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April 23, 2012

Demilitarisation, not divine providence, is the way forward to peace!

[First published by the Asian Human Rights Commission]
A President of one of the two counties almost perennially at war with each other visiting the other, what on the face of mother earth makes news that gets bigger than this? The fact that this is a President on Pilgrimage, and not on another diplomatic mission infused with dry details of that elusive thaw in the relations merely adds to the importance and makes it a stuff of legend.

That is how one can best sum up the recent India visit of Mr Asif Ali Zardari , the president of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The fact that his entourage included his son Bilawal Bhutto, president of the Pakistan People’s Party and the widely believed ‘crown-prince’ only added to the importance of the visit turning it into one more flourish of the ‘track two’ diplomacy, via pilgrimage route this time. It was, therefore, merely fitting on the part of Indian establishment to convert this personal pilgrimage/visit into a semi-official one with a lunch with the Prime Minister, with the crown-prince of this side of the border in attendance. So the President came, lunched with the ‘who is who’ of Indian side, the list including Rahul Gandhi who is perceived to be the ‘crown prince’ of this side of the disputed border. The entourage, then, proceeded to Ajmer and worshipped for peace, among other things I am sure.

The visit assumes an air of significance for something that is much more important than that comes out from such details. Here is a President of Pakistan visiting a Sufi shrine and paying tributes, in the process, to a version of Islam that stands for peace, fraternity and true love as against that radical, militant and intolerant strand of Islam that has been slowly engulfing Pakistan. The message of the visit is too loud to be lost on even the most untrained of the ears. Seen from this perspective, the visits adds sort of insult to the Jihadists already injured by the declaration of a bounty on the head of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the Amir of Jama'at-ud-Da'wah by the administration of the United States of America. Clearly, the political leadership of Pakistan seems to have woken up to the fact that it cannot let the violence simmering within its own territories continue, it cannot let the Jihadis invent enemies to attack and kill when they can find none in their immediate universe..

It is also an acknowledgement that the situation has reached a flashpoint. Pakistan can only ignore the Jihadist designs, often in toe with the rogue elements in the security establishment, at its own peril. Being a deficient, and even delinquent, democracy like India is still not only different but far better than slowly turning into a failed state, isn’t it? Democracies can be mended from within unlike states ruled by military-religious right complex, and it is indeed a very positive signal that civilian government of Pakistan, mobilised perhaps by multiple movements for democracy like that of the lawyers, has awakened to the realisation.

Better still is the fact that it has decided to find the road to redemption in its own glorious history instead of the readymade one that US and its cronies specialise in delivering, more so to the oil-rich countries. One does not need to rubbish the already discredit theory of clash of civilisations, but one can certainly reclaim all that was rich in ‘our’ culture, our meaning the entire subcontinent in this case. Good that Pakistan has lead the way, may the rest rediscover and reclaim everything from the Bhakti movement to the Bauls. That would give one more fillip to the already high on the success of this visit ‘peaceniks’, otherwise believed to be hopeless people on both sides of the border.

Yet, the high profile visit came on the heels of another, far more sadder event that almost got whitewashed. Pakistan had lost more than a hundred of its soldiers in the Siachen glaciers, not to the fire of an inimical army or even the ‘friendly’ drones but to an avalanche. Even more unfortunately, this was happening neither for the first time, nor were the ones killed Pakistani fatigues always. Quite on the contrary India and Pakistan, taken together, have lost more than 8000 soldiers to the furies of nature since early eighties when they decided to establish permanent posts on the glaciers so majorly unfit for human habitation. The glaciers had been disputed, and claimed by both the sides as their own, but remained unoccupied till then.

