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Our lips are sealed

We live our lives minding our own business and not poking our noses into people's affairs. It makes things simpler and easier. Karan Thapar writes.

india Updated: Oct 28, 2012 07:18 IST

There's one subject about which Arvind Kejriwal is absolutely right. To be honest, all of us have suspected it for years, while some have known for sure, but our response suggests he's taken us by surprise. I'm talking of what he calls the collusive relationship that binds our politicians in a conspiracy of protective silence.

Let's first acknowledge the accuracy of the case Kejriwal has made and then turn the mirror on ourselves and ask are we any different to the politicians we so readily criticise.

No one knows better than a politician what other politicians are up to. They see, sense and even smell it. Often, when they succeed each other in office, they obtain proof or, at least, they can identify clear signs of wrongdoing. But do they speak about it? Only behind closed doors, in hushed whispers and probably just to each other. Anything louder or more public would be tantamount to squealing and that would break the omerta, the vow of silence, they've accepted as a code of honour.

How else can you explain Digvijaya Singh's claim that he knows things about AB Vajpayee's foster son-in-law or LK Advani's children that would embarrass their parents and, perhaps, amount to charges of corruption but will not reveal them? When pressed, he says he does not believe this is a form of protection or a cover-up. He insists he has no qualms about this. And he does not accept this attitude smacks of moral impropriety in a public servant.

In fact, isn't this also true of the BJP, who've known of Robert Vadra's DLF-connection since March 2011, when The Economic Times first revealed it, and how his companies' fortunes had, as a result, ballooned, but chose to ignore it or, at any rate, keep silent? When it was raised in inner-party confabulations the decision was that it would be wrong to target the children of politicians. So, even if they get away with wrongdoing, that's better than the party being accused of extending political rivalry to the families of its opponents.

Now let's come to the second half of our inquiry. Disturbing as the behaviour of our politicians may be, are the rest of us any different? Journalists know an awful lot about each other but we habitually keep our lips sealed. Doctors and lawyers are well informed about the wrongdoings of their fraternity but look the other way. Chartered accountants frequently connive to hide and evade whilst actors, authors and artists protect each other's secrets more than anything else. And you could go on and on.

The truth is we live our lives minding our own business and not poking our noses into other people's affairs. It makes things simpler and easier. Few see themselves as policemen with a duty to expose and reveal. Instead, we prefer to turn a blind eye.

So, if none of us would squeal on the other, why do we pretend to be shocked when politicians behave similarly? Only the rarest of individuals is a whistle-blower. The rest know, smile and choose to forget or ignore. That, frankly, is the way of the world. And politicians are as much a part of it as you and I.

I'm all for criticising politicians and I can't deny I make a living out of it. But let's not be hypocritical or create special standards for them that we blithely do not practise. When it comes to keeping mum, we're often as guilty as them.

Views expressed by the author are personal