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Author Pankaj Mishra makes it seem in an article that appeared in the New York Times of November 28th, 2009, that, in mainstream India, outside the excitable and--according to him--right-wing news media, there has been little resonance with the commemoration of the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai. Mishra says said media have been attempting, without much success, to resort to an analogy with the attacks on America on September 11, 2001, in order to whip up an exaggeraged mass emotional hysteria directed against Pakistan, where he says the attacks were "partly" planned and financed. He notes that these right-wingers remain enraged and frustrated because Pakistan has boxed India into a corner where there are no aggressive options for the latter. The reason 26/11 has not resonated with mainstream India, says Mishra, is that Indians are too fatalistic and preoccupied with various ongoing crises. Mishra registers his disapproval of America's response to the September 11 attacks, and expresses his relief that, mainstream India's indifference to 26/11 would prevent India from responding to assured future major attacks from Pakistan in America's manner, that is to say, driven by arrogance and hubris.
The full article is here.
Going by Mishra's article, the only way to understand Indian emotions flowing from the attacks is to see the emotions as a phony product of a vast conspiracy of rich right-wing urban twits. In sharp, Sarah Palinesque contradistinction to this group, Mishra sets up the real India, which is (of course) fatalistic, lives in villages, and doesn't give a damn about the attacks on Mumbai. He doesn't mention them, but presumably the left wing, of the rich and twitty as well as the other kind, is also a part of this real India. Does this mean that Indians espousing left-wing politics are barred from expressing honest grief and outrage at the attacks on their country? Mishra doesn't say.
About the only support Mishra presents for his assertions regarding his putative real Indians' feelings about the attacks on their country is his use of the "fatalism" codeword, an implicit allusion to a vast and persistent body of Orientalistic writings and prejudice about the passive and fatalistic Indian. Certainly logic and internal consistency are not Mishra's friends here: Rural Indians could well have chosen to ignore the attacks (assuming that this is demonstrably the case) or even cheer the attack, but their choice would not necessarily be an account of their fatalism, which is doubtful in point of fact. As Mishra himself says in the article, many of those Indians are busy coping with their personal crises or engaging in Maoist insurgencies or even suicide--none of these behaviours is fatalistic or passive, suicide least of all.
Mishra's message is that this questionable Indian fatalism has prevailed over an overwrought right wing to save India from the latter's hankering to emulate America's response to 9/11, which Mishra labels with the twin epithets of arrogance and hubris. These are two terms that hearken more to timeworn anti-American liturgy than imagination, let alone fact. Mishra, aside from the Pakistani leadership, the Taliban, and understandably Afghan civilians, is likely one of the few who thinks America and NATO's UN-approved 2001 effort to dethrone the odious Taliban in Afghanistan was morally wrong. The Taliban did, demonstrably, have a major role in the 9/11 slaughter in Manhattan, Washington and in the skies over Pennsylvania. The 2003 attack on Iraq was, of course, the universally-deplored war, and also hardly controversial, but in an opposite sense. The two are not to be conflated, as Mishra does.
The deeper, moral problem here is that in Mishra's world, a country responding to an attack to the limits of its ability is arrogant and hubristic, whereas, the country launching the attack deserves the benefit of every doubt, real or made up. Thus, to Mishra, the Mumbai attacks were "partly planned and financed" in Pakistan, with the remainder of the planners and financiers no doubt ensconsed in the land of perennial mystery that also harbours the real assassins of John F. Kennedy. (While we are at it, why not also magnanimously concede that the British were "partly responsible" for Jalianwala Bagh?) And, while he doesn't say it outright in the flagship newspaper of the city that is about to re-experience its 9/11 trauma with the upcoming trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Pakistani architect of the 9//11 attacks, Mishra's exclusive focus on the orchestrated aspects of the 26/11 commemoration, their alleged "right-wing" associations, and the efforts to link the attacks to America's 9/11 experience, suggests that that America's response to 9/11, including the mass emotional outpouring of its people, was somehow phony and disreputable. Certainly, Mishra's cheap if unoriginal gibe at the erstwhile War on Terror as a "war ... on abstract noun[s]" telegraphs his withering contempt for the American people's heartfelt outrage and their government's robust if ruthless steps that have kept Americans from experiencing any further direct attacks since 2001.