Files after files of news reports buried in the archives of history have brought in the futility, and also the stupidity, of the decision of occupying Siachen ever since. Reports bring out the fact that India has lost a soldier almost every other day while Pakistan manages a little better by losing one every third day, doesn’t it? Not really, for the reasons lay not in any difference of capacities of the armies but to the sheer fact that India controls two third of the glaciers as opposed to one third controlled by the Pakistan. Add the number of those getting incapacitated for life in this highest conflict zone of the world, the economic and humane cost of this ungainly war becomes apparent. One does not even need to calculate it all over again. Reports put the costs of maintaining military presence in the area at more than 5 crore INR a day and I am sure, Pakistan would not be spending any less.

Come to the soldiers. Other than the colours of the flag they believe to be defending, almost everything else about their lives is similar. They come from roughly similar cultural and economic universe, and are often the sole breadwinners of their impoverished families that must be languishing in the plains of both India and Pakistan. Why, then, the news of their incapacitation and deaths don’t move us? Why, then, we are never made to wonder about this theatre of the absurd where we are losing our soldiers not to enemies, perceived or real, but to the eccentrics of those in power? Our in this case means both of us, again.

As it is, there has not been a single reported attempt of infiltration of terrorists, of Pakistani origin if India wants to claim that as a reason for maintaining its presence on the glaciers, for the climatic and geographical conditions do not allow that. Similarly, it does not seem to gain anything much even on the disputed water front for it does not contribute much to the Indus river system but for a 80 kilometre long tributary the river. Same is the story for Pakistan as I learn from the discourse on the issue. Is not it a criminal offence, for both of the countries then, and not merely one born out of ignorance, to subject our soldiers to such harshness of nature?

Another question that begets our attention is if we can really afford to sacrifice these many soldiers for our erratic war of supposed pride, or whatever else it is? Asif Ali Zardari, the President of Pakistan has taken a welcome step in that sense by praying for peace at the shrine of a Sufi saint. It is high time that we, on the other side of the border, respond to that by a call of demilitarisation of Siachen glaciers, and restoring pre 1972 situation, far before the fateful decade of 1980s. It is high time for both the countries to go back to their positions before that time for even otherwise they aren’t getting anything more than body bags of their soldiers. Best part of the story is that even Pakistani Army seems to be in favour of demilitarisation and calling for both the countries sit together for the same. Buzz from Indian corridors of power have hinted of their support for demilitarisation as well. Now, what can get better than this for resolving the issue for once and for all?

Hope, political leadership of both the countries does not waste the opportunity either to paranoid war mongers or to pahle aap (you first) relic of their Nawabi pasts. Hope, they do it at the earliest for it would not merely earn them a lot of goodwill and mutual confidence but also take care of the nefarious designs of those whose interests revolve around putting any process of reconciliation between these two countries into jeopardy. Also, this would be our true, and heartfelt, tribute to those who have lost their lives here. Also, God, of all religions, is believed to reward only those who substantiate their efforts by real work. Demilitarisation, therefore, could be the only way to secure that elusive divine providence for peace in our part of the world.

April 15, 2012

अमन की असली दुआ होगा सियाचिन का असैन्यीकरण!

[दैनिक छत्तीसगढ़ में 'अमन की असली दुआ' शीर्षक से 14-04-2012 को प्रकाशित.]

पाकिस्तान के राष्ट्रपति का भारत आगमन कभी भी बड़ी खबर होती है, पर अगर वह उपमहाद्वीप में सूफी इस्लाम की सबसे पाक जगहों में से एक पर आयें तो बेशक खबर और बड़ी हो जाती है. आखिर को अमन, भाईचारे और हकीकी मुहब्बत की नींव पर खड़ा सूफी इस्लाम ही है, जो इस्लामिक चरमपंथियों और उनके जेहाद के रास्ते में सबसे बड़ा रोड़ा है.

इसीलिये, आसिफ अली जरदारी साहब का अजमेर शरीफ आकर जियारत करना न केवल अमन की राह में उठा एक कदम है बल्कि वहाबी-तबलीगी कट्टरपंथियों की पाकिस्तान को अपने रंग में रंगने की साजिशों को सीधी चुनौती भी है.

