society as its urban counterpart.
Hence, by inference or by implication, civil society cannot be co-opted by the contemporary ‘westernized’ urban elite. Ironical as it were, the present-day ‘elected oligarchy’ is part of the same elite which is now exasperated by the institutionalized foul play of their chosen few.
Spewing venom at anything that looks or resembles saffron is tantamount to pitting one section of society against another and is fraught with dire consequences. And the Constitution expressly forbids it, too. The last thing one would expect at a time when the nation is at the threshold of an economic leap.
To stay in power by hook or by crook when it is under fire for constitutional impropriety on the issue of institutionalizing corruption, the government at the Centre is busy playing Nero’s fiddle. The monster it is trying to unleash will not only devour the present dispensation but may cost the nation dear.
By its anti-saffron rhetoric, the governing clique has precariously polarized Indian society on ethnic, cultural and religious faultlines that one shudders to think if this nation is slowly but surely treading the path to Balkanization.
The recent statements by ‘resident’ ministers of the ruling elite, associating saffron with — among other things — terrorism, constitute a sound legal basis for seeking the dismissal of the Union government on grounds of spreading disaffection among various sections of society.
In the guise of a rationalist, an analyst, an intellectual, an academic, a littérateur or even a scientist, the elite taunts all those who do not speak their dialect or do not follow their discourse as folksy, saffronised brutes.
Indian elite, if at all there is one, is anything but elitist. Sophistry, not sophistication, is its hallmark. More rustic it is than those whom it chides and derides as rustic. Crass by thought and crude by practice, it exhibits a cocoon mentality.
Perhaps, saffron for them is a taint worse than corruption.
22 August 2010, 10:01 AM IST
I was a MP not very long ago. I loved those six years. Everyone called me sir, not because of my age but because I was a MP. And even though I never travelled anywhere by train during those years, I revelled in the fact that I could have gone anywhere I liked, on any train, first class with a bogey reserved for my family. Whenever I flew, there were always people around to pick up my baggage, not because I was travelling business class but because I was a MP. And yes, whenever I wrote to any Government officer to help someone in need, it was done. No, not because I was a journalist but because I was a MP.
The job had many perquisites, apart from the tax free wage of Rs 4,000. Then the wages were suddenly quadrupled to Rs 16,000, with office expenses of Rs 20,000 and a constituency allowance of Rs 20,000 thrown in. I could borrow interest free money to buy a car, get my petrol paid, make as many free phone calls as I wanted. My home came free. So did the furniture, the electricity, the water, the gardeners, the plants. There were also allowances to wash curtains and sofa covers and a rather funny allowance of Rs 1,000 per day to attend Parliament, which I always thought was a MP’s job in the first place! And, O yes, we also got Rs 1 crore a year (now enhanced to Rs 2 crore) to spend on our constituencies. More enterprising MPs enjoyed many more perquisites best left to your imagination. While I was embarrassed being vastly overpaid for the job I was doing, they kept demanding more.
Today, out of 543 MPs in Lok Sabha, 315 are crorepatis. That’s 60%. 43 out of the 54 newly elected Rajya Sabha MPs are also millionaires. Their average declared assets are over Rs 25 crore each. That’s an awfully wealthy lot of people in whose hands we have vested out destiny. The assets of your average Lok Sabha MP have grown from Rs 1.86 crore in the last house to Rs 5.33 crore. That’s 200% more. And, as we all know, not all our MPs are known to always declare all their assets. Much of these exist in a colour not recognised by our tax laws. That’s fine, I guess. Being a MP gives you certain immunities, not all of them meant to be discussed in a public forum.
If you think it pays to be in the ruling party, you are dead right: 7 out of 10 MPs from the Congress are crorepatis. The BJP have 5. MPs from some of the smaller parties like SAD, TRS and JD (Secular) are all crorepatis while the NCP, DMK, RLD, BSP, Shiv Sena, National Conference and Samajwadi Party have more crorepatis than the 60% average. Only the CPM and the Trinamool, the two Bengal based parties, don’t field crorepatis. The CPM has 1crorepati out of 16 MPs; the Trinamool has 7 out of 19. This shows in the state-wise average. West Bengal and Kerala have few crorepati MPs while Punjab and Delhi have only crorepati MPs and Haryana narrowly misses out on this distinction with one MP, poor guy, who’s not a crorepati.
