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Modi: From mayhem to masks

Vox Populi has become a basic creed of democracy giving the will of the people the status of divine authority, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2008 02:00 IST
With malice towards one and all | Khushwant Singh
With malice towards one and all | Khushwant Singh

Vox Populi is Latin for the Voice of the People. It is followed by two other words in Latin Vox Dei—the Voice of God. It has become a basic creed of democracy giving the will of the people the status of divine authority. We exercise our will at election time and accept the verdict as divinely ordained. In fact it is not so. People are swayed by caste and communal affiliations.

There is plenty of evidence that these factors play an important part in our elections. They condone crimes committed by their favourite candidates and vote for them; a few years ago there was widespread violence against Muslims. Some admitted to having committed ghastly crimes in sting operation carried out by Tehelka and explicitly stated that they had the tacit approval of Narendra Modi. Nevertheless, Modi won Gujarat elections single-handedly. Does he echo the voice of God? To me who is a non-believer in divinity the answer is no. To me Gujarat is Bapu Gandhi's home state and I regard the verdict as repudiation for what Gandhi (and Nehru) stood for.

I hold no grief for the Congress Party because of what many of its leaders did in November 1984, when over 3,000 innocent Sikhs were butchered in cold blood. Some of them were re-elected to Parliament and given ministerial positions, not one was expelled from the party. The turn round came with Sonia Gandhi taking over leadership of the party. She distanced herself from these elements and is doing her best to bring the party back on the path shown by Gandhi and Nehru. Her nominee-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologised to the nation for what had happened to the Sikhs. The confession purged the party of sins committed in 1984. It is something Bapu Gandhi would have approved of. The BJP comprising L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharati, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal etc. have yet to apologise to the nation for knocking down Babri Masjid. Nor has Narendra Modi for what his supporters did to innocent Muslims following the burning down a train compartment at Godhra Railway station. Far from asking forgiveness they are again sponsoring Hindutva and repeating their plans to build a Ram Mandir on the exact spot where the Masjid stood. Is this patriotic? Will it not be a set back to our dream of making India a truly secular state?

A Policewalla’s story

Memoirs of retired General and Civil Servants rarely make good reading. They are so full of their achievements that make their readers feel inadequate. What is permissible in a biography is not good in an autobiography. Maxwell Pereira’s The Other Side of Policing (Vitasta) is an exception. Though he made to the IPS, spent 34 years as a Police Officer in various parts of India and retired, loaded with medals for distinguished service, he does not boast about them. On the contrary, he makes fun of himself and others under whom he served and writes felicitous prose. One also tells us quite a lot about problems facing policemen in our country in which many are prone to indulging in lawlessness from time to time. His account of the anti-Sikh violence of November 1984 following the assassination of Mrs Gandhi is revealing. He was perhaps the only police officer to open fire on a mob lynching unarmed Sikhs and burning their property while on its way to Gurdwara Sis Ganj in Chandni Chowk. When he narrated his exploit to his seniors he received a cold reception. He was never asked by any of the nine Commissions of Enquiry looking into the programme to tender evidence before them. However, he was honoured by Sikh organisations with Siropas —robes of honour. Pereira had scant respect for most of his seniors. To him: “A boss is like a diaper always on your ass and usually full of shit.” He was born in Salem (Tamilnadu), had his training in Phillaur (Punjab) and retired in Delhi. I give one example of his style of writing to prove his competence in wielding his pen.

“Though I had met Sikhs in Bangalore before, landing midst a sea of Sikhs in Punjab was understandably traumatic. To me, every Sikh looked just like another, and it was months before I learnt to distinguish between two, that too just by telling myself one was taller, the other shorter, or stockier and so on. Identifying by face features remaining my bete noire forever! Their colours fascinated me, so did their processions through the roads, led by the punj piyaras carrying banners and nishan sahib, with the blue and yellow attired nihangs in their humongous turbans and in full war finery doing their war dance with battle cries and sword fights. I never got tired of watching them. The Punjabis could not pronounce my name Pereira, Pareda, Pededa, Periyar or whatever — before settling down to plain and simple Pyara Singh!’’

King Khan’s Lament

When I said something about Amar Singh

His henchmen stormed my house

I am a Pathan, a Lion

Yet they treated me like a mouse,

When I mimicked Manoj Kumar in a film; He subjected me to a fierce whip

I had to apologise to him profusely

Though my fault was a minor slip.

When I went to watch Indo-Pak match; My object was to enjoy the game

The Cricket Board, however, attributed fanatic motive

They slapped at me a curious blame

They said, “Shah Rukh wanted to promote his film In the garb of sports lover, he acted as a Businessman”

I am an actor, no doubt, a famous actor; But can’t I be a cricket fan?

(Contributed by G.C. Bhandari, Meerut)