Mishra himself recognizes that Indians, by contrast, are virtually guaranteed to be the victims of further major attacks from a Pakistan. Now that is a country which remains unrepentant and determined to harm India in relentless pursuit of what its thought-leaders see as the righteous cause of supremacism. In view of this, Mishra's own determination to tag India, rather than Pakistan, with arrogance and hubris represents a perverse inversion.
It is Gandhi Jayanti and I am thinking about a man who, in 1922, at the height of apparent political success, called off the largely peaceful Non-cooperation Movement because of a single incident at Chauri Chaura in which a mob killed several policemen. His driving principle was that a righteous end can never be achieved by immoral means.
Kobad Ghandy, with a very similar sounding family name, is a man I had never heard of till he was arrested as a Naxalite and media web sites started ringing with paeans to his righteousness and charm, albeit with pro forma disclaimers as to his being "misguided" (there are fairly broad laws in India that make it a crime to aid and abet Naxalites, so perhaps the disclaimers were a wise precaution). Evidently this Kobad is an heir of plutocrats, a fellow whom it amused to play the revolutionary. You have perhaps seen the type in college, the rich guy under no pressure to get grades for a living, who endlessly spouts Marxist jargon, knowing all the while that he can always go into Daddy's business any time he wants. Apparently, our Kobad just took the game a step farther and actually became a Naxalite.
Now that may well be an overly unkind and harsh assessment of this individual whom I do not know, but I believe we are all shaped by our life experiences and background--what the Marxists call our class identity--to a greater extent than we would like to believe.
It is possible to understand and respect a man who is driven to fight for his and his family's survival as a last resort, because that is something any of us would instnctively do under similar circumstances. Most of us would probably like to come to the aid of such a person; however we don't go off and expropriate that man's fight and make it our own, firstly because we have lives of our own to live, and struggles to wage. But more fundamentally, there is something disrespectful and wrong in blithely waging a war on behalf of the poor--contrasted with assisting the poor--when one is far from poor oneself and is therefore in an inherently more powerful position. It reduces the original subject from an owner of his life and struggle to an object of some rich guy's fight. It makes no difference that the man may not have been free in the first place--the rich person is, in effect, replacing that man's previous master.
If Ghandy had risen from comparative poverty and earned his own wealth, we might say he has also earned the right to be a partner of the person who has no choice but to fight; but evidently Ghandy is a steretotypical Richie Rich who was born to wealth, and chose to use the freedom his inherited riches bought him to carry out warfare against the state, on behalf of the poor. Such a man must be presumed to be playing a romantic adventure game from his imagination, albeit a deadly one with people's lives.
When played by the rich, the object of this game is rotten at the core. It is highly doubtful that either Kobad Ghandy or many of his evidently privileged cohorts have much of an idea of the life of an average working stiff, worrying about bills, children's education, and so on. Yet people like Ghandy take it upon themselves to wage war against a lawful government elected by the same working stiffs, in the course of which they give themselves permission to rob and murder and terrorize at will. Their avowed ideology is not so much the empowerment of the working stiff as it is to set up their own privileged selves in the vanguard of an elite dictatorship over those working stiffs. When Naxalites and their sympathizers talk of "liberating" the working class, it actually means taking control of the lives of people constituting said class.
Here is an excerpt from an article by Jyoti Punwani that says more than any commentary about the nature of playboy-revolutionaries and their groupies. In an unabashedly uncritical and fawning article, Punwani has this to say:
"Kobad has been a foodie ever since I've known him. After a whole morning wrestling with Lenin's "Imperialism" at some open-air camp outside Mumbai, Kobad would start making lunch, insisting that we learn to wring the necks of chickens, else how would we stand the sight of blood when revolution actually came? This was as much part of our "toughening up" as the laborious hikes up the Western Ghats he took us on."