अफ़सोस मगर इस बात का है कि इस खबर के महत्व के चलते एक दूसरी बड़ी खबर दब-सी गयी, वह खबर जिसमे दुनिया के सबसे ऊंचे और मानवरहित युद्धक्षेत्र में 100 से ज्यादा पाकिस्तानी सिपाहियों के बर्फबारी में फंसकर मारे जाने का जिक्र था. यह कोई पहली बार नहीं हुआ है, न मरने वाले हमेशा पाकिस्तानी ही होते हैं. अभी पिछले साल भारतीय सेना के बीसियों जवान भीषण बर्फबारी में फंसकर मारे गए थे. सियाचिन के ग्लेशियरों की भौगोलिक और जलवायुगत दुश्वारियों के चलते इन मारे गए जवानों में से बहुतेरों के मृत शरीर भी नहीं मिल पाते, और यह अभागे सैनिक अपने अपने धर्मों के मुताबिक़ जरूरी अंतिम संस्कार से भी महरूम रह जाते हैं.

तथ्यों की निगाह में देखें तो मोटे तौर पर 1980 तक सियाचिन पर दोनों देशों के दावे के बावजूद कब्ज़ा किसी का नहीं था, न ही कभी दोनों ने मानव जिजीविषा और सामर्थ्य को चुनौती देने वाले इन ग्लेशियरों पर सैन्य चौकियां स्थापित करने की कोशिश की थी. फिर 1980 के दशक की शुरुआत में पाकिस्तान द्वारा सियाचीन में सैन्य चौकियां स्थापित करने की कोशिशों की जानकारी के बाद भारतीय सेना ने ‘ऑपरेशन मेघदूत’ के तहत सियाचिन के ज्यादातर हिस्से पर कब्जा कर लिया. आज की स्थिति यह है कि सियाचिन के लगभग दो तिहाई हिस्से पर भारत काबिज है जबकि इसका एक तिहाई हिस्सा पाकिस्तान के पास है.

स्थिति कि भयावहता का अनुमान लगाने के लिए सिर्फ इतना जान लेना काफी होगा कि 1984 से लेकर 2012 के बीच बिना किसी आपसी झड़प या गोलीबारी के भारत और पाकिस्तान के 8000 से ज्यादा जवान सियाचिन में बर्फबारी से लेकर अन्य प्राकृतिक आपदाओं का शिकार हो चुके हैं. इसको ऐसे भी समझा जा सकता है कि यहाँ हर तीसरे दिन एक पाकिस्तानी सिपाही और हर दूसरे दिन एक भारतीय सिपाही की मौत होती है.

इसमें अगर घायल होने वाले सैनिकों से लेकर स्थायी अपंगता तक का शिकार हो जाने वाले सैनिकों की संख्या जोड़ दें तो 20000 फीट से ऊपर लड़ी जा रही इस लड़ाई की आर्थिक और मानवीय लागत अविश्वसनीय लगने लगती है. यह स्थिति तब है जब आंकड़ों के मुताबिक़ भारत सरकार सियाचिन पर हर दिन 5 करोड़ रुपये से ज्यादा खर्च करती है और बेशक पाकिस्तान का खर्च भी कुछ ऐसा ही होता होगा.

सियाचिन में बेवजह मारे जा रहे ये सिपाही अपने-अपने देश के झंडों के रंग से अलग गरीब परिवारों की रोटी का इकलौता सहारा भी हैं. फिर इनके मरने की, इनके कष्टों की खबर हम तक क्यों नहीं पंहुचती? सवाल यह भी है कि उन हालात में जब सीमा के दोनों तरफ लोग भूख से मर रहे हों तब एक निर्जन और मानव निवास की सम्भावनाओं से रहित एक क्षेत्र पर कब्जे की झूठी लड़ाई में दोनों मुल्क अपने जवानों और धन दोनों को ऐसे बलि चढा सकते हैं?

