A Sundowner in Daytime for Jaswant Singh

Published: August 31, 2009 - 14:37 Updated: July 3, 2015 - 14:31

It's just that the wounds of partition have not healed. The truth is they will never heal, even though younger generations across the border do not carry the baggage of rancour, retribution or revenge. This is because even time in its intangible abstraction doesn't lose its intimate mappings.

Those brown men at the helm of the freedom movement, including the white men of the queen - they redrew the map. Later, the fanatics across the religious spectrum redrew them again, those who hated a secular, egalitarian and socialist landscape. They celebrated the to and fro trains with dead bodies, the unleashed limits of barbarism. Remember Saadat Hasan Manto's Thanda Gosht and Khol Do? And, Bhishm Sahni's Tamas?

Often, wounds in retrospect become more important while living tragedies are left to die in their invisible interiors. The Congress and subsequent political establishments in India, subverted democracy, patronised the feudals (now the corporates) and crushed the poor. They blocked all forms of social transformation from below. They legitimised caste and class inequality. They made a caricature of the directive principles of the Indian Constitution.

That is why, it's not ironical that in modern India millions of farmers and landless villagers can starve, die and commit suicide across the parched Indian landscape, and it's Jinnah who comes to haunt the mainstream conscience. And, how civilised is it to give reams of print and air space to a pompous politico when the nation is stalked by drought? A man who can't even contest from his own state, and whose claim to fame is neither great politics, nor a great body of academic work?

So, what was our self-righteous feudal royalty - so proud of the 'call to honour' - doing for 30 years in a xenophobic Rightwing party? And, in a Sangh Parivar which basically glorifies the holocaust and Hitler in the words of their founder ideologue, Guru Golwalkar, and which is nourished on sectarian seeds of hatred and partition, like Muslim fanatics, with whom Jinnah played footsie as in the Calcutta riots?

Jaswant Singh is so pleased with himself when he speaks about the right to dissent against the ruling establishment, the necessity of reading and writing, freedom of expression, and how it is dangerous to crush it. If we stretch history beyond Jinnah, when did he once idealise this right to dissent in his political career? Or, did he eternally choose pompous convenience instead of exercising this right in public space?

Is he aware that the RSS did not participate in the freedom movement? That they made no sacrifices in history unlike revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh?

So why did Sardar Patel first ban the RSS? Didn't their sinister shadow linger behind the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, or in the communal holocaust after partition, and perhaps in so many communal riots in post-Independence India - from Bhiwandi to Surat to Bhagalpur? So what was this nuanced man of honour doing - hanging out with allies like the Shiv Sena/VHP/Bajrang Dal, despite the Bombay pogrom of 1992-93, the vandalisation of cricket pitches, attacks on the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute at Pune, the violent violation of privacy of couples on Valentine's Day, the hounding of MF Hussain, and late Habib Tanvir, the attacks at MS University, Baroda?

So what about the right to dissent, to read, write, paint, perform? And, is there life beyond Jaswant's Jinnah?

And pray, what was the scholar's opinion on what happened on December 6, 1992, at Ayodhya? Did he have any dissenting opinion that day, that moment, or later, when communal riots engulfed India? Or, did he choose to become yet again a 'scholar of silence' because he had such great respect for Advaniji, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, and hordes of murderous goons of VHP and Shiv Sena?

Ditto on the State-sponsored carnage of Gujarat in 2002. So what is his 'reading and thinking' about the ex-RSS pracharak - who, too, so pompously calls himself 'Chote Sardar' of Gujarat? A future PM, according to Arun Shourie. Widely known to have masterminded the massacre after the ghastly S-6 killings at Godhra - does he disturb Jaswant Singh's royal honour or high moral ground?

So why is he raking up the past in self-righteous retrospect as if he and his colleagues were not accomplices when the body and soul of India was being ravaged and hundreds murdered and raped in cold blood as a public spectacle?

And as cabinet minister, did he share the doctoring and censorship of history books written by the finest historians in the world? Or, is he better than all of them put together? Whatever happened to his right to dissent and his call to honour when every historian and intellectual stood up against this ethnic cleansing of the academia?

Did he feel so distressed even then that he took a drink in daytime, though he doesn't touch the stuff before sundown?

If Jaswant Singh really wants to do penance than he should come clean and expose the involvement of the BJP/VHP/RSS leadership in the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the communal riots that followed and the Gujarat carnage with Narendra Modi at the helm. Only then he would really have reason to have a glass of leisurely drink in broad daylight.


This story is from print issue of HardNews