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The many faces of Goonda Raj

The way our governments have handled men and women who assumed they were above the law can only be described as inept and lacking in foresight, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Oct 31, 2008 22:29 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times

I have drawn up a list of politicians who are in urgent need of psychiatric treatment. The list gets longer by the day. I dare not publish it as I am sure if I did so, I would have dozens of cases of criminal libel slapped on me across the country — extending from Chennai to Bhubaneshwar to Kolkata, Patna, Lucknow, Delhi, Amritsar, Jaipur, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Bangalore. If I hired lawyers to defend me, I would be ruined.

What I fear more than being financially ruined is having to turn up at different places to seek bail. I know what would happen. Before I appear in court, I would be roughed up by goons claiming to be followers of the leaders I named. The police would not be able to protect me. These hoodlums regard themselves above the law of the land. State and the Central Governments are honour & duty bound to suppress these subversive elements. Or quit. A ruler must rule, not just pretend to be ruling.

The way our governments have handled men and women who assumed they were above the law can only be described as inept and lacking in foresight. There was Bhindranwale who incited hatred and violence against Hindus. He was arrested on charges of incitement to murder. Then, he was let off on his own terms. Instead of being treated like a criminal, he became a hero. Successive governments of Maharashtra have shown the same kind of ineptitude dealing with Thackerays of the Shiv Sena. Both its founder Bal Thackeray and his son openly preached violence against non-Maharashtrians: No action was taken against them.

Then Bal Thackeray’s nephew Raj set up his own splinter party which forced thousands of Biharis, Oriyas and Uttar Pradeshis to flee Maharashtra. He showed his contempt for the law by threatening to molest outsiders if they did not abide by his fiats. After much prodding Raj Thackeray was arrested. Then promptly let out on bail. As in the case of Bhindranwale, he has turned from a villain into a hero.

The violence let loose by the Bajrang Dal against Christians and Muslims should have been crushed a long time ago. Instead of doing so, its spokesman Sharma goes about challenging the government to do its worst “Dhajjian uda deyngey — we will tear it to shreds.” He goes scot free. Meanwhile, mobs of lunatics set fire to trains, buses, cars and public buildings. It is time our Central and State governments put down these lawless elements with a firm hand. The only language goondas understand is the language of the danda (stick).

Fear of death

Thanatophobia, derived from Greek, is the fear of death or dying. It is a disease which afflicts all living creatures. Human beings are especially prone to it because they are capable of thinking — and they think about it frequently. No one is immune to it: a person in good health and enjoying life puts it aside for a while. But when his health begins to fail, he is per force reminded of it. Everyone dreads its coming: those who deny being afraid of it and put up a brave face when they see it, are liars. In fact, they are as scared of it as a man being led to the gallows.

Much has been written about the fear of death by thinkers including those who have suffered short cardiac arrests but survived to relate their experiences. None of these accounts have solved the mystery of death. It remains the veil beyond which we cannot see, the door to which no one has yet found the key. All religions have theories of what happens after death. None of them adduce evidence in support of their theories. No rationalist can accept a day of Judgement, heaven, hell, resurrection, re-incarnation or re-birth, because there is not an iota of evidence to support any of them. We face a blank wall of total ignorance of the subject.

The latest book on the subject is Julian Barnes’ Nothing to be frightened of (Knopt). He is an atheist turned agnostic. (I construe agnostic as an atheist with an open mind). Barnes begins by admitting: “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.” He admits that despite his belief that death is nothing, he thinks about it day and night and is dead scared of it.

Mirza Ghalib said the same thing: Maut ka ek din muayyan hai, neend raat bhar kyon nahin aatee (one day you must die, why then do I have sleepless nights thinking about it)?

We have to be an oaf not to think about death. There is an epitaph on an unmarked grave in England which runs as follows:

Gaily I lived, as ease and nature taught

And spent my life without a thought;

And am amazed that death, that tyrant grim

Should think of me, who never thought of him.

The moral of the tale of death is simple: you can’t put it out of your mind and dread its coming but you need not brood over it, become melancholic and forgo the fun of living.

Mis-heard prayer

A Hindu in the US suffered a heart attack on the road and was picked up by an ambulance. Being religious, he kept repeating — Hari Om, Hari Om, Hari Om.

When the ambulance pulled into his driveway, his wife came out and screamed to the paramedics: “Why didn’t you take him straight to the hospital ?” They replied, “because he kept saying hurry home, hurry home!”

(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, Delhi)

First Published: Oct 31, 2008 21:54 IST