सीधे-सीधे कहें तो यह राष्ट्रीय सीमाओं की रक्षा करने में जा रही जाने नहीं हैं, सियाचिन से होकर भारत में घुसपैठ करने की आज तक कोई कोशिश कभी नहीं की गयी है. भौगोलिक परिस्थितियों के चलते की भी नहीं जा सकती. इसके उलट, सियाचिन पर कब्जा बनाए रखकर भारत को भी कुछ खास मिलने वाला नहीं है क्योंकि सियाचिन ग्लेशियर पर आधारित नदियाँ मूल रूप में पाकिस्तानी क्षेत्रों में बहती हैं और उनका पंजाब की पांचों नदी-व्यवस्थाओं से कोई विशेष रिश्ता नहीं है. फिर एक ऐसे दुर्गम इलाके पर कब्ज़ा जमाए रखने के लिए दोनों तरफ के सैनिकों की बलि चढाना सिर्फ निर्मम नहीं लगभग आपराधिक भी है.

आसिफ अली ज़रदारी साहब ने ख्वाजा मोइनुद्दीन चिश्ती की दरगाह पर दोनों मुल्कों में अमन की दुआ माँगी है. इस अमन की शुरुआत सियाचिन के असैन्यीकरण से की जा सकती है. सियाचिन में 1980 के पहले की स्थिति बहाल की जानी चाहिए जब यहाँ किसी पक्ष की कोई सैन्य उपस्थिति नहीं थी. यही ठीक भी होगा क्योंकि वैसे भी यहाँ से दोनो मुल्कों को अपने जियालों की लाशों से अलग कुछ हासिल नहीं होता. फिर किसी भी क्षेत्र के असैन्यीकरण से इन दोनों पड़ोसी देशों में परस्पर विश्वास बहाल करने में मदद भी मिलेगी और दोनों ही तरफ बैठे उन्मादियों के खिलाफ यह एक बड़ी जीत भी होगी. फिर, यह एक बेवजह और बेमानी लड़ाई में कुदरत के हाथों मारे गए सैनिकों को हमारी श्रद्धांजलि भी होगी.

April 14, 2012

भारतीय सेना: गर्व और ग्लानि की कथा

[दैनिक जागरण (राष्ट्रीय संस्करण) में 14-04-2012 को प्रकाशित]

व्यवस्था की जड़ों को खोखला कर चुके इन भ्रष्टाचारी समयों में भी एक पवित्र और ईमानदार संस्थान, या फिर उत्पीड़ित अस्मिताओं के निर्मम शोषण का उपकरण, लोक विमर्श में भारतीय सेना इन्ही दो रूपों में देखी जाती रही है. इन दोनों नजरियों के देश की सीमाओं से दूरी से लगभग समानुपाती अपने भू-राजनैतिक विभाजन भी हैं. लब्बोलुआब यह कि तुलनात्मक रूप से शांत उत्तर या दक्षिण भारत में सेना को जनता का पुरजोर समर्थन मिलता है जबकि राष्ट्रीयताओं के संघर्षों वाले काश्मीर, मणिपुर या नागालैंड जैसे इलाकों की बहुसंख्यक जनता भारतीय सेना को एक आक्रांता और उत्पीडक सेना के बतौर ही देखती है.

फिर भी, भारतीय सेना इस बात के लिए सम्मान की अधिकारी है कि उसने अपने सम्मान और विरोध के इस भू-राजनैतिक विभाजन पर साम्प्रदायिकता की काली छाया कभी नहीं पड़ने दी. इसीलिये, साम्प्रदायिकता के चरम उभार के दौरों में भी आप उत्तर प्रदेश से लेकर आन्ध्र तक तमाम अल्पसंख्यक समुदायों को राज्य-पुलिस/ अर्धसैनिक बल हटाने और सेना बुलाने की मांग करते हुए पायेंगे, तो मणिपुर के हिंदू आपको सेना हटाने की मांग करते हुए मिलेंगे. मूल चरित्र में हिंसक प्रतिगामी विभाजनों से भरे समाज में ऐसी छवि का निर्माण कर पाना आसान काम नहीं है, और सेना की इस बात के लिए सराहना होनी ही चाहिए कि अपनी धर्मनिरपेक्ष छवि पर किसी भी हमले का उसने तीव्र प्रतिकार किया है फिर चाहे उसे कर्नल पुरोहित जैसे हिंदू-कट्टरपंथियों पर कठोरतम कार्यवाही ही क्यों न करनी पड़ी हो.

