More than seven years ago, social media helped those who wanted to oust the United Progressive Alliance Government from office to organise what seemed to the naïve like unplanned instantaneous gathering of people to protest against corruption in high places. The gathering did not peter away after a few hours but went on for days, with more and more people visiting the venue.
The urge of several faceless people to join the bandwagon certainly helped those who pulled the strings from behind the scenes to skilfully portray an organised political movement meant to discredit the UPA Government as ‘people’s anger’.
For those gullible people who would even today like to believe that India Against Corruption was a ‘mass movement’, the June 28 protest at several venues in major Indian cities against the lynching of 15-year-old Junaid Khan provides ample proof of what really an unorganised people’s protest looks like.
The protest started by a woman film director, via her Facebook posting, lasted barely two hours and protesters dispersed peacefully from different venues. There was no fake Gandhi holding an indefinite hunger-strike, feasting on honey, nor a tent erected for leaders to hold forth. There was no threat to bring down the Government by using mob violence, nor an attempt to block traffic. There were no caps distributed that said “I’m Junaid” but just a few placards that distance oneself from the mindless violence perpetrated by mobs that have been thriving since Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed power at the Centre. There was no demand by protesters for an impractical legislation to curb violence, nor a promise to set things right if given a chance. A few little-known politicians showed up at a few venues but that was more to gain the goodwill of people who had gathered there for a humane cause.
‘Not In My Name’ may become a familiar term in a few middleclass homes for the next few weeks but the protest will not last or have any impact because there is no Opposition politician, party or group spearheading a movement. Politicians are busy with several things but most of them feel threatened by the establishment and have no confidence or courage to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A few who may have courage do not have a pan-India appeal or have their political careers shrouded in allegations of corruption.
The protest seemed to have made a little impact on Modi though. Long after Junaid was killed by a lynch mob, just in the same fashion as Pehlu Khan or Mohammed Akhlaq were, over ‘beef’, Modi emphasised on the need to protect cows while adding it was not okay to kill people to show ‘gau bhakti’. Until then he was busy with diplomatic stunts in Washington and other foreign capitals.
His unilateral hugging of Donald Trump, the President of the United States, displayed fake warmth to show to his minions back in India about the proximity he had with inarguably the most boorish President the US has seen till date. It may have been out of fear that trying a handshake could lead to a very ugly scene as both leaders have by now accomplished a few infamous handshakes.
Narendra Modi was shown tightly gripping British premier Theresa May’s and German Chancellor Angelina Merkel’s hands while greeting them recently. Last year, Modi gripped Prince William’s hands so hard that for a few minutes the royal right hand was left with an imprint of Modi’s fingers.
A good number of world leaders have come to realise how ill-mannered Trump is when it comes to even shaking hands. May was doubly unfortunate to have met the two in less than a year of her assumption of office and Trump has by now shown that he was not satisfied with just a tight grip but he could pull a person he was greeting suddenly and make the person lose balance.
Such stunts may cause mirth in a mimicry show but something that can have a devastating impact on diplomatic ties. After seeing Trump deal with Shinzo Abe of Japan, Canada’s Justin Trudeau and his own experience, French President Emmanuel Macron was ready for Trump when they met in Brussels. He later said his horizontal arm-wrestling with Donald Trump was a “moment of truth to show he would not make even symbolic concessions.”
To come back to the challenge that India faces from the lynch mob and those who encourage them, never before has India faced such a crisis. Even during Emergency, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to curb basic rights and imprison all known Opposition leaders of calibre to carry on with her dictatorial regime. Today, there is no need for any such thing as there is no leader in the Opposition who has the wherewithal to take on Modi. The party that is best positioned to take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is the Congress that spearheaded the freedom movement and administered the nation for 55 of the 70 years after 1947.
And what is it doing? It has an ailing party chief who is trying to hold the party together till her overgrown child is in a position to take over as Congress President. To be fair to Sonia Gandhi, she wonderfully fulfilled her duties after she took over as the President of a party that was on the verge of demise in 1998. Between 1998 and 2004, she was labelled a ‘foreigner’ and a ‘reader’ who could not deliver a speech. But today, every political party and leader respects her for the way she helped her party rebuild itself. However, if there is one person who is not willing to learn her ‘management lessons’ it is her son Rahul Gandhi.
Junaid’s murder is not the only thing that has happened in the last few days: The US issued a statement that termed Jammu and Kashmir as ‘India administered Kashmir’ while Modi was in Washington; Beijing disallowed pilgrims to Kailash Manasarovar after the Indian Army stopped its workers constructing a road across the Bhutan border; Congress’ Bihar ally Nitish Kumar has got away after announcing his support for BJP’s Presidential candidate, though the Congress-led Opposition fielded Meira Kumar a woman Dalit from Bihar, a better qualified candidate for the contest. Any leader would have been busy taking the Government and treacherous allies to task but the man who should be challenging Modi is away on a long holiday in his maternal grandmother’s house, just like many school children. Don’t be surprised if Modi sends a ‘thank you’ tweet when the ‘boy’ returns to take over as Congress President.
( firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 03th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 27)