Nobody Dunnit.

05 Apr


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?


Posted by on April 5, 2009 in Newsmakers, Politics


9 responses to “Nobody Dunnit.

  1. M

    April 6, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    This is what scares me about India so much – the political climate is so bleak, I lose hope on a daily basis. 😦


  2. pitu

    April 6, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Well, no offense, but which middle-class, educated desi even bothers to do anything about it? Everyone goes to engg schools or whatever and starts working for mncs or goes abroad. I don’t know many people my age who’ve even voted, leave alone stand for elections! Politics is not a spectator sport :-p The apathy in India rly pisses me off because I was raised in a military dictatorship where the common man had NO VOICE whatsoever. So yeah, after a point the ‘common man’ has to take some of the blame for not ousting rogues in power :-X coz there are way more where those came from!

    • sachita

      April 6, 2009 at 4:13 pm

      Pitu, that isnt true, even if people do vote, what kind of choice do they have between Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha? Regarding standing the elections themselves, I know of these group of people from IIT trying to form a party and ofcourse losing out even their deposits.

      And there is this whole, when you point one finger on others… 🙂

      I think we should make politicians more accountable. Like the way we took a procession against Jessica Lal murder case we could try doing that prolly(but that wouldn’t work, coz congress with all its political strength will hire few anti-social elements & so on).

      • Amrita

        April 7, 2009 at 2:42 pm

        I’m somewhere in the middle of this… on the one hand, I know what Pitu is saying, it seems to me that we don’t take our rights seriously enough unless someone is already at the door, kicking it in. Everytime I hear some idiot talking about how he or she is so clever about not casting a vote, i want to kick something.

        However, I do think there are a number of people who’re participating in the process these days. The number of candidates on the roll keeps increasing, the problem is that the whole thing is rigged in innumerable ways as M mentions below and finally it’s always someone from the major parties who wins. Unless you’re a movie star or a royal or something, it’s almost unheard of for an independent candidate to win.

        Which leads to what Sachita and Aditya are talking about: even if we do vote, who is it that we’re voting for? Even if Candidate A is a complete and utter gem, if he belongs to Party X, then the vote will ultimately go to X and A will have to toe the line on most issues. So what’s the choice there?

  3. M

    April 6, 2009 at 2:27 pm


    I can tell you that there are enough middle-class folks who do vote – and who sorely lack a voice in any election. What we need is folks of influence – for example, people like Shoba De (was reading her blog, so she came to mind) – who can stand up to corrupt politicians without fear of reprisals. That is what holds up so many people – the fear of reprisals…and I don’t think I can tell someone not to be afraid of having some physical harm done to them, since sadly, almost everyone standing for office has enough thugs in their employ.

    I understand that this thinking is what leads to Mallika Sarabhai standing for election as an independent.

    I have not lived in India for close to 20 years now – my parents duly filed to remove my name from the ration card/electoral rolls as soon as I became a US citizen – yet, I hear during every election, that there is a vote against my name when my parents go to vote. My father is a lawyer – he tried, with his legal background, to get this corrected, showing proof of wrongful vote-casting – and was rebuffed at every step. he gave up after a few months of futility….and mine is just one of so many tales. How do you suggest we fight this?

    Every so often a media campaign against corruption starts up – and then dies quietly down, when folks find nothing can be done.
    Part of the reason for my agnst about India…


  4. Gradwolf

    April 7, 2009 at 2:46 am

    Yes, most middle class people do vote but like Sachita said, what choice do we have anyway? And nobody would think of sitting and doing a pros and cons analysis of each party and vote accordingly. It doesn’t help the case at all. I am not sure about the choice of M(Shoba De) but the idea is right. We need more folks with influence taking things up. I am kind of impressed by Meera Sanyal’s profile but I don’t know how much she can do as an independent candidate. We probably need more people like that, with power. Like Karla Saaranen said, Power is the best thing in the world. Either people are not using it or not using it for all the wrong reasons.

  5. naren

    April 7, 2009 at 10:02 am

    We need some simple but excruciatingly painful reforms, painful for both politicians and bureaucrats.

    1. Accountability and consequence:
    I run a factory. My employees have to paid Provident Fund. If my appointed consultant fails to do it, I go to prison. Not my consultant. That is a good law. But where government servants or our elected representatives are concerned there is NO – repeat NO – punishment for dereliction of duty. We need this. Especially dismissal from service and criminal prosecution. I tell you, IT officers caught extorting money from assessees are just suspended. Nothing more.

    2. A leaner justice system. It seriously needs a complete overhaul. It’s a joke. The first thing is the practice of taking dates. Judges routinely had out postponements, enabling people to make a mockery of the system. Second, we need to de-pompous-ize it. You have to read some of the legal stuff that comes my way. And I’m not even a professional lawyer. I recently had a customer contract that had one sentence spread over two pages.

    3. We need to change to the presidential form of government.

    • Amrita

      April 7, 2009 at 2:36 pm

      Naren – I couldn’t agree more on all three. The sad thing though is that there are actually states where they’ve experimented to various degrees with all these ideas (well, not a presidential form of govt, obvs, but at least where you know who the CM is going to be) and there is nothing that stops the central govt or other states from adopting those ideas… except for a severe lack of will.

  6. Gagan

    April 8, 2009 at 11:19 am

    India was a confusion. Having grown up in the West – born in India but don’t remember much of the first two years of my life- India was a confusion of loyalties. It seemed you were fitted in a community and that was your main association. I mean in college there everyone mixes freely but even there you are understood to fit a certain category. I have relatives who have spoken of the anger amongst the Sikh community against Indira Gandhi at that time for having ordered Operation Bluestar. Gandhi’s Sikh body guards operated out of this loyalty, out of this collective anger. I have an uncle who was in Dehli at the time and he told me was out celebrating Gandhi’s assasination handing out ludoos, when it all went down and he had to hide out for a few days. He was never known for being politically deep but there was a sentiment at that time from what I have heard told of wanting to settle the score with Gandhi. I don’t think that way myself but I can understand it now after having lived there for a few years. The problem with it is that it gets generalized and it can make someone complicit in murder . I’m sure Rajiv Gandhi thought that way in delaying the end to the riots, out wanting to punish the Sikhs. But in thinking that way he was responsible for so many deaths. By the same token, operation bluestar went after Bhindranwale who was just a terrorist and he had to be taked down. Not sure if it was Bhidranwale or the physical damage to the Golden Temple that raised so much ire. The police in the punjab were allowed too much range in stamping out the separtist movement there after and that’s another source for a long standing grudge.

    The civic structure of India is a long way from being neutral. Everyone operates on loyalties to groups. I am just so glad that I live here now. I would think that way too if I lived there. Here my friends come from all over and my loyalty is to something deeper and it’s that way because the agents of government are far more neutral, not perfect but better. My thoughts on the whole messy power equation

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