ऐसे ही अंतर्विरोध सेना के
नागरिक समाज से अंतर्संबंधों को भी पारिभाषित करते हैं. जमीनी सिपाहियों से लेकर उच्च आधिकारियों तक आप सैनिकों के अंदर ‘नागरिक जीवन’ में व्याप्त अवगुणों जैसे भ्रष्टाचार, अकर्मण्यता, भाई-भतीजावाद आदि आदि से उपजा ‘सिविलियंस’ के लिए एक वितृष्णा का भाव देखेंगे. पर फिर आजादी के तुरंत बाद हुए जीप घोटाले, बोफोर्स, ताबूत घोटाले से लेकर हालिया टाट्रा ट्रक घोटाले, और इनकी अंतर्कथाओं में अदनान खशोगी जैसे सौदागरों से लेकर चंद्रास्वामी जैसे ‘संतों’ तक की उपस्थिति याद करें तो साफ़ हो जाता है कि सेना का भी एक हिस्सा भ्रष्टाचार में आकंठ डूबा हुआ है तमाम नैतिक दावों के बावजूद सेना के पास भी छिपाने के लिए बहुत कुछ है.

इसीलिये भारतीय सेना को बहुत सारे पुनर्विचारों की जरूरत है. ‘अशांत’ क्षेत्रों में अपने ही नागरिकों के मानवाधिकार उल्लंघन के आरोपी सैनिकों को बचाने से लेकर भ्रष्टाचारियों पर कड़ी कार्यवाही करने तक सेना को बहुत कुछ साबित करना है. पर इन सबसे कहीं ऊपर, भारतीय सेना का गौरव अपने राष्ट्र-राज्य की लोकतान्त्रिक व्यवस्था के अक्षुण्ण सम्मान में निहित है. पड़ोसी मुल्क पाकिस्तान से लेकर और तमाम असफल देशों की सेनाओं से ठीक उलट भारतीय सेना ने कभी भी नागरिक प्रशासन से टकराने की कोशिश नहीं की है. ऑपरेशन ब्लू स्टार जैसे कठिन क्षणों में भी धैर्य बनाए रखने से लेकर नक्सल-प्रभावित क्षेत्रों में हस्तक्षेप से इनकार तक में सेना ने सदैव अपनी गरिमा बढ़ाई है.

अफ़सोस, कि पहले जन्म-तिथि विवाद में वर्तमान सेनाध्यक्ष के अड़ियल रवैये और फिर सेना की लड़ाकू टुकड़ियों के बिना अनुमति युद्धाभ्यास ने इस गौरवशाली परंपरा को कड़ी चुनौती दी है. किसी भी लोकतांत्रिक समाज में पदासीन सेनाध्यक्ष का नागरिक प्रशासन के खिलाफ न्यायालय जाना अपने आप में में एक गंभीर विचलन है. फिर अगर सेनाध्यक्ष के अनुसार इस विचलन के पीछे सेना के ही कुछ वरिष्ठ अधिकारियों के साथ-साथ हथियार-लाबी की संलिप्तता है तो सवाल बनाता है कि उनकी नाक के नीचे ऐसा संभव कैसे हुआ? आखिर को हथियार लाबी और वरिष्ठ सैन्य अधिकारियों की मिलीभगत किसी भी लोकतांत्रिक समाज के लिए खतरे की घंटी है. 