Do MPs become richer in office? Sure they do. Statistics show that the average assets of 304 MPs who contested in 2004 and then re-contested last year grew 300%. And, yes, we’re only talking about declared assets here. But then, we can’t complain. We are the ones who vote for the rich. Over 33% of those with assets above Rs 5 crore won the last elections while 99.5% of those with assets below Rs 10 lakhs lost! Apart from West Bengal and the North East, every other state voted for crorepati MPs. Haryana grabbed first place with its average MP worth Rs 18 crore. Andhra is not far behind at 16.
But no, this is not enough for our MPs. It’s not enough that they are rich, infinitely richer than those who they represent, and every term makes them even richer. It’s not enough that they openly perpetuate their families in power. It’s not enough that all their vulgar indulgences and more are paid for by you and me through back breaking taxes. It’s not enough that the number of days they actually work in Parliament are barely 60 in a year. The rest of the time goes in squabbling and ranting. Now they want a 500% pay hike and perquisites quadrupled. The Government, to buy peace, has already agreed to a 300% raise but that’s not good enough for our MPs. They want more, much more.
And no, I’m not even mentioning that 150 MPs elected last year have criminal cases against them, with 73 serious, very serious cases ranging from rape to murder. Do you really think these people deserve to earn 104 times what the average Indian earns?
This article from the Pioneer is one of the best articles that I have seen; it is precise, objective and thought provoking. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Gaurang G. Vaishnav
AGENDA | Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Email | Print | | Back
June 13, 2011 11:21:30 AM
The vengeance with which the UPA has gone after Baba Ramdev shows its Emergency-like streak. However, it must understand that Ramdev and Anna Hazare are legitimate representatives of a society disgusted with corruption in high places. The authorities can suppress their voices, but the vacuum it will create will be filled by more violent and assertive forces, warns Utpal Kumar
Indiais on the brink of a ‘revolution’. In fact, two revolutions. One unleashed by an ‘austere’ man in a white cap not many would prefer to wear today. And, the other by a saffron-clad yoga guru, who doesn’t believe sannyasis can’t indulge in politics. One is a Gandhian who can sit cross-legged for hours, and is the darling of the metropolitan literati and chatterati. The other teaches indigenous ways to keep oneself healthy and has an unassailable hold over the masses of what is romantically called ‘Middle India’. The two complement each other. But that’s not the way the political establishment and the mainstream English media see it.
This disconnect was evident on a train from Bihar toDelhia day after the midnight drama was enacted at Ramlila Maidan. “How can police beat up people, most of them women and children, who have come from faraway places to participate in a satyagraha? They were not at all violent, were they? Imagine their plight in an unknown city in the middle of the night,” said a co-passenger, aDelhiUniversitystudent whose father worked on a farmland inBihar. “This Government can allow a Hurriyat hardliner led by a pro-Maoist writer-cum-activist to script a separatist agenda in the Capital, but it can’t endure a peaceful protest against growing corruption in the country,” he added.
Soon, others joined the debate. One was an Army jawan, another a salesman, and yet another a bank employee — all truly representatives of what Mahatma Gandhi called the realIndia. The number increased, but the sentiment remained more or less the same: That the UPA has acted in a most undemocratic manner to quell the protest; that the Government wouldn’t have dared to come down highhandedly had the protesters been fromDelhi’s upper classes, as was the case with Anna Hazare’s agitation at Jantar Mantar not very long ago.
InDelhi, however, one witnessed an altogether different political discourse, with focus not much on the issue of corruption and the Government’s crackdown on innocent people, but on whether the Baba was at all the right person to hold any such agitation. The central-peripheral divide never looked sharper. The media, too, wasn’t spared: While the English news channels — either cut-off from the realities of sub-urban India or owing to their compulsions to cater to their elite and upper middle class audience for whom the Baba and his followers were just another “funny characters” — toed the Government line, focussing on the alleged misdeeds of Ramdev and his colleagues. It seemed they blindly followed Congress leader Digvijay Singh’s Baba’s-a-thug line. In the process, they forgot to ask a few tough questions: How could the Government suddenly stumble upon so much evidence against the yoga guru? Does it mean that it keeps such evidences as an arm-twisting tool against its opponents for more opportune times? If so, doesn’t it implicate the Government for being hypocritical on the issue of corruption? If the UPA was so sure about the Baba’s ill practices, why did it dispatch four ministers to receive him at theDelhiairport? And, if it was so uneasy about his saffron links, why did it entertain him for hours at a five-star hotel inDelhi?