Isn't it nice to have a choice. Normal people eat what food they can, when they can get it, while the privileged get to be foodies. Actual labourers trudge up and down the Ghats, but Ghandy and his cohorts have time to take laborious hikes. That contrast aside, most people, even many soldiers who kill for a living, I imagine, would be disgusted at the sadism involved in gratuitiously wringing the neck of a chicken, just to get used to the idea of killing. Here is a moral tip for Punwani and Ghandy: People kill when they must, for food, or for self-defence--just ask young Rukhasana Kausar of Jammu who did what she had to do when terrorists attacked her family--but normal people who wish to retain their humanity would be concerned if they find themselves making a habit of killing. Certainly, they wouldn't go around deliberately cultivating the habit of causing hurt, systematically killing off the sense of empathy with life that is inherent in everyone. And normal people who witness such things--or perhaps engaged in them in their youth--don't recall them with gushing fondness.
If the viciousness and moral perversity related so approvingly by Punwani seems appalling, imagine a society run and controlled by people who engage in such actions by choice. People habituated to killing, and maybe even having learned to enjoy it to some extent, aren't going to simply switch off and become empathetic souls just after they come to power. The mass killings by Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot et al stand out as examples of this. A humane society requires leaders, and thought-leaders, who have retained consciences that are capable of apprehending the impact of life-and-death decisions on the lives of real people.
Gandhi, unlike this Ghandy, was a man who delved deeply into questions of truth, violence, morality, and the health and sustainability of society. He made many tough and controversial decisions as a leader such as the one to call off Non-Cooperation. They made him very unpopular at the time, but in hindsight, his rigorous insistence on right means was the key to keeping a measure of peace, harmony and order in Indian society after all this time. To the extent he is remembered, he represents the nation's "still, small voice within."
So, let us take a moment from the lionization of Kobad Ghandy and remember Mohandas Gandhi, who insisted that "means are, after all, everything."
Even to his many detractors, the untimely and tragic demise of AP Chief Minister Y.S.Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR--Telugus are fond of three-letter English acronyms for some reason), along with two helicopter pilots and two aides, must come as a shock. The web, airwaves, and print media are filled with obituaries and tributes, all sounding very similar themes. Principally, YSR is credited with being a successful politician with grassroots appeal, and for implementing a number of welfare schemes, especially in the area of healthcare access, which appear to be functioning reasonably well.
His political success as a grassroots Congress leader is especially remarkable, given the AP tradition of senior Congress leaders who, almost without exception, made an infantile subservience to the High Command their sole qualification for high office; if they failed to obtain the Chief Minister's post, these leaders would seek to make the state ungovernable by anyone else, by engineering riots or perhaps a violent agitation. There was always a premise that the Congress High Command did not look kindly upon strong state leaders who were competent and popular in their own right, but will placate those who throw violent tantrums.
Given this climate, for YSR to have succeeded in balancing his personal power in the state with what is from all accounts an excellent relationship with the High Command, while taking his rivals along, speaks of a high degree of political astuteness and skill.
He also deserves special appreciation for taking steps to improve public access to health care, including emergency services. The ubiquitous presence of ambulances, and the increased use of modern hospitals and clinics by the poor, speaks of an interest in improving health matters on the part of the late Chief Minister who started out as a doctor. Because this has historically not been a widely-shared interest among the numerous doctor-politicians and doctor-businesspersons who populate the upper echelons of the state, YSR's death gives rise to concerns as to whether these nascent services are doomed to stagnate and perish from entropy, or whether they will grow into a serious policy of delivering measurable and accountable health services to all.
But, although subdued among the encomiums, there are also grumbled allegations about YSR's amassing of illicit wealth (Rupees 22,000 crores is one of the figures bruited about), his vindictive pursuit of political and business rivals, and insinuations about his involvement in a kind of global evangelical Christian project (YSR himself was a Christian, as it happens) to systematically Christianize AP, as a part of building a deeper institutional and cultural relationship with America's political economy.