इस खतरे में अगर हम बिना अनुमति युद्धाभ्यास को भी शामिल कर लें तो खतरा और बड़ा हो जाता है. बेशक, सबसे नकारात्मक नजरिये में भी इस अभ्यास में सरकार को लज्जित करने से ज्यादा का कोई इरादा नजर नहीं आता, और तख्तापलट के कयास कोरी बकवास से ज्यादा कुछ नहीं साबित होते हैं. पर फिर उस दौर में जब सेनाध्यक्ष स्वयं मानते हों कि उन्हें रिश्वत देने की सीधी कोशिश पर भी वह कोई कार्यवाही नहीं कर सके थे, कोई नहीं कह सकता कि सरकार को लज्जित करने के ऐसे प्रयास कब तख्तापलट की कोशिशों में बदल जाएँ. आज बात इसलिए संभल गयी है कि सेनाध्यक्ष की कुर्सी पर एक ऐसा व्यक्ति बैठा है जिसकी व्यक्तिगत ईमानदारी और राष्ट्र के साथ साथ लोकतंत्र में निष्ठा सवालों के दायरे के परे है, पर क्या इस आधार पर हम कल के लिए आश्वस्त हो सकते हैं?

शायद यही समय है कि हम सेना और नागरिक प्रशासन के अंतर्संबंधों को मजबूत करने के साथ साथ सेना के भीतर मौजूद लोकतंत्र विरोधी तत्वों और हथियार लाबी को ध्वस्त करने की दिशा में कड़े कदम उठायें वरना कल खतरा सर पर आ जाएगा. साथ ही अब सेना को भी यह सोचना होगा कि क्या इस तरह के तत्वों की उत्पत्ति सीमावर्ती क्षेत्रों में मानवाधिकार उल्लंघन की घटनाओं को छिपाने और दोषी सैनिकों को बचाने की कोशिशों से तो नहीं जुड़ी है? आखिरकार, अगर आप अपने ही राष्ट्र के नागरिकों पर जुल्म कर बच सकते हैं तो फिर आप उसके भी आगे बढ़ने की कोशिश क्यों नहीं करेंगे? क़ानून क़ानून होते हैं और आप अगर उन्हें उत्तर-पूर्व में तोड़ सकते हैं तो फिर वे उत्तर प्रदेश में भी सुरक्षित नहीं हैं. शायद यही अवसर है कि सेना अपने सिपाहियों से लेकर उच्चाधिकारियों तक का लोकतंत्र, मानवाधिकार और क़ानून के शासन आदि विषयों पर संवेदीकरण करे. इससे न केवल भारतीय सेना की आक्रांता छवि टूटेगी बल्कि उसका सम्मान भी बढ़ेगा.

April 03, 2012

Reminiscences: Of a movement that was not and a Mahatma who came with a use-by date!

[From my column OBVIOUSLY OPAQUE in UTS Voice , April 1-15, 2012]

Anna, the second Gandhi, third JP, fourth what not is back. Just that, this time he is back sans the groundswell of support from those whose agenda he was soft-peddling into the collective consciousness of the country. Evidently, he has been unceremoniously dumped by even the right wingers led by Rashtriya Swyamsewak Sangh and its thou-sands of amoebic arms. Believe me, the very thought of finding myself into agreement with anything Bharatiya Janata Party says sends shivers down my spine!

I have always found their positions to pop-ulate two extremes of the political continuum. Either they are outright absurd and laughable or outright dangerous and inciting violence. Now, someone who has always been accused by his friends to have a ‘sub-standard’ sense of humour will naturally shudder at the thought of laughing at BJP type jokes. My sense of humour may, or may not, be sub-standard, but I would definitely not want to give such strong evidence proving the charges! Needless is to say that only the most inhuman may confirm to the second of their position. Not that there is dearth of them. We have seen quite a few defenders of Gujarat model of development. Haven’t we? I will, though, never stop opposing these merchants of mayhem and murder. Period.

Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of Opposition for the uninitiated, is a text-book case of the first types. Sometimes it seems like she has taken upon her slender shoulders the onerous task of belting out all that is absurd and dare I say silly, in the BJP stables. Her acumen of turn-ing herself, and of course her party, into a laughing stock is so near complete that a mere mention of her makes many of the political observers break into an impromptu smile. Who can forget the ‘I will live like a widow’ state-ment made by this ‘Bellary Behan’ who later graduated to be ‘Bellary-Ma’ of the ‘famed’ Reddy brothers! Or her jig at Rajghat second to none but that glorious ‘feat’- Nautanki by the custodian of national morality aka Kiran ‘one-flight-two-reimbursements’ Bedi!

A history like this did not give much hope but for a cathartic smile or two. This is what made me wait for her speeches whenever I watched the proceedings of the parliament. I know it’s hard to believe, but there still are people who watch that! So when she rose to speak on the censure motion against Team Anna in the Lok Sabha, I geared up myself for surviving a beautiful- in-form but meaningless-in-content speech. Alas, I was proven wrong this time. This was not the same Sushma we had known all this while! For once, she was making sense, a lot of that on top of that! A shiver was building up deep within me, readying itself for a parade down my spine. Was I finally in agreement with a point made by her? Wasn’t my head nodding, even if unconsciously, to her arguments? Maybe it was. I could not confirm more with her.

The irony inherent in her statement was, however, lost on many. It was lost, I am afraid, even on the copycat Mahatma aka Anna Hazare. Listening to her statement would have made Anna tremble for it was almost a repack-aged version of a statement he himself had made a few years ago. I am sure he would want to erase that from the memory of the people, but then if only that was so easy.

Mahatmas do not support murderers. Do they? Here we have one who actually does that. I know it would be hard for many to believe. But then this is what Anna Hazare had to say on Raj Thackeray’s tirade against North-Indians in Bombay (Yes I know it’s called something else now, but I would keep referring to it like this till that criminal wants to force the new name down my throat). Talking to media per-sons in Varanasi, Anna told them that “some ideas of Raj Thackeray were correct, but dam-aging public and national property was not right”. He had not stopped at that. He went on to ‘warn’ the North-Indians to live in their ‘lim-its’ by telling them that “outsiders trying to prove their dominance in the state was not at all acceptable". (Those not wanting to believe this are free to check the link -http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/UttarPradesh/Hazare-backs-Raj-s-tirade-against-Non-Marathis/Article1-368036.aspx or access the archives of Varanasi edition of Hindustan Times dated January 19, 2009).

Mahatmas can be parochial too. Can’t they? Just that, in that case they should know to remain in their ‘limits’ and should not want to ‘dominate’ the national scene under a self-inflicted delusion of grandiose. Delusion, of course, follows its own course. It makes one believe into his ‘supernatural’, ‘super-democratic’ in this case, powers. It makes their followers believe in their ‘miraculous’ powers. And in believing all that they start claiming that the Mahatma is above everything, including the parliament. They were going strong. Electronic Media, in order to wash itself of the stains of Radia-Tapes, was working overnight to make a movement out of corporate-funded campaign.

The copycat Mahatma was bound to be happy. So was his ‘Team’. Then, they made a mistake. Forgetting that their clientele (they loved to call them ‘masses’) hated politics but loved to use ‘contacts’, they sort of jumped into active politics. They decided to oppose Congress openly while clandestinely supporting the BJP. Palpably, whether or not their efforts of deluding the ‘masses’ have succeeded, they have deluded themselves into their invincibility!

If only they knew that Mahatmas too come with a use-by date. This date, in turn, depends upon their capacity of delivering ‘goods’, votes in this case, to their masters. This parochial Mahtama, bolstered by the defeat of Congress where it was not even in the contest, decided to give an open call for defeating the Congress-NCP alliance in the local civic-body elections in his home state. And bingo, the combine won more than two-third of the total seats!

‘Just one’, was what the Mahatma had cunningly asked after listening to the news of Sharad Pawar getting slapped in Delhi. The slap has landed, now, on his face. Unlike the Mahatma, though, I am not interested in count-ing the numbers. The Mahatma had failed to deliver.

