An RSS ideologue, who represents the organisation in national television debates and who used to contribute to the newspaper where I worked those days, came home with his wife and young daughter to wish us on Christmas. I was very happy to receive the family.
My wife did not know about his political affiliation. Nor did I find it pertinent to tell her about it. In fact, I have friends in all political parties. In the course of her conversation with his daughter, she asked her: “Do you know whose birthday is today?” She answered without batting her eyelid, “Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s”. She was absolutely right but the answer my wife expected was quite different.
Had she been taught that Vajpayee was born on Christmas Day, she would have been more well-informed. She could have even been told that some Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus in January because they followed the lunar, not the solar, calendar. The point to be noted is that it is pointless to blame his daughter who, I hope, has her own children who know the significance of various festivals in India, if not the world.
I remembered this incident in the context of the utterly foolish statements Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb has been making. It is pointless to blame him. Why was he chosen for the post of Chief Minister? It was not because of his proven ability to administer the state or because of his extraordinary abilities as a public figure.
He was selected because he is a dyed-in-the-wool RSS faithful, who breathes Hindutva. Because he was not a public figure and had been addressing only RSS members, the media did not find it necessary to report him. Now things have changed, as he is the Chief Minister of a state which the CPM had ruled continuously for a quarter of a century.
Like my three-year-old grandson who repeats what we tell him, Deb has been repeating what he studied in the RSS shakhas. So when he says that the Internet and satellite-based communication existed during the Mahabharata days, he is just repeating what he was taught that all the wisdom in the world originated in India.
When Deb asks how else could visionary narrator Sanjaya have given a graphic description of the Mahabharata war to the blind king Dhritarashtra, it is a pointer to the upbringing he had. Again, he should not be blamed when he praises Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and says Diana Hayden did not deserve the Miss World title she won decades ago.
The sari-clad Aishwarya who, as reports said, was married, first, to a tree before she was married to Abhishek Bachchan to end her Manglik Dosh, is the ideal Bharatiya Nari, unlike Hayden who prefers trousers and has a mind of her own. Again, it is his ignorance that Deb exposes when he says that Rabindranath Tagore returned the Nobel medal in protest against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. What he returned was the Knighthood he received from the British.
The chief minister is such a simpleton that he believes that only civil, not electric and electronic, engineers should join the civil services. But, then, why single out Deb? There are innumerable characters in the Sangh Parivar now holding high positions who have such beliefs.
We had a High Court judge who considered it his duty to give his last verdict extolling the virtues of cow worship. He was the one who said peacocks did not reproduce through copulation, unlike all other creatures. We do not know what kind of education he had but we can certainly imagine what kind of judgements he delivered.
There is a Union minister who believes that Darwin’s theory should not be taught in schools and colleges. Left to himself, he would like students to be taught about Purusha, the cosmic man whose sacrifice by the gods created all life. Yet another advised all brothers and sisters to sleep in separate rooms once they crossed a certain age, forgetting that there are tens of millions of people who live in one-room accommodation.
Then there was another who said that all problems arose because girls were not married off at a young age and the parents had to wait till they reached the marriageable age. Yet another advised all girls not to become friendly with any boys for it could lead to undesirable love marriages.
There were reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had warned the likes of Deb not to make statements that brought ridicule to the party. He was even reported to have been ticked off by the PM. However, what qualification does Modi have to take the moral high ground? Unlike any other person in the country, he has a large reservoir of resources to help him read, speak and write. Yet, how does he make use of them?
Nobody would have questioned Modi if he had said that Ganesha was the remover of all obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the God of intellect and wisdom. Such beliefs are a matter of faith. If one questions it, one will also have to question the concept of Immaculate Conception.
Instead, he told a distinguished gathering of scientists in Mumbai, “We all read about Karna in the Mahabharata. If we think a little more, we realise that the Mahabharata says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother’s womb.”
He continued in the same vein, “We worship Lord Ganesha. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery.”
In doing so, Modi became a laughing stock. He is not an ordinary person. He has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution at all times and the Constitution specifically enjoins upon him to uphold the scientific temper. Alas, he wears his religion on his sleeves and does not mind wasting public resources to visit temple after temple, godman after godman and god-woman after god-woman.
In one election in Gujarat, he campaigned against Mian Musharraf as if the then Pakistan President was his rival in the state. He did it with a purpose. When he realised that in the last elections in Gujarat, the BJP was losing ground, he even made baseless personal accusations against his predecessor. No Prime Minister ever did that!
He did everything possible to vitiate the atmosphere and, thereby, snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat. In the ongoing elections in Karnataka, he did the same thing. Instead of recounting the electoral promises he fulfilled since he came to power in 2014, he was digging into history to find fault with Congress leaders. Alas, the history books he referred to appeared to have been written by some RSS pracharak.