None of these allegations have been properly investigated, let alone verified. He and his family have well-known business interests, and it is hardly worth pretending, just for the sake of good form, that these businesses don't benefit from the political power of the paterfamilias. During its previous innings, the YSR government's dogged pursuit of alleged irregularities in rival Ramoji Rao's business dealings had a strong smell of vendetta, and there have been darker mutterings about YSR in connection with certain murders that took place at the politician-gangster intersection. There also appears to be some slight evidence as to the existence of a nexus of corruption between dubious American politicians backed by that country's shadowy Christian evangelical institutions, and some of the upwardly-mobile noveaux riches of Andhra Pradesh. I have been shown flyers purporting to be from one of the prominent Christian preachers now such a common sight in the auditoria of Hyderabad, in which access to specific American politicians, and thereby untold lucre, is offered in exchange for support in this individual's evangelical endeavours in AP.
Given the mafia-style operation of India's politics, I am inclined to think that, if there are shady deals involving serious amounts of money going on, any competent politician worth his salt will have a finger in the pie, and surely a political superstar like YSR would not have been an exception in this regard. Safeguarding India's political and cultural independence, and the desirability of finding more constructive ways to engage with Americans, and so on would not enter the calculations at all. Be that as it may, it is unlikely that YSR's passing will make any significant difference to such corrupt enterprises. After all, global conspiracies that depend on one man can't amount to very much.
As for the politics of venality, vendetta and murder, it is clearly an institutional problem not of YSR's creation, and is not going to end with him. It will remain and flourish, with no one paying serious attention, as long as all allegations and exposures in this domain fail to be objective, and remain tainted with ulterior political and ideological motives.
This accounting leaves us with a politician who garners our admiration, because, like a sports star or an artist, he was good at what he did, regardless of personal qualities and the foetid environment in which he operated. If that were all, surely it would still be high praise, but, as with the usual flash-in-the-pan Indian sports stars, it would mean that his arrival and departure were mere transient events with the departure leaving no historic impact on the culture. That would be a depressing thought, whether you are a member of YSR's grieving family, or just an average Telugu person who has just lost the political chief of his people.
Fortunately, there is one aspect of YSR's personality and career that mitigates the pain of transience and ultimate insignificance, and raises him to the level of a special individual whose loss is actually poignant for the people. It is the role YSR played as a champion of a united Andhra Pradesh.
Perhaps more so than with other large states, the idea of a unitary Telugu state is a deeply emotional matter and arouses strong passions on both sides of the question. As the first-ever linguistic state, the formation of Andhra Pradesh was achieved with a great deal of struggle, and represented the dream of uniting under one roof, as it were, Telugu people that were separated for centuries by the course of history. That same historical separation also gave rise to a powerful narrative of regional victimization and discrimination. In 1969, the late Dr. Marri Channa Reddy a senior Congress leader politically rusticated by a conviction for electoral fraud, kept his political career from oblivion by leveraging this sense of victimization into a violent separatist agitation for a Telangana state, in which victimization morphed into chauvinism that spawned a fascist-like targeting of Hyderabadis originally from the coast. This agitation was followed a few years later by another one, just as violent, for a separation of the coastal Andhra region. The latter agitation never rose to the status of a movement, and is not a factor today. As for Telangana, once Channa Reddy's political future was assured and other adjustments of political patronage made by the Congress High Command, the agitation ended and the separate Telangana movement became dormant.
Until, that is, the advent of another disgruntled Congress party leader and sometime minister, K. Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR) a few years ago. Perhaps feeling frustrated by the success of the vastly more intelligent and competent YSR, KCR set about reviving the embers of a separate Telangana movement and assembled a coalition of similarly disaffected mainstream politicians, NRI and local businessmen, and naxalites sensing an opportunity to regularize their by then de facto dominance of much of rural and mofussil Telangana. KCR's early rhetoric in his speeches on Telangana ranged from merely overwrought all the way to psychotic-fascist, threatening Hyderabad residents hailing from coastal Andhra with mass slaughter. (Compared with him, Channa Reddy in 1969 was a model of prudence and sober and dignified expression.) As this was during the time Telugu Desam was in power, it no doubt seemed to Congress like a possible winning formula for gaining Telangana at the next polls, and I suppose the political calculation was that the nasty rhetoric could only help. In any case, the Congress High Command made receptive noises to KCR's demands, saying neither yes nor no, doubtless counting on the power and stature of Sonia Gandhi to check any urge on the part of KCR's Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) faction to get out of control.
