22 April 2010
Shilpa Shetty vouched for the way Lalit Modi has been running the IPL. She said confidently: “It's perfectly fine.” What else do you need to know?
The Mallyas, the Shettys, the Khans and all those moneybags who are contributing a lot to help India’s economy grow on Malabar Hills must come forward with sugarcane barons to help a hapless "bechara" like Lalit Modi and, of course, Shashi Tharoor. They are BPL people. Below "Paap-Punya" Line . Nothing touches them except the lucre. And they think, as Shilpa was trying to tell us, they help the economy grow to help another set of BPLs, that is, those Below Poverty Line. Now, if we have to have a Shilpa as our conscience keeper and certifier of good conduct, then let the Dantewada tribals eat cake if they don’t have "roti".
Having covered the Indian political scene as a journalist for the last three decades, I know it’s almost impossible to find a middle-class Indian who can qualify as a friend of our politicians. Most of our politicians are happy to receive those who arrive at their bungalows in BMWs and Mercs and take care of their "domestic" needs. Those who come from far-off places to give their applications prepared after putting in long hours of labour never know that their letters of hope are often assigned to the dustbin as soon as they are heard and disposed of in the outer room, adjacent to the office reception. The rich are treated in the cozy "baithak", or the "drawing room" as the brown sahebs prefer to call it.
The so-called fight against the Naxalites or the drive to develop tribal areas too has a side story, bigger than the principal one. I worked as an activist in a tribal area, Dadra Nagar Haveli, for five years, helping establish a hostel and school and encouraging tribal solidarity against exploitation by the rich and the urban elite. It was a journey that taught me to be intensely angry with the so-called highly placed and arrogant people who would do everything possible to subjugate or at the other extreme patronize the people they should be walking with as pals. It was a hopeless struggle. Politicians, even among those who were their own kith and kin, would learn the tricks of deceit and making hot money once they were "Delhi returned". They themselves became exploiters and managed industrialists and land seekers, turning their offices into virtual commission agencies to facilitate the conversion of agricultural land into a non-agricultural.
It is this hiatus where the Tharoors and the Lalit Modis come in and get entrenched. Tharoor was a darling of India’s neorich glitterati. His accented expressions and the "just-right body language" distanced him from the teeming millions of the Indian language-speaking Bharat and brought him closer to the Gurgaonised Twitterati. He was given space in the print line media, which would never be given to a representative of Bharat that is not India. He fell.
My sympathies are with him. The big fish, as usual, are still there to be brought into the net and the stink called IPL needs to be probed by an "I don’t care for the consequences" type, like Seshan or Gopalaswami.
Those who show the courage to jump off a cliff and not just inch their way to wealth make the life of a nation. The men and women who lead the masses must choose between the life of a Man Singh, amassing forts and billions but no glory, and a Rana Pratap, living a rugged existence amid the rocks of Haldighati with pride and spine.
The IPL mess must be addressed in its proper perspective. Look at the scales of liquid they swim in: “£2m bets in UK, Rs 5000cr in India on IPL”. No such gutter of easy money would exist if politicians were not behind it. They mock at the 40% of Indian population that’s forced to live at Rs 20 a day, while the satraps of the stinking sultanate have Rs 2,000 per plate salad. It’s here that some against these goons justify the gun. And to top it all, our information age is divided between a semiliterate media’s glamour boys and the cosmetic damsels of Naxal-land who ink and blink for Anglo-Saxon evening players.
They never try to figure out why only the tribal regions of the nation are under a spell of insurgency, terrorism, anti-national movements and above all an isolating darkness. They never raise the question why even after three decades of a so-called armed revolution not a single place can be found where the dreamy-eyed butchers of literature that glorifies Maoism can show a good hospital or school, increased farm production and growing happiness index under the gun-regime of the Maoists.
That's the first dishonesty of the "red revolutionaries". True, there is the other side to the story too. So what? Can that justify brutality and barbarism?
I know from my own experience in tribal areas that the biggest curse a man can face is to be alone and unlisted. Tribals and the poor of India have been made to feel like that. Don’t look at their political leaders who might be among the richest in India. They neither represent the tribes nor their land. The irony is that a large section, often improperly called the mainstream Indian media, has become an agent of the urban rich and politically influential class for reasons of business.
With the pillars of democratic institutions under suspicion and a corrupt polity, is there a chance for the rural and tribal poor to hope for any succour?
Through erecting statues or the garlanding of a dalit leader? Spending a night in a properly set village house? Just take a glance at some of the statistics: 700 tribes form 8.2% of India. They are spread over 15% of the geographical area of the land. More than 51% are below poverty line; 47.10% is the average literacy rate with just 34.76 % female literacy rate. They have commonalities with the non-tribal rural poor and this all would show that more than half of India is reeling under abject dehumanised conditions of living while a handful of politicians and IPL-cast leaders are living like viceroys. These are the sultans who give the call "Please make the Commonwealth Games success; it’s a question of our izzat". This was the heading of a piece penned by a leader of the ruling elite. Izzat? Whose izzat do the Commonwealth Games represent, anyway, of Her Majesty the Queen’s or of the formerly colonized subject classes?
Their Izzat is not hurt when 40% of India lives at Rs 20 a day and thousands in Delhi do not have roof over their heads and spend their night on the footpaths of Connaught Place.
Their millions are protected by the Mallyas, the Shettys and the Pawars. Who is going to protect the millions who can never even dream of having a TV set to watch the "magic" called IPL?