The recent news of Jarnail Singh tossing his shoe at Mr P Chidambaram, has raked some horrible nightmares for many of us. It also reinforced my belief that some wounds must heal. And some crimes must be punished. And for this healing to take place, these crimes must first be acknowledged. Our politicians almost always fail to do that. Congress shocks with its indifference.
And still, I have always considered Congress the lesser evil.
Let me try to explain.
Evil because they failed to control the 1984 carnage. Lesser Evil because they did not say the victims deserved it. Lesser Evil because they did not try to pass off the burning and killing of citizens as an emotional reaction to the assassination of a political representative. Lesser Evil because no recent or past history was used to wedge permanent cracks in the society. Lesser Evil because they did not try to see the other side of a violent carnage.
Evil because 3000 (not sure) Sikhs were killed by mobs made up of hooligans mainly from neighboring slums and villages. Evil because when our neighbours heard some noises in their garden hedge, they ran to shoo away a stray animal and found a teenage boy hiding there. Evil because we heard of bodies rotting near…some public places. Evil because some rumors claimed (overnight) that Sikhs were basically ‘aggressive’. (I have heard the same description for ‘outsiders’ & Muslims.)
Lesser Evil because the neighbors’ heart had not been not filled with so much hate, that they refuse to take him inside – even though they were frightened of mob-fury. There were no hate speeches in those days. My sister in law was amongst many who hid their Sikh neighbours in their homes, risking frenzied mob fury.
We were in college then, some of our friends cut their hair to hide their religious identity. Men from many neighborhoods, Sikh and non-Sikh started neighbourhood watches.
There was indifference from those who should and could have acted swiftly… We did not know it then, but it could have been still worse. But no official or political voice attempted to justify or glorify the massacres. Not even indirectly.
It did not become, under any circumstances, okay to hate a whole community. So the trauma remains, the horror remains, memories will haunt forever, but the fear gradually faded.
So I would say, the Congress is Manipulative? Maybe. Weak in controlling violence? Time and again, and sometimes without the excuse of offending any sentiments, like the senseless nightmare of 1984. Condemnable in indifference? Totally. They appease the minorities? Maybe. (but that’s no excuse to burn or rape some citizens of minority communities.) They are not really Secular? Perhaps… (again that’s not something we bring up to justify carnages.)
Then why call them the lesser evil? Because they do not preach and encourage violence and intolerance.
They do not say it’s okay to chop off hands and it’s bewkuf to turn the other cheek. They do not tell us that some amongst us are deserving of hate. They don’t make the evils of Hate, Violence and Intolerance an acceptable option.
Khushwant Singh wrote of a widow who had two sons. One learnt to rule, one learnt to fly. The one who learnt to rule tried to fly and he died. The one who could fly tried to rule, he died too. He also suggested (I think it was in his column called ‘With Malice towards one and all’) – an apology. And it stuck in my mind.
Apologies matter. So when Sheila Dixit seemed to regret on National Television a statement no responsible leader should make I forgave her fast. And when Rahul Gandhi expressed regret over the 1984 carnage – I saw hope.
WORDS are powerful. Words are Statements. Words are Promises. Words are Hate speeches.
Words are also Apologies. Apologies are hope, apologies are a new beginning.
But more than anything an apology says I do not defend my actions, I admit I was wrong.
To the bloodthirsty mobs, an apology like this says “I will no longer defend you if you tried something like this.”
Apologies also mean our representatives have not completely forgotten that they are not our rulers.
Words can be the difference between life and death, because words of our political leaders are also a message to our violent mobs. Words don’t change the way potential rioters think. Blood thirsty mobs are lead by people who are too smart to believe that murders can be right – but blood thirsty mobs are also smart enough to understand that if a political leader hates a community (even indirectly or subtly) the murders will be excused away as a reaction to hurt sentiments.
Why is it crucial that we do not ever say anything to condone violence? Because the murderers, the unemployed and the unwilling to work, the perverts, and anti social elements are waiting for us to do just that. You tell a thief he will not be punished, what will he do?
That is why Jagdish Tytler was tossed a shoe (via P Chidambaram). I don’t support the implicit violence in flinging a shoe – I would have preferred a Shoes Sending Campaign just like Pink Chaddi Campaign. But thankfully this is not required now. I read in today’s newspaper, that finally ‘The Congress on Thursday announced Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, accused of involvement in the 1984 Sikh riots, are withdrawing from Lok Sabha elections in Delhi.’
This should have been done years ago. I wish this move had not been caused by a shoe. This might become an unhealthy precedence? Are we going to see shoes being aimed at Advani and Modi next? If that happens, will that result in some more killings, this time provoked by shoe throwing? (The idea of couriering shoes is a safer, non-violent option)
If a political party is not finding newer victims to hate every election season, then even if it has taken 25 years to apologize and dump one of those allegedly involved in a nightmarish carnage, sad to say I am compelled to call it the Lesser Evil.
I know Amit Varma agrees!! Read what he says at India Uncut Blog!
And MadMomma says Dear Jarnail Singh