THIS ABOVE ALL
THERE is no law
against erecting statues of oneself, says Mayawati, Chief
Minister of UP. She is right. There is no law forbidding misuse
of public money to indulge in self-glorification. Several chief
ministers do so by advertising themselves as pioneers of
progress in their states, using their own photographs as
illustrations. But you, behen Mayawatji, have outdone all
of them on the silver jubilee of the Bahujan Samaj Party. You
had asked your Public Relations Department to take out full-page
advertisements in all the newspapers of India, with half pages
devoted to your own pictures and the other half for vastly
exaggerated claims to development under your benign rule. On the
25th birth anniversary and the days following, you had yourself
garlanded with high-denomination currency notes worth crores of
rupees. You have had dozens of marble statues of yourself put up
in Lucknow and other cities.
Are you surprised
then that the common people of your country have turned against
you and would welcome legislation forbidding squandering of
their money in feeding your ego mania? Has the money collected
during the silver jubilee bash been deposited in banks in the
name of the Bahujan Samaj Party, or is it in your personal
account? Your past does not inspire confidence. As soon as you
became Chief Minister, you began acquiring large tracts of real
estate in different cities, including Delhi. The deals were not
registered in the name of your party but in your own name, or in
the names of your relatives.
You also bought
expensive jewellery to adorn yourself and explained it as gifts
given to you by admirers. No one believes that to be true. As
for your admirers, the less said about them the better. They are
time-serving bunch of sycophants who will bootlick anyone in
power. They are your worst enemies who will stab you in the back
when you are in trouble.
Just think what
you could have done with all the money you collected. Instead of
marble statues, if you had opened a chain of Mayawati primary
and secondary schools, Mayawati free clinics for the sick,
Mayawati night shelters for the homeless etc, your name would
have gone down in history as the greatest Dalit leader of India.
All you need to do is that instead of lending an ear to khushamdi
tattoos (flattering ponies), listen to the likes of me and
the avaam (common people), who honestly wish to see you
fulfil the dream of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram. Don’t
let us down.
youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, is not on my list of
heroes of Sikh history. He was the youngest son of Maharaja
Ranjit Singh (a few historians have questioned his legitimacy).
His mother, Rani Jindan, was the daughter of the royal kennel
keeper. I have nothing against her. She was said to have been a
great beauty. As a child he was exposed to violence and
cold-blooded murders of relatives and courtiers. That left deep
scars on his psyche and warped him for life.
When the Sikh
kingdom was annexed by the British in 1849, he was taken hostage
and made to hand over the Kohinoor diamond, and was put under
the guardianship of an English cleric, Dr Login and his wife. He
converted to Christianity, cut off his long hair and kept his
beard so that with a turban he could still pass off as a Sikh.
He and his mother were taken to England. He was given a large
estate and a handsome pension.
He became a great
favourite of Queen Victoria and wore her miniature picture in a
diamond necklace. He tried to live like an English squire. He
arranged annual shoots in his estate when pheasants and grouse
were slaughtered in hundreds. When his mother died, he was
allowed to bring her ashes back to India to be immersed in the
holy Ganga. He was not permitted to visit Punjab.
On his way back to
England, he was shown a bevy of nubile girls in an orphanage in
Egypt. He picked Bamba Muller, the illegitimate daughter of a
German through an Egyptian woman. She bore him many children. He
lived an extravagant life of self-indulgence. He became a heavy
drinker and a glutton. He put on weight, became paunchy and lost
whatever good looks he had as a young man.
He ran into heavy
debts and began to dream of the unaccountable wealth he was
entitled to as Maharaja of Punjab. He rebelled against Queen
Victoria and tried to get the Tsar of Russia to help him regain
his crown. Nothing came of it. When Bamba died, he took another
wife and moved to Paris. Ultimately he begged Queen Victoria’s
pardon. She absolved him of treason, paid off his debts and
allowed him to return to the estate.
He died a
miserable death in Paris. His progeny continued to suffer from
delusions of grandeur. Once I wrote to his daughter Bamba
Southerland, asking for an interview and inviting her to tea at
the Ritz Hotel in London. She regarded all Sikhs as her subjects
and turned down my invitation. Her letterhead from a cottage in
Buckinghamshire, where she lived on a pension, read: HRH
Princess Bamba Southerland of the Punjab, Kashmir and Beyond.
life is well-recorded in a biography, The Exile, by
Navtej Sarna, India’s Ambassador to Israel. However, no matter
what the true facts of his life, many Sikhs have nostalgic
memories of the rulers of the Sikh kingdom. The latest example
is the publication of Sovereign, Squire, Rebel Maharaja Dalip
Singh (Coronet House) by Peter Bance. Peter’s real name is
Bhupinder Singh Bains. He is based in London and specialises in
Sikh diaspora. His earlier book, The Sikhs in Britain,
was well received. His book on Dalip Singh is about the most
lavish I have seen.