Congress's electoral fortunes changed in 2004, and YSR became Chief Minister. KCR intensified his demands, and his tone grew in petulance. There were occasional resignation dramas, challenges were hurled and so on, but under YSR, it never amounted to much. YSR smiled and stalled, even as he apparently instigated his underlings to heap contempt on KCR and his TRS. As the 2009 elections approached, both Telugu Desam and the BJP, looking for an angle in Telangana, decided to embrace KCR, gambling that their gains in Telangana will outweigh any losses in the coast and in Rayalaseema.
In the elections, YSR defied the pundits by leading Congress to a comprehensive victory, and in the process reduced KCR to political irrelevance, at least for this electoral cycle. Throughout this drama, we see YSR bringing his superior political skills and his rapport with Sonia Gandhi and the High Command to bear on KCR, a lightweight in comparison. The outcome has been that the demand for Telangana state has taken a back seat. Whatever one's actual position about a unitary Andhra Pradesh state, those favouring stability must give thanks to YSR for averting a split of Andhra Pradesh at this particular juncture, considering the calibre of the individuals driving the movement.
Politicians like YSR don't fight battles like the one over Telangana for emotional and sentimental reasons. Even if he calculated that he and his friends and family are better off ruling a larger unitary state than a smaller one, I would still like to imagine that a genuine attachment for Telugu and the unity of Telugu people was a factor somewhere in the scheming brain of the late CM. For one thing, he was an outstanding and fluent speaker of Telugu, probably the best since the late N.T. Rama Rao. That is no ordinary thing to Telugus who have had to suffer through recent politicians stumbling and mumbling their way through a mix of not-quite-mastered English and not-quite-remembered Telugu. There is no doubt that YSR was fond of Telugu and probably in his own way, fond of the Telugu people as well.
For AP, the future may bring YSR's son, or some Congress time-server as Chief Minister. The state may get lucky and get another talented and experienced Congress leader, though that would not be a safe bet. In any event, all it will take is one electoral reverse for Congress, or a re-energized Telugu Desam or BJP to bring the Telangana demand back to the forefront.
And this time, there would be no YSR, with his combination of political skills and state-wide stake, to outmanoeuvre the challengers. God forbid that KCR and his associates would be able to translate his violent rhetoric into reality, but if there should be a conflagration or fascist nightmare in Andhra Pradesh, history would record YSR as the last modern monarch who safeguarded a stable and united Telugu land.
The other shoe, so to speak, has dropped in the controversy over Jaswant Singh's book on Jinnah. The BJP government of Gujarat has banned it on the catchall but nevertheless idiotic grounds of "national interest", and the opposition Congress party in the state has applauded the move. No one with any political clout appears to be seriously upset by this, at this point.
It is likely that eventually, if not the publisher, someone in public life--perhaps someone with an aversion to the Sangh Parivar and the leadership in Gujarat in particular will get around to moving the courts to get the ban revoked. It is also possible that such a person is a positive admirer of Jaswant Singh, for any of a number of possible reasons--his aristocratic mien, his undoubted style and grace in the present difficulties, and not least his current role as central casting's dream Vibhishana to the Sangh Parivar's Ravana.
This hypothetical person will likely succeed, since even by the censorship-loving standards of Indian Law and public culture, the already-flimsy grounds for the claim that the book denigrates Vallabhai Patel are actually untenable. The actual references to the Sardar in the book are here. It is clear that the author draws on primary sources to draw a perfectly valid conclusion that Patel (along with, perhaps Nehru) was, (a) at worst, guilty of a political misreading of Jinnah's true goals and in effect, calling his bluff on Pakistan and losing and (b) was worn down by Jinnah's sheer intransigence on the subject. While clearly not hallmarks of political success, neither is a mortal sin, and more to the point, cannot detract from Patel's accomplishment of integration of the Princely States.
But suppose Jaswant Singh had done a much poorer job of analyzing Patel's role, or had even spoken of him in disparaging terms. And suppose that Jaswant Singh had no admirers. Would it have been acceptable to ban the book? What if, just hypothetically, Jaswant Singh had seen fit to toss in a few references to the alleged violent and aggressive nature of Islam, in the context of Direct Action Day, for instance? Would the book then be banned (to the cheers of lefties, perhaps) to calm an outcry by Muslims? Would the BJP leadership then be sagely lecturing on freedom of speech and thought ? Things can get bizarre and confusing in a hurry when doing thought experiments with a culture that appears incapable of handling the least challenge to the perfection and infallibility of its icons.
