Might is not always right

Updated on Nov 23, 2007 09:01 PM IST

General-President Musharraf is on the horns of a dilemma: if he hangs on, he will be in trouble; if he steps down, he will be in worse trouble, writes Khushwant Singh.

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None | ByKhushwant Singh

Might is right. Furthermore, if you are convinced that you are right in exerting your might and everyone else is in the wrong, you end up becoming a dictatorial despot. That to me appears to be the situation in which General-President Musharraf of Pakistan finds himself. He is on the horns of a dilemma: if he hangs on, he will be in trouble; if he steps down, he will be in worse trouble.

It is a classical instance of the adage “he who rides a tiger cannot afford to dismount.” So far, both the United States and China have stood by him. The United States, which is Pakistan’s chief financier has made democratic noises while continuing to support his dictatorship. It may soon change its mind and ditch him in favour of a better alternative; if it is not Benazir Bhutto, it may be Nawaz Sharif or any other civilian. The situation is too fluid to make predictions.

Do events in Pakistan have any lessons for us? Being of similar bent of mind, our reactions are likely to be similar. I m convinced that the chief cause of mischief in Pakistan is the resurgence of militant religious fundamentalism in the shape of the Al Qaida and Taliban. The institutions run by them have become breeding grounds for Islamic terrorists around the world. Musharraf made feeble efforts to put them down, but the masses did not support him. We have religious fanatics and establishments where they are taught to hate other communities. This was recently exposed in all its ugly nakedness by sting operation carried out by Tehelka.

The government should have taken action immediately and arrested the men, who admitted to committing rape, arson and murder in Gujarat with the approval of chief minister Narendra Modi. It took no action. Now, it is for the people to take action against these criminals by filing FIRs and approaching law courts.

Also, rouse public opinion and see that likes of these men are never elected to any positions of responsibility. If we do not nip religious bigotry, which expresses itself in hatred and violence against others in the bud, it will blossom into a noxious weed which will destroy us as it is destroying Pakistan.

Bowel movement

There was a time when talking about anything connected with sex was taboo in the polite society. No one dared to use words like contraceptives or condoms (they were known as effels for French leather). When people became aware of the dangers of over-population and the need for family planning, people began to talk openly on these subjects.

What still remains unacceptable is talk about bowel and bladder movements. They create a stink in everyone’s nostrils. We still use euphemisms when we urgently need to urinate or defecate and do not know where to go. So we ask, “Can I go round the corner?” Or if it is a woman, “Where can I powder my nose?” Among the young it is “Where’s the loo?” My friend and neighbour Bhai Chand Patel has this cryptic message in brass letters on the door of the guests’ washroom: 4 U 2 P.

It takes a while to work out what it means. Things have begun to change. The leader of the revolution is Bindeshwar Pathak, a Bihari Brahmin. What he is doing is the job of a bhangee of the lowest caste. His Sulabh International is building modern style lavatories in as many public places as it can so that people don’t foul walls and drains. Women are the main beneficiaries. Even in rural areas, they have to go out after dusk or before dawn to evacuate — or suffer agony.

Anyway defecating in the open and leaving faces to rot breeds flies, insects and diseases of all kinds. It is a problem of major dimensions particularly in the third world where toilet facilities are not available to millions of people (more than a third of the world).

Recently, Pathak’s Sulabh International built public conveniences in Kabul at the request of the Afghan government.

In Afghanistan, winters can be severe and there is very little vegetation behind which women, most of whom are in purdah, can hide themselves. Bindeshwar Pathak’s latest achievement was to organise an international conference on toilets in Delhi, which was attended by 400 delegates from 44 countries. They talked candidly on a subject of utmost importance — shit that left no stink.

To Comrade Karat

We know you are a hardliner. You are learned, well-educated and bold. How is it that very often in the same breath, you blow hot and cold? One day you say, “We, the Leftists, look down upon Indo-US deal with a frown.

It is the Prime Minister’s headache whether the UPA government goes up or goes down.

“The next day you say “Manmohan Singh’s integrity is beyond doubt, reproach of question. We simply want a discussion in Parliament. Who is talking of snap polls.”

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