As Alexander the Great lay dying, his generals asked him to name his sucessor. Opinions as to his answer are mixed: according to some he said his empire, which stretched at that time from Greece to India, should go “to the strongest”; others insisted he said it belonged “to the stronger”. Not the brightest or the cleverest or the ablest or any of the things that we’re told to revere in our leaders – the first known conqueror of global reknown chose strength above all else.
Nearly 2,500 years have passed since that day. If Alexander were to walk this planet today, he would hardly recognize it – mankind has discovered four new continents, wars are fought differently with weapons people of his time would have thought the domain of gods, you can no longer sell your defeated opponents into slavery or massacre entire cities of them just because you feel like it, not only has man walked on the surface of the moon but he’s sending probes to other planets, and I’m sitting here on my couch typing words into a little box slimmer than a book in his time and people all over the world can read it as soon as I hit a little button marked “publish”.
In fact, he’d be considered a barbarian by modern standards. And yet, Alexander’s ideas about governance still hold valid today. Not just in some tinpot dictatorship either, but in what we Indians like to call the world’s largest democracy. Jagdish Tytler being the latest example.
For those of you who have no idea who he is, Tytler is the Congress politician who rose to national prominence following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. His valuable contribution to the country? Well, in the anti-Sikh riots in the capital that followed Mrs. Gandhi’s murder, several eye witness accounts identified Tytler as one of the main people inciting mobs to attack Sikh families. It goes without saying that those people had nothing whatsoever to do with the assassination other than the fact that the men who carried out the attack, members of the Prime Minister’s personal bodyguard, were fellow Sikhs.
Rajiv Gandhi, who was sworn in as Prime Minister the same evening that his mother was gunned down, took his own sweet time deploying the Army to maintain peace and order. The excuse handed out was that he was apparently waiting for the file to make its way from the Cabinet Secretary’s office to his own. The distance from the Prime Minister’s Office in the South Block to the Cabinet Secretary’s in the Rashtrapati Bhavan? A 10 minute walk along the nicest road in all of Delhi. Less than five if you took one of the many cars the government maintains at the taxpayer’s expense.
24 years have passed since then. 10 (count ’em!) different “commissions of enquiry” have come and gone under various governments of different political ideologies. None of them were ever able to come to any conclusions about what took place during those three days in Delhi. Nor have any of the governments elected over the past two decades displayed any kind of anxiety that justice delayed might be justice denied.
The only “justice” the victims of the ’84 riots have received till date, in fact, is the rough and ready one meted out by Khalistanis to a couple of the other alleged ringleaders such as Lalit Maken, son-in-law of the former President of India Shankar Dayal Sharma, who was gunned down along with his wife Gitanjali. Alexander would have approved.
All the rest is weak sauce. It took more than 20 years for a Congress Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh who is himself an observant Sikh, to apologize to the Sikh community for the way their own government had treated them in 1984. Oh, and the BJP is very concerned about the way the investigation is going. It’s raising questions in Parliament! What a relief that must be.
Back in the day, however, nobody had anything to say. The same Tytler, for instance, who now stands “vindicated” is the same man who didn’t utter a peep about how he was being slandered when all of Delhi was openly taking his name as one of the ringleaders for years. Of course, it might have been because it took eight commissions for his name to actually appear in a report. And it definitely hasn’t done him any political harm to be associated with this case.
And even if the BJP comes back into power, that’s the way it’s going to remain. Because if one political party starts washing the dirt out of the public’s linen, they’ll all be left standing naked coz the only thing keeping them covered right now is all the slime they’ve accumulated over the years.
The only difference between Alexander’s time and our own is that these days we no longer challenge people to hand-to-hand combat. Why bother exerting yourself physically when you can simply bribe, lie, manipulate, cheat and kiss ass your way to the top?