The convictions of Shibu Soren and Navjot Singh Sidhu restore our faith in our judicial system. Though justice has been long delayed, it has not been denied. They also bring home to the common people that when it comes to twisting or hoodwinking judicial processes, there is little to choose between our political parties.
Shibu Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha accepted a huge bribe from Prime Minister Narasimha Rao of the Congress to switch sides and save his government from falling; then refused to share the bribe with his private secretary, Jha who had acted as a go-between and finally had him eliminated. Narasimha Rao was as guilty of bribery and corruption as Shibu, but he is no longer there to tell his side of the sordid tale.
Sidhu, though not a murderer, is a killer. He deprived a man of his life, deprived an entire family of its bread-winner and fully deserved the punishment. It is strange that BJP and its ally, the Akali Dal, have risen in his defence. Sushma Swaraj, never strong on logic, maintains that Sidhu’s case is entirely different from Shibu Soren’s. One has been found guilty of cold-blooded murder, the other of only manslaughter committed in uncontrollable rage. Prakash Singh Badal, top leader of the Akali Party, agrees with Sushma Swaraj and proposes to have him address meetings for the BJP-Akali Dal candidates in the forthcoming elections. Badal has yet to reckon with the possibility of Sidhu being otherwise occupied entertaining jail inmates with his witticisms and cricketing feats.
Both Soren and Sidhu have blood on their hands — one is a cold-blooded murder, the other a hot-blooded killer. Can anyone with any sense of justice plead that they be differently treated because they are members of Parliament, one a Minister and the other once a test cricket player and TV celebrity? Why should not the same laws apply to them as to you and me? To quote one of Sidhu’s epigrams to the effect that if you travel by road, you should be prepared to deal with a puncture or two. Unfortunately in his own case it has been more than a puncture taking wind out of the tube of his inflated ego; it is more like a tyre burnt which will put paid to his political career.
What should a person who has done wrong to another do to atone for his mistake? I have lost much sleep pondering over the problem as I wronged two old friends without realising that it was I who was in error. Some years ago Pramod Kapoor of Roli Books asked me to write the text for his book on The Sikhs, profusely illustrated by photographs taken by Raghu Rai, probably the best photographer in India today. I did so. The book was beautifully produced and did well. Pramod Kapoor decided to produce another edition with photographs of some celebrities added to it. I approved of them and edited the sub-titles given to them by Raghu Rai’s wife. Then forgot about it and did not get to see the new version till years later when a foreigner brought it to me for an autograph. Raghu Rai had already signed it for him. I turned over the pages and noticed the additions. I went into a fit of rage and fired off angry letters to Pramod Kapoor for not getting my permission or consent to include the new photographs. He sent a photostat copy of the changes I had made in the captions by my own hand. It was an unpardonable lapse of memory. How should I make amends?
When faced with such dilemmas, I usually consult Bapu Gandhi: I have my imaginary hot line connection with him. First my telephone went dead. When it came to life, Bapu’s line was either busy or he had put his instrument off the hook. Finally, I got a typed message which went on repeating “Always admit your mistake and ask for pardon.” I have done both. What more? I was not eager to hear what he would say. He may tell me to go on a fast for a few days. That would be too severe a punishment for a man of 92. And for me, what matters more than the intake of food is a couple of Patialas at sunset. He might tell me to give up drinking. That is not acceptable to me. Finally, we settled on maunvrat — vow of silence for some time. I have agreed to keep my mouth shut for as long a time as I can.
Thus spake Mamata
Where shall I go, what do I do
They have on their side Birla and Tata too
Jyoti Basu was bad, Bhattacharjee is worse,
On both their houses Kali’s curse!
Both heaven and hell
They’ve usurped the capitalist path as well!
They’re too clever for me, too crude
Too clumsy and fake
Therefore every single chair in the Assembly
I must break
Shriek, shout and howl,
And as the length and breadth of Bengal I prowl,
Pull my hair, tear my dress
And show the people the Marxist mess
(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)
If you see a car being driven by a lady, and her right hand is sticking out of the window, gently waving up and down, what can you be sure of? That she is turning right? Turning left? Drying her nail polish? Waving to a friend?
The answer is that you can be sure of none of these. The only thing you can be sure of is that the window is open.
(Contributed by Rajeshwari Singh, Delhi)