Shadow Boxing

Where is the Truth?

Bibekananda Ray

In India's political arena there is so much heat and dust, these days that Truth has gone behind a haze, confusing people. Political parties are playing calumny Ping-Pong, each claiming truth to be on its side. Every day, the Prime Minister is bashing the Congress party; it has become his favourite game, as if by doing this he would be able to woo the sitting-on-the-fence voters in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll. Right from his electioneering days in 2014, he chose to debunk India's oldest party, as if it was his bete noire and a sworn enemy. It might have paid off in that year's poll that catapulted him to the Prime Minister's chair but may not do again, if results of Karnataka State election and of a host of bye-elections are any indication. His slogan for "freeing India from the Congress party" (Congress-Mukta Bharat) shows his scant regard for the opposition and smacks of dictatorship like Hitler's 'Jew-free Germany' before and during the World War I & II.His latest jibe is the hackneyed condemnation of the Emergency (1975-1977) that Indira Gandhi got proclaimed by the then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. The media was muzzled and some of her critics in politics and the media were thrown behind the bars without trial but common people were blessed by a pro-active administration in every sphere and freedom from opposition cacophony. Elders consider these two years as free India's best time, when things really worked. Like Tweedledee of Lewis Carroll, Arun Jaitley and BJP President Amit Shah call Mrs Gandhi 'Hitler', belittling the German dictator in a ridiculous comparison. Is Modi regime free of Hitlerism? Did not RSS members lynch suspected beef-eaters and cattle-sellers with impunity? What about the 'intolerance' of Mr Modi's critics? What about the effete 'demonetisation' that took a toll of over a hundred old and infirm people in queues before banks and ATM kiosks and everybody's three-month monetary ordeal and derailed a burgeoning economy? Did not the irreversible price spiral of nearly every goods and services begin after the grandiose switch-over to multi-rate GST without adequate preparation, particularly of petroleum products? The rupee has plunged to an all-time low in relation to foreign currencies and the dollar inflows from Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) who have been supporting rupee for the last three years are drying up; the FIIs withdrew Rs 46197 crore from Indian markets. Do not all these approximate to an inefficient dictatorial regime? The first year of Emergency was more comfortable; it's a pity that it derailed in the second year after Sanjay Gandhi took up the reins of the Central government from her mother.

Not only the Modi brigade, India's politicians of all hues are moving away from the Truth in insane craving for capturing and staying in power; from the President of India to party members, they survive and thrive on clich├ęs and platitudes. One is inclined to believe "the Man for all Seasons", Sir Thomas More's (1478-1535) famous saying that the so-called democracies of the world were 'conspiratorially' looting nations' assets in the pretext of ameliorating and serving the poor; Maoists believe the same to justify their offensives. Mr Modi and nearer home, Mamata Bannerjee constantly use official statistics in support of their claims in four and six years, respectively, which do not reflect the ground reality. Has the GST made prices of goods and services the same, all over India? It has not, because State taxes have not been merged in it. Numerous small traders have been handicapped by the new tax regime, giving rise to unending complications. About the Yoga, free LPG to the poor, beneficiaries of various Yojanas, success of Swatchha Bharat ('garbage-free India') and eradication of open defecation, Mr Modi's figures are dubious; truth is not on his side. The Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) and similar State outfits arrive at their figures from select samples to please the government and therefore, they do not reflect the reality. These statistical organisations, the police and the judiciary should function under the President's office to make them independent, truthful and credible. When the BJP raised a hue and cry, the State police cited forensic report to claim, rather ridiculously, that a BJP member committed suicide by falling on a high-tension line; it is now calling it a murder. Amit Shah is often a notch above Mr Modi, particularly in his perceptions about West Bengal which he is impatient to capture. From instances of stray inter-party clashes and deaths before, during and after polls, he (and other opposition leaders too) would allege 'breakdown of law & order', persecution of BJP grassroots cadres and Ms Bannerjee's 'failures in every front' etc. In recent visit to the state, his charge that the TMC did not let BJP candidates in the Panchayet poll file nominations and its supporters vote freely is also a canard, because at court's intervention nomination deadline was extended and voting was free and fair under enhanced security.

His latest jibe against the Congress party that it adopted only the first two stanzas (and not the whole) of Bankim Chandra's poem, Vande Mataram ('Ode to Mother Goddess', i.e., India in Anandamath) to 'appease' a minority community (the Muslims), paving the way to the 1947 Partition is ludicrous. How can abbreviation of a song lead to such a grave tragedy as the Partition? The truth is, the Congress party in its Working Committee meeting in October 1937 decided to make it 'the national song' of free India. In 1950, the CWC resolution was adopted and the first two stanzas were made the 'national song', distinct from the national anthem, Jana Gana Mana. Composed and first sung by Rabindranath in the 1896 Congress session, it became a rallying song for the freedom fighters from 1905; the poem and the novel were banned by the government but many freedom fighters defied it and went to jails, singing it. Mr Shah's claim that the poem was not religious is bogus, because in the second stanza, the monk Bhabananda tells Mahendra that the poem is a paean to mother India who is 'Mother Durga herself, wielding ten weapons'; rightly Tagore deemed it pro-Hindu and unsuitable as a national anthem for a multi-racial country. In a milieu like this, it is pertinent to ask, "Where is the Truth?" Common people perceive ordinary politicians to be corrupt and untruthful; they take their claims with a pinch of salt but it was not so in the pre-Independence India and in the early Congress regime. Can one imagine Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, in fact the entire Nehru cabinet, to have been liars and corrupt? Rot crept in Indira Gandhi's regime and is ever since rusting the Indian polity. Is it impossible to restore the pristine ethos? An untruthful and corrupt regime and its helmsmen gradually ruin the polity and make people so too! The Roman senator, Pontius Pilate who ordered the capture of Jesus Christ asked him, "What is Truth?" in reply to his assertion that he was spreading Truth. India's polity, confused by conflicting claims of politicians in and out of power and their mismatch with ground reality, has the right to ask, "What and where is the Truth?"

Vol. 51, No.2, Jul 15 - 21, 2018