The Hindi news channels, in contrast, showcased a slightly more realistic picture of how the country was reacting to the Government’s midnight crackdown at Ramlila Maidan. Perhaps, because their TRPs are determined by the masses in small towns and villages!
ANNA VERSUS RAMDEV
Hazare may have inspired a large section of the metropolitan population into expressing concern over the culture of corruption, but the burgeoning small towns and villages remained mostly untouched by the Anna phenomenon. That is where Ramdev’s role comes into play, as any fight against corruption can’t succeed without the support of Middle India.
Ironically, those who welcomed Hazare’s call to clean the system are today circumspect about Ramdev. Not very long ago, it was a field day for celebrities — from Aamir Khan to Kabir Bedi — to show their solidarity with the Gandhian movement at Jantar Mantar. On Ramdev, however, the response has been plain disdainful. Salman Khan quipped, “Why is he going on a hunger strike? Isn’t he a yogi teaching yoga?” As for Shah Rukh Khan, he discovered “an agenda” in the Baba’s agitation!
The literati’s love for Hazare is both understandable and enigmatic. It’s understandable because this class detests everything mass-oriented and accepts anything coming from the media. And, Hazare is largely a media construct. If a magazine report is to be believed, about 15 years ago, when Hazare went on a fast to protest against corruption in the then Maharashtra Government, a group of reporters from the vernacular press virtually became his publicity agents. Facts were twisted, and numbers inflated to provide legitimacy to his movement. A week into the fast, when these fellow reporters told Hazare that they couldn’t sustain the movement any longer, the Gandhian wilfully relented to call it off on a Sunday. Here, again, there was a problem: On the proposed day, local elections were to be held in the State, an event that would obviously hog all the limelight. Hazare right away shifted his programme to Monday!
It’s enigmatic because there’s more about Hazare that should disorient the educated, elite class. Going by the way he runs a village in Maharashtra, he cannot be called ‘democratic’ by any means: He prefers the hands of a thief to be chopped off; he wants anyone found drinking to be tied to a pole and publicly flogged; he believes in rigid implementation of family planning, including forced vasectomies; and, he advocates the corrupt be hanged to death!
Maybe Hazare is acceptable because he doesn’t seem to threaten the status quoist upper middle class dreams. He just wants cosmetic changes at the top — bring the Lok Pal Bill and all’s well! It must be understood that while the upper middle class has the right to be disgusted with corruption, it is also a major beneficiary of the malaise. After all, despite it raising this issue, it is primarily this class that gets the maximum benefits from the bribes MNCs pay to politicians to create a hurdle-free economic milieu. Bribes, in a way, are needed for ‘swift’ economic development in the country where governance isn’t truly efficient. It is a way of buying efficiency, as a bureaucrat working in the Finance Ministry said.
Today’sBiharis the best example of this trend. People in the State complain that with development, bureaucratic corruption has touched new heights. “Pahle jo kaam pachas rupaye mein hota tha, ab 5,000 mein bhi nahin hota (Earlier a work could be done in Rs 50, but today even Rs 5,000 is not enough),” said a schoolteacher in a northeastern district of Bihar. Yet, people seem content as the State has never witnessed such unprecedented flow of money. “Everyone is getting richer here. Lifestyle has improved. So, people doesn’t mind paying bribes to get their work done in the State,” said a Patna-based businessman. Some, including a Patna Women’s College professor, however, believe the Nitish Government should curb this malaise before it actually gets institutionalised.
The upper middle class, therefore, isn’t quite the victim of corruption as it pretends to be. Instead, it is the beneficiary of the system, however corrupt it may be. The real victims are the ones that have been left out or are on the fringes of the emerging economy. The Baba represents this section of Indian society. And, it’s for this reason that his movement needs to be welcomed, and not derided.