The fascinating thing about the Gujarat government's latest act of patriotic repression is that it actually does no harm to the supposed perpetrator, as his books at nearly Rupees 700 a copy, are selling quite briskly outside Gujarat, thank you very much. Nor does it do anything to protect the reputation of Sardar Patel, unless you count as protection the implication that the Sardar was actually guilty of something heinous or disreputable that needs the Gujarat government to hush it up for him. Since I doubt very much that the Gujarat leadership actually means to imply that the Sardar had done something that everyone needs to be made to keep quiet about, we can only conclude that it was more of an instinctive, knee-jerk reaction, sort of like a zealous family dog chasing away the postman from the premises.
Of course, following that analogy, not receiving the post has consequences. One might be spared the arrival of vexatious bills, but equally, one might miss a juicy cheque or an enlightening and fun magazine. To the dog, of course, it does not matter. Having decided that the postman is a threat, it did its job in good faith and is entirely satisfied with itself, and would be very hurt indeed if the householder did not reward it for its diligence.
The masters of the house, that is to say the people of Gujarat, have a good deal to lose by sitting by and letting the state government--their servant if not their dog, as it were--supply them with the misguided protection of censorship, even if, in this instance, the inability to read Jaswant's tome on Jinnah is no great loss, and the ban will eventually be revoked anyway. I don't mean money, they'll probably not lose any money because of censorship. But they, along with Indians in general, will lose the possibility of ever being able to be in command of the critical narrative of their own lives and culture, in short the collective soul of the nation.
Any such critical narrative has at its core a critical mass of people engaged in systematic critical thinking about culture, religion, and so on. One may liken having this critical mass to having a society that is capable of consistently winning a significant number of medals at the Olympics. The capability for doing so doesn't miraculously appear overnight, it requires the building of institutions, and the acceptance of a string of below-par performances to start with. It certainly doesn't come as a consequence of reflexively banning or beating up a coach--mediocre though he may be--who notes that there are distinct defects in the athletes' technique and approach.
In such a culture, a nation of a billion might produce an ocassional Abhinav Bindra but for the most part, it is reduced to watching enviously while other nations gobble up the medals like clockwork every four years, even in sports like hockey that we thought were "ours". Something like that is happening in the field of critical sociocultural and religious studies pertaining to India. Quite simply, the best work in these fields is being done by Westerners, particularly Americans, in a setting where censorship on the Indian scale is not even a remote threat.
A major case in point is the controversy regarding Hinduism Studies in American universities. Here is an article that outlines the problem, and here is a lengthy critique of American academicians' treatment of the Indian soul by Rajiv Malhotra, and a shorter, more specific reaction by Narayanan Komerath. Both Malhotra and and Komerath might be intellectually impressive, but they are only reacting, and at times deconstructing the messenger, and offer no countervailing critical study of the subject. Therefore, they have no hope of engaging in a peer-level collegial dialogue with the Religious Studies professors in question--the dialogue, is no more than that between a professor and a smart, contentious but ultimately limited student. But both Malhotra and Komerath, though reputed professionals in their own fields, are amateurs when it comes to Religious Studies, and they can no more be expected to constructively engage the American Religious Studies academic establishment than Abhinav Bindra and a handful of talented boxers can be expected to bring home Olympic medals on par with the American athletes who are part of a well-oiled multi-tiered athletic system of long standing.
When it comes to the ownership of critical studies, Indian society--at least the censorship-loving segment of it--has tried all kinds of futile dodges when faced with unpalatable observations and analyses of revered icons by Americans and other foreigners, as in the attacks on the Bhandarkar Institute when James Laine published a book on Shivaji. But, censorship or vandalism are non-starters as a way of coping with such things, since the professors in question are free to continue their work in America where there face no such threats.
