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Law makers turn law breakers

When law makers decide to take the law into their own hands, they turn law breakers. We saw this in all its naked vulgarity at the oath-taking ceremony in the Maharashtra Assembly, writes Khushwant Singh.

delhi Updated: Nov 22, 2009 11:17 IST

When law makers decide to take the law into their own hands, they turn law breakers. We saw this in all its naked vulgarity at the oath-taking ceremony in the Maharashtra Assembly. Some elected MLAs objected to another one taking his oath in Hindi, which is recognised by our Constitution as the national language. They beat up the MLA discharging his duty. Four offenders have been suspended; another nine who share the parochial linguistic mentality have been allowed to continue as long as they do not misbehave.

I don’t think this is good enough. Stronger methods of dealing with linguistic fanatics must be evolved to keep the country together. I am not yet sure what they should be, but hope others who have the future of the motherland at heart will soon offer a solution.

Bombay was my home for nine long years. It was a cosmopolitan city with many races, religions, languages and styles of living. Most people spoke their mother tongues and a dialect of Bombay Hindustani with ayenga, jayenga, khallas, etc. There were no language problems whatsoever.

Things began to go wrong when the city changed its name from Bombay to Mumbai. It saw the emergence of Shiv Sena as a formidable political force under the leadership of Bal Thackeray. It was and is essentially anti-Muslim. The hallowed name of Shivaji was misused to gain public sympathy. It was enlarged in the sphere of hate to all non-Mumbaikars. It believed in the use of force to achieve its ends. Its first victims were Tamilians whose humble eateries were ruthlessly destroyed. Its members were lumpen elements of Bombay’s slums who had nothing to lose and much to gain by goondagardi.

Now that Bal Thackeray has become a toothless old tiger and his son a mewling non-entity, the role of the hate-monger has been taken over by his nephew Raj Thackeray. He further enlarged the circle of hate to all non-Marathi-speaking people, notably Biharis and Uttar Pradeshis. It paid him handsome dividends, as his party won 13 seats in this Assembly. He has become a major headache for all right-thinking Indians.

I think Raj Thackeray should have been put behind bars when he first landed his hate campaign. But we did not have leaders who had the guts to do so.

I can think of a gentler method of dealing with him: make him stay as a guest of Lalu Prasad Yadav in Patna, or of Mulayam Singh in Lucknow. He will be taught how to behave himself and he will realise there are many Indians who do not answer to his description of Marathi manoos, but are better citizens of India than he.

Great Writing

It was not so very long ago that the literary world realised that simple, unvarnished prose makes as memorable a writing as good poetry. Poetry takes liberty with grammar and sequence of words to make lines rhyme; good prose sticks rigidly to rules of grammar and yet achieves the same result.

To the best of my knowledge, the first publication of good prose writing was in Granta, published from London. It was an instant success. Some Indians felt that many of their countrymen wrote English as well as the best writers in England. So the idea germinated. The pioneer was the late Dharma Kumar, an economist who was a great raconteur with a malicious sense of humour. She had no difficulty persuading Ravi Dayal to launch an Indian version of Granta. They struck on the name Civil Lines, a remnant of the British Raj which is not found in England.

Both Ravi Dayal and Dharma Kumar are gone. Now Rukun Advani has selected the best from five editions of Civil Lines to compile Written For Ever: The Best of Civil Lines (Ravi Dayal & Penguin-Viking). It has articles by some of the most famous Indian writers of yesterday and today. Some names such as Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie and Dom Moraes are missing — I know not why. But what it has more than compensates for what it does not have. I went over the articles, most of which I had read earlier, and thoroughly enjoyed reading them again. I strongly recommend this collection for aspiring writers looking for inspiration and samples of good writing, as well as others who relish reading polished prose.


Thackeray’s Lament

Balasaheb has every reason to complain
That the Marathi manoos is an ungrateful lot
How much violence he has for their sake, wrought
And the north, south and east Indians, for their benefit fought.
The man is genuinely hurt
Because, for their sake, he has acted filth and dirt,
Bashing up every north Indian cab man
Burning down every south Indian store
Oh, for their sake, he has acted anti-national to the core
He sowed hatred, created chaos
Led the hoodlums, for he was their boss
All his noble deeds have, alas, gone down the drain
Because, by defeating him, the Marathi manoos has hurt his brain.

(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

The views expressed by the author are personal