What’s further bolstering Ramdev’s case is that unlike other gurus, he is not “foreign-imported”, as one of his ardent followers says. He first strengthened his network in the country, and it was only in 2006 that he made his first trip abroad. No wonder, his worldview is rural-oriented, and he wants technical courses to be taught in the mother language. It’s, therefore, hardly a surprise that his politico-economic ideas became an instant hit among rural Indians, left behind in the race for economic prosperity by the English-speaking elite. What helped him strike a chord was a daily TV show being aired on the Aastha channel since 2005.
BLAME THE GOVERNMENT
Ramdev is as much the product of skewed globalisation as he is of the failure of our political leadership to deliver. After all, today we face the possibility of a political movement led by a yoga guru simply because our political leadership has failed us. Had Suresh Kalmadi been forced to resign when the Commonwealth shames first surfaced, the scandal would have died a natural death! Had A Raja been removed from his office the moment bad press appeared against him, the 2G scandal would have lost much of its sting! Nothing of the sort happened, hence the full-throated demand for a ‘systemic change’. Hence the emergence of a Baba and a Gandhian!
Well into its second term, the UPA seems both rudderless and directionless. So is Manmohan Singh. This was a man who gave his Government “six on 10” in a report card in 2005, one year after he became Prime Minister. People then thought he was being modest. Six years down the line, post several mind-boggling financial irregularities, Singh is neither modest, nor he pretends to be the one; he arbitrarily gives his Government “seven out of 10”. He puts the entire blame on coalition politics. For him, the DMK should be solely blamed for the 2G scam! And, Sharad Pawar’s NCP should be responsible for food inflation!
Such excuses would have worked well during the UPA-I regime when the Congress had 145 seats, but not in 2009, when the party is just 66 seats short of an absolute majority of 272. No ruling party has been so ‘secure’ in the Lok Sabha since 1991. But then the humility of 2005 has given way to the arrogance of 2011. And, it was this arrogance that was seen at Ramlila Maidan early this month.
The vengeance with which the Government is going after the Baba shows its Emergency-like streak. The powers-that-be must understand that Ramdev and Hazare are two sides of the same coin. Inventing cases of corruption against those who are asking tough questions would make people cynical and force them to take recourse to more extreme measures. Look what’s happening inWest Asia! Who would have imagined six months ago that the Arab world would be in such a state of turmoil, as it is now? Hazare and Ramdev are for the good of the Government: They are its safety valve.
COMMENTS BOARD ::
Truth about India’s flaky economy.
By K P Ganesh on 6/12/2011 8:40:42 PM
I wish readers of this article to google for DEBATE ON GATT a wonderful speech given way back in 1994 by Sri. S Gurumurthy on how India’s quest for globalization has resulted in this kind of catastrophic effect, marginalizing the so called middle India who are working thrice as hard to keep India afloat, compared to their urban dwelling brothers and sisters.
By Ramesh on 6/12/2011 3:57:47 PM
UPA is waiting for a West Asia-like situation to happen in this country.
literarti and Hazare
By SM Singh on 6/12/2011 3:32:10 PM
Really loved this line of yours: “The literati’s love for Hazare is both understandable and enigmatic. It’s understandable because this class detests everything mass-oriented and accepts anything coming from the media. And, Hazare is largely a media construct.” Great piece.
By Raj on 6/12/2011 12:14:49 PM
Good that swamiji today ended his fast. However, this has exposed how insensitive the rulers are.
By abhinav kumar on 6/12/2011 10:57:46 AM
A true and an excellent peice of an article!!! well done u have presented the true picture.
THE BABA POLITICS
By Hare Ram on 6/12/2011 9:21:59 AM
Very well written. This is a first positive article ever read on media about Baba. Seems like all other medias joined Congress. I don’t care how much money Baba made but all the issues he raised are legitimate. I don’t think he cheated any one.
