Some recent development are becoming increasingly cause for concern and this columnist finds it necessary to bring them to the attention of the public. The charge may be made that we shouldn’t take news reports too seriously because they may be the result of personal prejudices and Indians are particular good at breast-beating and running themselves and their country down. The advice is that many reports should be swallowed by a liberal pinch of salt.
Take, for instance, a column written by G. Parthasarathy, a well-known diplomat whose antecedents cannot be easily challenged. Writes Parthasarathy, about the recent BRICS meeting in Durban: “It is now commonly mentioned the BRICS would be better served if India is replaced by Indonesia, where economic management is prudent and sound”.
According to Parthasarathy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was treated somewhat disparagingly in Durban. South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma “did not bother to meet our Prime Minister and was busy feting China’s President Zi Jinping and Russia’s President Putin. Moreover, while other heads of government were housed comfortably in Durban, Manmohan Singh was made to stay 40 kms away from the conference venue. According to Parthasarathy, “India’s prestige and credibility are at its lowest in recent years”.
Then there is a report in Hindustan Times (April 7) which says: “Exactly two decades after the Khalistan movement for a separate Sikh nation got trounced, big funds from European countries, North America and Canada are pouring into India to fund the revival of the secessionist movement”. It is a long report detailing how money is being transferred to members of the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), the oldest and the most well-organised Khalistani outfit. And at a time when India’s Prime Minister is a Sikh and so is the Commander-in-Chief. And to think that Sikhism was formed to defend Hindus!
Are they aware of what is going on in front of their nose? Then The Hindu (10 April) carried a story that in 1975, at the height of the Emergency, DMK leader and then Labour & Housing Minister, K. Rajaram, had asked a US diplomatic representative in Chennai whether the US would give assistance to Tamil Nadu if it decided to secede from India! If it is unbelievable, think of the latest media report in Asian Age (8 April) that says Tamil diaspora groups “are believed to be behind the LTTE flags, logos and pictures of LTTE chief Kelupillai Prabhakaran’s that have found their way” into Tamil Nadu. To what purpose? And think of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly passing a resolution literally demanding a change in India’s policy towards Sri Lanka!
The Tamil Nadu government must be told that it has overstepped its federal rights in seeking to dictate what should be India’s foreign policy. Its impertinence should not be tolerated. The trouble seems to be that the UPA government has become totally ineffective and neither the Prime Minister nor the Congress President has any understanding of reality. So irresponsible have our provincial leaders become that they are behaving like local satraps with power to mock at the centre.
In Mumbai, the head of Maharashtra Navirman Sena (MNS), Raj Thackeray has been making statements about Bihar’s labour that are not only offensive, but highly provocative and challenging the Indian Constitution, no less. The Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray went a step further, harping on the “need” to have a Permit System for Biharis to enter into Mumbai City. He should have been immediately called to order. The list is endless.
It was disturbing enough when Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee haughtily created a diplomatic and highly embarrassing impasse last year by refusing to accompany to Prime Minister to Dhaka where a river water sharing agreement was being worked out. It is as if we are in the era of Bahadur Shah Zafar (1775-1862) whose reign did not go beyond the Red Fort, put more poetically in a doggerel which said “The kingdom of Shah Alam runs from Delhi to Palam”.
There is hardly any feeling that there is a strong government functioning in Delhi. Not just Narendra Modi, but Bihar’s Nitish Kumar and Uttar Pradesh’s Mulayam Singh Yadav too want to be Prime Minister, men who do not know the difference between Telugu and Kannada, have never addressed a South Indian audience and would not know who Madurai ‘Meenakshi’ is, or what is the capital of Kerala. Nitish Kumar, incidentally, has given up his ambitions. If Manmohan Singh is weak, Sonia Gandhi can’t be expected to be better informed. Having an Indian identity does not make one an Indian. But let me add one more point: even BJP ‘leaders’ are to be blamed for not making themselves familiar with their own motherland.
Conceded that Indian people may be familiar with the faces of Rajnath or Sushma Swaraj or Arun Jaitley, but to be a ‘leader’ one has to be constantly on the move to meet people in their local environment so that they can say that they have seen their leader ‘in person’. Presently we have leaders who are stuck in their air-conditioned homes in Delhi, propped up with sycophants. They think they know India. If this situation continues we should not be surprised if in another half a century, if not earlier, India will get Balkanised, fulfilling the evil dreams of the Pakistan-based ISI.
We don’t want to face facts. We don’t want to face reality. We need to clarify state-centre relationship and know where to draw the Laxman rekha for state overlords, which are almost daily being crossed by the likes of Mamata Bannerjee, Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha, the Thackerays and many others. It is time for the political parties to re-invent themselves, always remembering that their political stances can damage the unity and oneness of India. And for that, one would think, we need a strong and purposeful Prime Minister who can convey a message to local leaders that we are one nation and one people and any attempt to break it would invite severe consequences.
There can’t be a Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka any more than we can have a Khalistan in India and the message must be sent to the right quarters before it is too late. And the media here has a special responsibility. Over and over again the point must be stressed that India is not for burning.
Meanwhile, the best thing that can be done right now is to go in for early general elections. The country has had enough of two power centres in Delhi which are dysfunctional.