More to the point, by indulging in censorship and worse, we are dishonouring ourselves and our culture in a particularly galling way, given that we are nothing if not a nation of students. scholars and seekers at the core. The American scholars can hardly be blamed for bringing their own personal, traditional and academic perspectives to their study of Indian matters. And while it is a fact that the perspective that is steeped in direct knowledge and experience of Indian culture has received short shrift, this again is hardly the fault of American scholars--the same class of Indians who might bring such a perspective are apparently busy censoring and repressing any attempt at critical thought by their fellow Indians, instead of studying and equipping themselves to be the peers of Western scholars, qualified to engage them as equals.
At the end of the day, while censoring Jaswant Singh is of little consequence in its own right, it represents a collective attitude that tears at free India's very soul. If this mania for censorship is not curtailed, who would be to blame if India loses her soul altogether?
Postscript: If Jaswant Singh ever explained in the past 10 years why he abandoned the case of the murder-mutilation of Lt. Kalia and his troop after raising it so eloquently, I have missed it. Now that Shri Singh is in the glare of the media, I wish someone would ask him if he actually followed through on the matter, and if yes, what transpired, and if not, why not.
I am not a big fan of Jaswant Singh. Ever since he made a big noise during the Kargil conflict about the torture-murder by the Pakistani army of Lt. Kalia and his company, only to quietly drop the matter altogether soon after, I have felt that there more rhetoric than reality in his carefully-cultivated image as an officer and a gentleman.
And I have no expectation that his current revisionist work about Jinnah breaks any useful new grounds of scholarship or insight, judging by the contents of this interview . While it is good that he urges a cessation of the caricaturing of Jinnah as a demon in India, he, like many others, focuses too much on rehabilitating Jinnah, and dwelling on the what-might-have-beens of Partition itself, and exhibits little interest in advancing a useful critical understanding of the huge problem that Jinnah's creation Pakistan has grown into today.
Nevertheless, the publication of his book presents an opportunity to initiate a debate that could just possibly lead to such an understanding, if only through the process of questioning its underlying thesis.
In expelling Jaswant Singh, the BJP and its parent RSS have, once again exhibited an unwholesome haste to miss just such an opportunity. (The last significant time was in 2002 when, after the Gujarat violence, they spent more time making excuses for the lawlessness than in examining and clarifying their own attitudes towards Muslims, and law and order) Taken together with the other players on the political scene, the BJP's decision is a sad commentary on the state of Indian political thought today. In the Congress party, we have apparatchiks toeing the high-command's line in offering incoherent explanations of the government's incomprehensible Pakistan policy. The Communists are caught up in a group-hate of the United States. And here we have the alleged leader of nationalistic politics, the RSS, shutting the door to an open discussion of what Jinnah and Pakistan have come to mean, and what to do about it.
The upshot is that policy gets made in India by a small group of de facto dictators on high, who will brook no check or dissent even among their own peers. Quite Stalinist ( except of course for the imprisonment and killing). For the people of India as a whole, this spells trouble, since these people are usually egotistical, smug and overall intellectually ill-equipped (their inabiity to tolerate dissent is itself evidence of this). This way of doing business leads to ill-considered policies that will culminate in disaster. And disaster takes on a whole new meaning in the current nuclear-armed scenario.
To survive, let alone see their dreams come to fruition, it seems that Indians have little choice but to stop outsourcing their thinking to self-styled political thinkers and leaders.
The current angst about India conceding ground by agreeing to incorporate a reference to Balochistan in the recent joint statement out of Egypt is misplaced. If India is in fact aiding and abetting rebels in Balochistan, then it is not automatically the moral equivalent of Pakistan's involvement in Jammu & Kashmir. Without getting into lengthy legalistic tangles about how the two might or might not be equivalent, the issue is as simple as right versus wrong.
Not all liberation movements are the same in a moral sense, and it follows that not all interference in a foreign liberation struggle is morally equivalent. The fight in Balochistan is about unfair exploitation of Balochi resources by Pakistan's dominant Punjabis, and about the disrespecting of Balochi language and culture. The fight in Kashmir is about the adoption, by a segment of the Muslim population there, of Pakistan's underlying supremacist ideology, usually known as the "two nation theory"...