More leaders needed
By Rahul on 6/12/2011 8:15:32 AM
Lessons from the freedom movement is (particularly after Gandhiji’s 1915 India arrival), do not allow the rulers to highlight only one or two netas with whom they are comfortable with and undermine other Leaders of the movement. Bapu and hon J Nehru were the two netas overshadowing others during the transfer of power in 1947 and the bloody partition of the Country. A similar pattern of Hazare undermining all other leaders of the anti corruption movement must be prevented from developing.
A Million Revolutions In a Wounded Civilization
By Maheswar inKathmanduon 6/12/2011 7:14:26 AM
V S Naipaul astutely foresaw the million revolutions bubbling, all overIndia, having first viewed it as a wounded civilization. All these revolts and wounds are now surfacing as the voice of the ‘real’India, the vast new middle class that barely earn $2-4 per day, who are vulnerable to the downswings of globalization, its inequities and immoralities. They want modernity with their traditional identities in place; not be caricatures of the West as are the upper middle classes.
The truth few in India Know.
By sadia on 6/12/2011 4:12:22 AM
Indialost its independent status the day an illiterate but KGB trained honey trap appeared in Rajiv’s life. Then she lined up a job for being an interpreter of RAW with Italian secret service. She had already converted Rajiv from Muslim to Roberto to marry her.She brought Italian Mafia in form of Quotrocchi. Rajiv already had started receving money from Soviet government in swiss Bank. When Rajiv threatened to divorce her Quotrocchi met Prabhakaran to sort problem out.
The BABA politics
By panchali on 6/12/2011 12:59:36 AM
Very well commented. I totally agree with you that the UPA’s mistreatment of Baba Ramdev is going to backfire on the Government big time. I also liked you Anna versus Baba comparision. But the best was the safety valve theory.
Thank God for this article
By Soumya Dutta on 6/12/2011 12:45:25 AM
I was losing belief completely and truly in the Indian print media when the involuntary death of MF Hussain was being given greater preference to the well meaning and fully voluntary fast undertaken by Ramdev. It is a shame that the media derides the yoga guru who has today undertaken a fast to cleanse the system of its 60 years-old evil by petty journalism. Having said and that and then having read this article, I firmly believe not everything has been lost.
June 13, 2011 10:52:12 AM
Whenever politicians are caught with their hand in the till they cry foul and claim innocence. M Karunanidhi’s defence of Kanimozhi demonstrates this point.
The paterfamilias of the first family of the DMK which was routed in the recent Assembly election, has said that his daughter Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP who is in jail for her alleged role in the 2G Spectrum scandal, has been imprisoned “either because of an instruction from the Centre or due to the negligence of the Centre”. Earlier, Mr M Karunanidhi, had also said that “bad friendship” would end in trouble.
According to the CBI’s chargesheet, Kanimozhi was arrested along with the managing director of Kalaignar TV for allegedly receiving `200 crore in the 2G Spectrum allocation scam. Mr Karunanidhi, however, claimed that the investigating agency had arrested his daughter as it needed someone to take the blame.
Having seen the CBI work from close quarters, I know for a fact that whenever a politician involved in a scam or a scandal is arrested, the standard response is that he or she has been falsely implicated and that it is a part of vendetta against an innocent person. I have also noticed that politicians and the truth rarely go hand-in-hand. Moreover, if the politician has held a position of power, his or her approach has generally been to loot as much as possible as if there is no tomorrow and he or she would never be held accountable.
In this context, I am reminded of a dialogue between dharma and the eldest Pandav brother, Yudhisthir. dharma asked Yudhisthir, “What is the biggest wonder of the world?” Yudhisthir replied, “The biggest wonder of the world is that people should see others dying and still somehow believe that death will bypass them.” In other words, people tend to forget that nature too works along Newton’s Third Principle: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
In the name of coalition dharma, partners in a coalition tend to become law unto themselves. Minority partners hold the majority party at gunpoint and the latter conveniently looks away so that they may all continue to remain in power. Yet, no dharma permits such adharma that allows the evil of corruption to thrive. In our country, the laws have been so framed that any investigation may be strangled by the Government at any step.
For example, according to the CVC Act the CBI cannot start any investigation against any officer of the level of Joint Secretary and above, which would include Ministers, without the Government’s sanction that can come only after the matter has been investigated. Thus, the CBI or any anti-corruption agency is left to deal with peons and clerks or junior officials at best, when everybody knows that the rot starts at the top.