He thunderously asked whether any Congress leader had visited martyr Bhagat Singh while he was in prison. He would have done better to give the dates on which RSS founder KB Hedgewar and his deputy and successor MS Golwalkar had visited the martyr before he was hanged in 1931. Little does Modi know that Bhagat Singh was a Leftist and atheist whose preferred slogan was Inquilab Zindabad, not “Jai Shri Ram.”
The BJP is one party which does not have any leaders who took part in the freedom struggle. It, therefore, borrowed Sardar Patel from the Congress, although he was born a Congressman, lived a Congressman and died a Congressman.
However, it has one leader who played a questionable role in the Quit India movement. Incidentally, the RSS never raised its lathi against the British. In fact, it wanted the British to rule for some more time in its own partisan interest. While thousands of freedom fighters sent to the Andamans by the British perished in the cellular jails there, the one who sought clemency from the British was described as Veer. The airport at Port Blair is named after the Veer who promised good conduct to the British. His portrait also hangs in the Parliament premises!
Modi is thrilled to have anything and everything to berate the first Prime Minister. That is how in Karnataka, he chose two Kannadiga names — those of Field Marshal Cariappa and General Thimmayya — to attack Nehru and VK Krishna Menon. Modi does not know that Thimmayya was never given the rank of Field Marshal.
True, there were petty differences between the two Generals and the government of the day. The fact is that at one stage, Thimmayya submitted his resignation but he was persuaded to stay on and he retired honourably from service. Not only that, he found a post-retirement job and died in action in Cyprus.
As regards Kodandera M Cariappa, who took charge of the Indian Army from its last British Commander in Chief, General Sir Roy Bucher, in 1949, was after his retirement from service appointed as Indian High Commissioner in Australia and New Zealand. True, he did not like VK Krishna Menon against whom he contested in North Bombay parliamentary constituency. I could not confirm whether Cariappa could save his security deposit.
How am I supposed to know when Cariappa retired from service in the year I was born? The point is, did it matter to the people of Karnataka whether Nehru had some differences of opinion with two Army generals. Unlike Modi who reads out what others write for him, Nehru wrote two books, Discovery of India and Glimpses of World History, while he was in jail where he did not have much access to many books.
True, these books contain some errors as found out by a professor at St.Thomas College, Kozhencherry. I remember the reception accorded to the professor when he got his Ph.D. The chief guest on the occasion was Yuhanon Mar Thoma. His thesis was on the errors and mistakes in Nehru’s books. Whatever be the mistakes, the books bear out the greatness of Nehru as a historian, scholar and writer, something which Modi can only dream of.
That is why he came up with such theories that Nehru insulted two Kannadiga icons. While there is no such evidence of “insult”, Modi would have done better if he had explained why Vajpayee and his defence minister George Fernandes found it necessary to sack the Navy chief Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat. While Nehru did not accept Thimmayya’s resignation and persuaded him to stay on and retire gracefully, Bhagwat was served the sack order one fine morning when he reached office. Who comes out as more honourable in the comparison?
Modi is so egoistic that if anybody criticises him, he sees it as an attack on Gujarat. In his simple way of thinking, Nehru’s criticism of Thimmayya of Cariappa, if any, was an attack on Karnataka. In that case, Modi’s attack on Krishna Menon was an attack on Kerala. What a pity that we have a prime minister who sees everything with his jaundiced eyes and finds it yellowish!
Alas, his government believes in creating controversies even where none exist. For instance, the recent controversy about the national film awards was totally unwarranted.
Even Presidents elder to the incumbent president did not break the tradition of handing over the President’s medals to all the winners of the national film awards. Why was an exception made this year that the President would give medals only to a few and the rest would be given by minister Smriti Irani.
It was a minor issue which could have been settled if the President had magnanimously agreed to spend a few more minutes and handed over the medals to one and all or if the government had informed the winners that the medals would be handed over to them by the minister and not the President.
I remember how much the lovers of Malayalam cinema valued the President’s Medal that the film Chemmeen, directed by Ramu Kariatt, won. For many, it is a lifetime opportunity to receive an award from the President and it is not proper to blame them if they protested against devaluing the medal.
Alas, this government believes in creating controversies. How else can one react to the hullabaloo being created over the portrait of Mohammed Ali Jinnah in AMU? Long before Jinnah advocated the two-nation theory, it was propounded by Savarkar. A few years ago, senior BJP leader LK Advani quoted Jinnah’s speech to claim that he was indeed a secular person.
Modi and Co think that controversies, especially those related to Muslims and other minorities, keep them alive. That is why someone like Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar wants Muslims to offer namaz only inside the mosques, forgetting that RSS shakhas are invariably held in public places. One rule for them and another rule for others. That is India under Narendra Modi!
(Published on 14th May 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 20)