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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2040

Vigilantism Unlimited!

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

Vigilantism seems to have overtaken India. Self-appointed moralists and super patriots are finding it easier to prey upon targets on the streets, on campuses and even inside court rooms.

The custodians of law are content to watch ‘action’ from a safe –and respectful—distance from the custodians of our morality and patriotism. Blissfully unaware of the damage they do to the country and its image these storm troopers who apparently enjoy support from the high and mighty in the land have shifted the nation’s narrative from ‘development’ to more personal matters like what one thinks and eats to make them conform to what they preach. After all, at popular level it is easier to relate to these issues rather than high finance and sophisticated diplomacy.

Unnoticed by most people, the ‘new’ India that is being shaped up has almost wiped out the gap between the two South Asian neighbors, one of whom, the larger one, was admired for its secularism as well as democracy, despite all the flaws, while in the other the ingrained religion-based intolerance was reinforced with a culture of terrorism that had pervaded both the state and most of its population.

Indians were aghast when the murderer of a governor in Pakistan had overnight become a national hero and the lawyers who defended him were greeted with flower petals. The governor of the Punjab province was killed by his guard because he had questioned the misuse of the blasphemy law of his country. That was too much for the pious and patriotic citizens to stomach; the governor’s murderer was a natural hero in their eyes.

It was in some way no different from ‘lawmakers’ in Delhi—an elected member of the Delhi state assembly and some ‘lawyers’—were being hailed for what could be called their ‘patriotic duty’ of assaulting journalists. Instead of the shower of petals, these ‘super patriots’ received garlands from their supporters. These defenders of the ruling party and country’s morality had exhibited such brave acts as assaulting journalists, including female reporters, a university student accused of committing an ‘anti-national’ act by being present in an ‘event’ where ‘anti-India’ and ‘pro-Pakistan’ slogans were raised along with calls for ‘breaking’ India and condemnation of the hanging of an accused in terror attacks.

The audacity of the ‘hero’ of the garlanding crowd was enviable. Caught on camera he said that something to the effect that it was his patriotic duty to beat those who had raised ‘anti-India’ slogans and he had no qualms about it. ‘I’m like that only’, he said on TV screens, proudly claiming his fondness for taking law in his hands whenever he thought that the nation had been slighted.

A sight that incenses the ‘patriots’ most is ‘insulting’ the national tricolor. To make sure that the ‘Tiranga’ (national flag) is not dishonored because it is usually hung rather low, the union minister of human resource development (a fancy designation for the education minister with somewhat misleading if not boastful claims of a Yale degree) has now ordered that all central universities fly the national flag on masts that are over 200 ft. high.

It was a much needed—and delayed—reassurance from a government functionary because till a few years ago, for about 50 years, the ‘mother’ of the ruling party had refused to fly the tricolor at its HQ in Nagpur. The critics also tease the ‘mother’ as well as its many ‘daughters’ who are part of one ‘family’, about their reverence for a ‘historic’ German figure and also someone hanged (wrongly?!) for assassinating the Father of the Nation.

There can be no quarrel if a party, ruling or in the Opposition, decides to flaunt its badge of patriotism. Discomfort and differences arise over the definition of key words like ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’, how to mark a man or a woman ‘anti-national’ and can the ‘sedition’ charge be bandied about to silence the critics and dissenters.

The thought of ‘India shining’ pleases Indians, but now there is some worry on that score because an ‘event’ at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University campus has created the impression that the country’s integrity and sovereignty is under threat from crowds of young people mouthing ‘anti-India’/’anti-national’ slogans.

The government of the day, admirably aided by a section of TV anchors with exceptional lung power that drowns the voice of guests they invite on their ‘shows’, is busy whipping up public outcry against the ‘anti-nationals’ whose tribe would appear to be highly exaggerated. It is not in dispute that the overwhelming majority of the country’s 1.3 billion population is not ‘anti-national’; had it been so the crowd in the jails would have been spilling over to the streets. So, even if the spoilers’ number is small why allow them to disturb a beautiful symphony.

But it is also not in dispute that there exists a simple way to avoid the dreaded ‘anti-national’ charge (long prison term for infringement): become the Three Monkeys made famous by Mahatma Gandhi. ‘Hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil’. But what is the ‘evil’? Simple: Hail the Leader and his Party. That is a simple recipe for avoiding trouble from any quarter—the vigilante group as well as the law and order authorities where the retiring heads have to be particularly mindful of what they are not doing for a secure post-retirement job.

Under our Supreme Leader we have taken an incredibly long leap in less than two years; from all the deprivations, loot and backwardness of the last 65 years or so we have become a ‘shining’ nation where everyone is rushing in with cash and high technology. World leaders await the bear hug of our Leader who can throw his audience into raptures with ‘rocking’ performances in football stadia as well as huge public parks. He needs neither an accompanying band nor microphones; he has a stentorian voice that would have outshouted Sohrab Modi in the Bombay (now Mumbai) films of the 1940s.

Praise Be the Leader! Executive heads of states and high-flying sport administrators accused of wrong doings (obviously wrongly) can now live in peace. Allegations of avoiding taxes and fudging accounts etc bring in intervention on their behalf by government ministers to facilitate their presence at yacht parties in exotic waters.

Questions of accountability for a questionable form of examination and selection process for state government jobs are dismissed contemptuously.

Oh, why even talk about these things! That is all history.

- Asian Tribune -

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