The UPA Government went all out to save former Telecommunications Minister A Raja for nearly14 months, till such time the Supreme Court took over the monitoring of investigations into the 2G Spectrum scam. Only after that was A Raja arrested and a case registered against him. Three months later, Kanimozhi was also put behind bars. Now, the politicians are making a fine distinction between what is moral and what is legal as a subterfuge to escape punishment for their crimes. The Government, of course, is still doing its best to save the thieves and robbers, especially if they happen to belong to the ruling alliance. The only barrier that stands in its way is the judiciary.
This is not the case only in India; it is the same the world over. The famous American journalist Frank I Cobb once said about the US what is now equally applicable to India: “If the author of the Declaration of Independence were to utter such a sentiment today, the Post Office Department could exclude him from the mail, grand juries could indict him for sedition and criminal syndicalism, legislative committees could seize his private papers … and United States Senators would be clamouring for his deportation that he… should be sent back to live with the rest of the terrorists.”
The system today continues to be unjust to the masses with the result that people with lots of money and the ability to afford expensive lawyers often go unpunished. Regarding the Government’s indifference to the criminal justice system, the Supreme Court recently said, “The criminal justice system has been destroyed by the Government. They are not providing (adequate) funds to the police and the courts.” The observation only proves that the Government has actually done more than enough to bail out criminals, contrary to what Mr Karunanidhi would like to believe.
Moreover, by ensuring that the CBI remains under-staffed and hamstrung, the Government has significantly weakened its main anti-corruption agency as well. According to the CBI’s data, some 915 posts at the executive officers level — these include positions for Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors, Deputy Superintendents of Police, Superintendents of Police, Deputy Inspectors-General, Additional and Special Directors, Law Officers — are currently vacant. Hence, Mr Karunanidhi’s charge that the Union Government has not done enough to save his daughter does not stand up to scrutiny.
The only reason why Kanimozhi is in jail is because her case is being directly monitored by the Supreme Court. Once a case comes under the scrutiny of the judiciary, the Government has no say and cannot even direct the CBI. However, the abuse and misuse of the police and other law enforcement agencies will continue unless they are given a constitutional status. But we can only dream about such things since no politician would like to place a noose around his or her own neck. The State Governments have not even implemented the September 2006 directives of the Supreme Court for minimum reforms within the police department.
Mr Karunanidhi’s statements thus reflect the mindset of today’s politicians who, like our erstwhile colonial rulers, are habituated to using the police as puppets to implement their wishes as was evident during the eviction of Baba Ramdev and his supporters from Delhi — they had gathered to protest against corruption and press their demand that the Government should bring back the black money stashed in safe havens abroad.
It is a fact that fighting corruption has never been on the agenda of any political party. Though there are some honest politicians, most others use black money to fund their election campaign. This is done with the explicit help of the Government. Therefore, it is the Government’s duty to ensure that everyone declares their source of income. But perhaps it is never going to happen. So anybody who leads a movement against black money and corruption would be doing a signal service.
Many people say that democracy does not work. Of course it works. But we are the ones who have to make it work.
Please watch this latest disclosure by Dr. Subramaniam Swamy
One comment on YouTube for Rahul Gandhi: Baap Ek Numbri, Beta Dus Numbari!
Source: Express buzz
12 Nov 2010 12:23:00 AM
Like Sonia Gandhi, I am a Westerner and a brought-up Christian. Like Sonia Gandhi, I have lived in India many years and I have adopted this country as my own.
But the comparison ends there. I did land in India with a certain amount of prejudices, clichés and false ideas, and I did think in the enthusiasm of my youth to become a missionary to bring back Indian ‘pagans’ to the ‘true god’. But the moment I stepped in India I felt that there was nothing much that I could give to India, rather it was India which was bestowing me. In fact in all my years here India has given me so much — professionally, spiritually, sentimentally. Most Westerners, who come here, still think they are here to ‘give’ something to a country, which, unconsciously of course, they think is lesser than theirs. It was true of the British, it was true of Mother Teresa, it is true of Sonia Gandhi.