Team Anna should have taken that defeat as a wake-up call. They did not. They decided, instead, to gang up openly in support of the BJP, choosing Uttarakhand as the new battle-ground. Throwing any remaining pretensions of impartiality out of the window, they called upon the masses to defeat the Congress. They should have stopped at that for in a state with bipolar politics, the call had effectively meant the same as supporting the incumbent BJP. They did not. They decided to turn themselves into something like court-poet of the incum-bent Chief Minister B C Khanduri and exhorted his virtues in a chorus. The people, who were all Anna and those who were not Anna were with Anna, listened to all this intently and then defeated the ‘honest’ chief minister in his own constituency!
The writing was now on the wall. The Mahatma, with his team, was well past its use-by date. They should have realised that scripts work for performances, right from plays to films, and not for movements. They should have realised that the same people, who clap and whistle against the demonized & vilified politicians in the darkness of an auditorium, vote for them in brightly lit polling booths. They should have known that in a country where even Masala films bomb at the box-office, a Masala ‘movement’ armed with the props ranging from the Tiranga to Topi was destined to tank.

They should have understood that under their carefully woven pretence of a homogeneous crowd lay a thousand fault lines dividing the people along the axes of caste, kinship, clan, religion and what not. They should have known that every single time their leader, the liberator-people-were-waiting-for, would make statements alluding to ‘chandal chaukari’ or Banjh Aurat (barron women), a section of the populace will get a glimpse into real psyche of his herds and will get alienated. They should have known that accommodating those who attend the Dharma-Sansads of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on their stage will scare life out of the minorities who have as much claim on the nation as anyone else.

They should have known that one can man-age an event, but not a movement. I concede that the politics of our times is drifting towards performances, but it has yet not reached the ebb and there are people who still do politics than perform it.

They should have known that people were to see through the script of Janlokpal sooner than later. They should also have known that people could be hoodwinked into believing into the efficacy of the ‘supercop’ that would emerge out of the legislation, but not forever. Someone was to remember the other Bill Shanti Bhushan, a member of Team Anna, had drafted and successfully sold into an act, called the Anti-defection act. Then s/he was bound to notice how the act had ended in institutionalizing horse trading rather than curbing it. More than any of it, though, people were to see through the real designs of the campaign that pretended to masquerade as a movement.

I recall the prudent words of a Pakistani friend of mine. He has once told me that the only thing that defines the different trajecto-ries of post-colonial India and Pakistan was the presence (absence for Pakistan) of a robust political democratic system, one in which parliament was supreme. Pakistan did not have one and so the deprived and the marginalized did never have a say in the system. Democracy, rather than dictatorship is an aberration in Pakistan’s political life for it did not have a robust parliamentary system.

India did manage to address the demands of its downtrodden, even if rather deficiently, because it had one. If a Pakistani friend knew this, Indians could not be left far behind. Could they? They knew that whatever little, right from reservations to dignity, they have found are because of the system and not despite it. They have seen the rise of the OBCs that came because of their numbers, hitherto impossible. They have seen how Dalits have found a voice even if much more is needed to done for justifying any claims of being the largest democracy of the world. And because they knew, they were to see through the real designs of the Anna-led-corporate-funded campaign aimed at demolishing the democratic system and dump it for the same. After all, scrapping is not a way to improve a deficient system, more so by impos-ing a dictatorial super-cop defined by a casteist and sectarian ideology.

For all these reasons, this campaign was a doomed one. For all these reasons, the messi-ah had a use-by date and that is well past now. Good that Sushma Swaraj realised it, for who has a better expertise of jumping out of sinking ship than her party. Had they not used and thrown the issue of Ram Temple depending on its capacity of delivering votes!

This was the irony lost on many, the irony of the handlers who produced this copycat Mahatma being forced to tell him not to cross the limits. Did I hear someone saying poetic justice? Poetic justice or not, I loved seeing this Mahatma put into his place by those whose hatred for real Mahatma is no secret!

P.S. I still do not agree to anything BJP says or does.