It is a fact that Sonia brought discipline, order and cohesion into the Indian National Congress. But the amount of power that she, a person of foreign origin, an elected MP like hundreds of others, possesses should frighten her. All the television channels report without a blink that Maharashtra CM rushes to Delhi to meet Sonia Gandhi to plead for his life. But should not Chavan have gone to the prime minister first?
The CBI blatantly and shamelessly quashed all injunctions against Ottavio Quattrocchi and even allowed him to get away with billions of rupees which he had stolen from India. Yet, without batting an eyelid, and with the Indian media turning a blind eye, it goes ruthlessly after the chief minister of the most efficiently run state, the most corruption free. Today the Congress, with Sonia’s overt or silent consent, pays crores of rupees to buy MPs to topple non-Congress governments. Her governors shamelessly hijack democracy by twisting the law.
Are Indians aware that their country has entered a state of semi-autocracy where every important decision comes from a single individual residing in her fortress of 10 Janpath surrounded by dozens of security men, an empress of India? Do they know that the huge amounts of the scams, whether the 2G, the CWG, or the Adarsh housing society scam, do not go into politicians’ pockets (only a fraction), but to the coffers of the Congress for the next general elections, and more than anything to please Sonia Gandhi? Nobody seems to notice what is happening under the reign of Sonia Gandhi.
That an Arundhati Roy is allowed to preach secession in India, whereas on the other hand the Congress government has been going after the army, the last body in India to uphold the time-honoured values of the Kshatriyas — courage, honour, devotion to the Motherland. They alone today practise true secularism, never differentiating between a Muslim or Hindu soldier and who for a pittance daily give their lives to their country. First it was the attempt of a caste census, a divide-and-rule ploy if there is one; then there are the first signs that the government is thinking about thinning down the presence of the Indian army in the Kashmir valley, which will suit Pakistan perfectly. And now there is the Adarsh housing society scam in which the army officers, at the worst, were innocently dragged into it. We know now that it was the politicians of the Congress who benefited the most out of it.
It would be impossible in France, for example, to have a non-Christian tell a Hindu (who is a non-elected president or PM) to be the absolute ruler of the country behind the scenes, superseding even the PM. There are many capable people in the Congress. Why can’t a billion Indians find one of their own, who will understand the complexity and subtlety of India, to govern themselves? Not only that, but her very presence at the top has unleashed forces, visible and invisible that are detrimental to the country. There is nothing wrong in espousing the best of the values of the West — democracy, technological perfection, higher standards of living — but many of the institutions are crumbling in the West: two out of three marriages end in divorce, kids shoot each other, parents are not cared for in their old age, depression is rampant and Westerners are actually looking for answers elsewhere, in India notably.
One does not understand this craze to Westernise India at all costs, while discarding its ancient values. Sonia Gandhi should do well to remember that there still are 850 million Hindus in India, a billion worldwide and that whatever good inputs were brought by different invasions, it is the ancient values of spirituality behind Hinduism which have made India so special and which gives it today unique qualities making an Indian Christian different from an American Christian, or an Indian Muslim different from a Saudi Muslim. It is an insult to these tolerant Hindus to show United States President Barack Obama as his first input of the Indian capital the tomb of Humayun, a man who slaughtered Hindus in thousands, taking Hindu women and children as captives. He even subjected his elder brother Kamran to brutal torture, gauging his eyes out and pouring lemon into them.
The tragedy of India is that it was colonised for too long. And unlike China, it always looks to the West for a solution to its problems. Sonia Gandhi, whatever her qualities, is just an incarnation of that hangover, an empress of India in new clothes.
Source: Express buzz
22 Dec 2010 11:33:00 PM
The Indian media has begun even doubting Manmohan Singh’s integrity — mental, at least — as he must have been knowing for nearly two years that the Indian exchequer was defrauded of `1.76 lakh crores. But so far, Sonia Gandhi has been spared.
Yet, if you are an observer of Indian politics, as I have been, since I landed back in India in the early ’Sixties, you have to come to the conclusion that most of the funds of scams end up in the coffers of political parties, particularly of the Congress.
Today the DMK is taking the brunt of the blame, but actually political parties have been forced to follow suit after the grand old party of India’s independence, began using percentages allotted by foreign companies on mega deals, military and otherwise, to secretly fund its election campaigns and give freebies to poor villagers. Of course, Bofors was the first one of the big scams to be uncovered.
I remember in the mid-Eighties a Swiss radio colleague of mine from Radio Suisse Romande, telling me that Amitabh Bachchan’s brother, Ajitabh, (when the Bachchan family was still close to the Gandhis), was one of the first safe keepers of the kickbacks of the Swedish canon makers. Exposes of Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nhyeter further confirmed it, though Ajitabh went to court against them.
There is no doubt, further says my Swiss friend, that part of the Bofors money is still in Switzerland. Indeed, we are all waiting for the Swiss banks to reveal (under US pressure) the names of all the dictators, thieves, dishonest rulers of so many countries in the world, who have stashed their ill-gotten money in UBS bank or Credit Suisse.
Meanwhile, all roads seem to lead to Sonia Gandhi: she is the first Lady of India, although she is a simple MP like hundreds of others, the ultimate arbiter, and nothing of importance is decided without her caveat. The immense power she wields within the Congress cannot be only due to her charisma, of her having the Gandhi name or having brought cohesion in the Congress.
It is also, and perhaps mainly, because she holds the purse strings of tremendous amounts of money. These party funds are overt: all the foundations, Rajiv, Indira, Nehru, etc, which store thousands of crores; and covert, starting with the Bofors scam. Where are the secret bank accounts where the scam money is stored? Under whose names are they operated? How is the money brought back to India? Who will answer all these questions?
We know that Quattrochi, the man who could have spilt the beans, was shamelessly let off the hook, not only by the CBI which today is conducting — two years late — the investigation on the 2G scam, but also by the then law minister who is today the governor who pretends to be after corruption in Karnataka! Not only was Quattrochi spared, but was allowed to take the money he had looted from India and which was frozen in British banks, so that he would not talk.
Will Raja talk, if he is arrested, as it is rumoured? Surely he knows a lot of secrets, as some of the 2G, Adarsh CWG money, and other unknown scams, must also have gone into the Congress coffers. That is the question that the Congress leadership should debate instead of going after ‘Hindu terror’, a misnomer if there is one.
If you look at statistics for the last 1,000 years, it is Hindus who have been at the receiving end of terror — millions of them have died, including in Kashmir in the late ’Eighties, when Benazir Bhutto launched her ‘Azad Kashmir’ movement (I was there).
Yet Sonia Gandhi remains a mystery for many of us, even for me who has known her for a long time.
I found her quite likable when she was just Rajiv Gandhi’s (the pilot) spouse, a loving wife, who had adopted the Indian way of life; a good daughter -in-law: Indira Gandhi died on her lap on the way to the hospital, after being shot by her Sikh bodyguards; and more than everything, a good mother, who doted on her children and tried all her life to protect them.
I then knew that she had kept her Italian passport, even after taking the Indian nationality (India does not allow you to hold two passports), but I have met quite a few foreigners in Delhi who also retained their origin passports after having obtained the Indian one.
I myself toyed for some time with the idea of taking the Indian nationality, as I speak Hindi quite fluently, but it is too difficult to travel with an Indian passport. I do not mind also her remaining a Christian: after all, I am still one myself. Indeed, one of my Italian journalist friends told me that he prayed with her, along with Rajiv Gandhi, at a mass in Calicut with the bishop officiating — that is her private business.
But after her husband was blown to pieces by the LTTE, I observed a drastic change in her: she did not seem to trust anybody anymore, became aloof and suspicious. I also watched with dismay how the Congress leaders, some of them men and women of substance, whom I knew personally, applied pressure on her to enter politics for years.
Furthermore, I thought that in her fortress of Janpath, surrounded twenty-four hours by security, she gradually lost touch with the reality of India. Despite the fact that I met her a few times after Rajiv’s death, I thus took discreetly my distances with her. It is then that I came up with my famous phrase on Sonia, for which she never forgave me: “the moribund and leaderless Congress party has latched on to Sonia Gandhi who is Italian by birth and Roman Catholic by baptism”.