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Posted at: Oct 20, 2019, 7:40 AM; last updated: Oct 20, 2019, 7:40 AM (IST)

Our problem with ‘lynch’, indulgence with ‘hypocrisy’

Keki Daruwalla
MUSINGS & MALEDICTIONS
Keki Daruwalla
We adapted ‘lynch’ with great éclat. It did not came across the Hindu Kush with Muslim caravans. It came from the US. ‘Kangaroo courts’ also has a foreign tinge. Its procedures, Bhagwatji, we have incorporated splendidly. We are cosmopolitan people
Our problem with ‘lynch’, indulgence with ‘hypocrisy’

Keki Daruwalla

WITH bated breath (as the cliché goes), we of the anti-hypocrisy brigade waited five years. We would ask ourselves ‘when’, on which auspicious day (August 15 from the Red Fort, or Dhanteras or Diwali?) would the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ be announced, to the blaring of conches and the unfurling of the saffron dhwaj? The great day dawned when Mohan Bhagwatji at last cut the Gordian knot, excuse the mixed metaphor. For years I was feeling depressed with the Indian take on the ‘dynamic ambiguity’ over our nuclear weapons aspirations. In meeting after meeting, we lied to people on both sides of the Cold War, though each knew what was going on and were hard put to suppress their disbelieving smiles. Then Atalji, with the help of Dr Kalam and Santhanam (Santy), burst the bomb.

Now Shri Mohan Bhagwat has pricked the balloon of dynamic ambiguity as far as our nationhood is concerned. Though actually there was no ambiguity because the Haryana and Rajasthan gau rakshaks, meaning cow-protectors, had been lynching cattle transporters at will, and the police arrested the victims before they touched the mob. The question comes up: will it be a Hindu-Sikh-Buddhist Rashtra or just a mono-religion Rashtra? That better be clarified. Of course the ones who came over the Hindu Kush, and the Khyber and the Bolan Passes, they’d better know their place. Lucky, you ain’t in Assam, buddy.

A joke was circulating a year back to the effect that a visitor went to the house of a gau rakshak and asked if the warrior was at home. (Gau rakshak sahib ghar pai hain?) The cook shouted back, “Nahin sahib, woh lynch pai hain?” Now, that was a clinch, wasn’t it? We Indians learnt words like ‘tiffin’ from the British. We turned ‘electricity’ into ‘lightning’ (bijli), but ‘engine’ remained ‘engine’, ‘motor’ remained ‘motor’, etc. And if because of the Ku Klux Klan (I am hazarding a guess), the word ‘lynch’ came into being, we adapted it with great éclat. Another fact to boost up my argument is that the word ‘lynch’ never came across the Hindu Kush with those Muslim caravans. It came with the steam ships from the US, with whom we  had such a friendly palaver recently at Houston.

Incidentally, the phrase ‘kangaroo courts’ also has a foreign tinge from Down Under. Most of us have never heard the phrase, never seen a kangaroo. But the procedures of those courts, Bhagwatji, we have incorporated splendidly. We Indians are, it seems in this regard, a cosmopolitan people.

Custodial interrogation

Other matters on the national stage attract one’s attention. I see our agencies asking for ‘custodial interrogation’. They complain that the ‘culprit’ is not ‘cooperating’. What do the agencies want? Confessions from all they interrogate? You can’t compel a man to give evidence against himself. There was a time when no magistrate allowed any ‘police remand’. You just had 24 hours to get the meat out of the suspect or accused. That also was an incentive to third degree. Now the courts are merrily giving what one can only call ‘police remand’. Some sort of third degree is implied in the request itself. A few slaps here and there, three Inspectors taking turns during the night, asking the same questions and tiring the man out, all this is par for the course. Are the courts getting too liberal? Shouldn’t the presence of a lawyer on behalf of the accused/suspect be mandatory during this interrogation? These questions need serious debate. The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate need umpiring.

Denial of permission to Kejriwal

A personal reminisce comes to mind when I hear of Chief Minister Kejriwal not being allowed to go to Copenhagen to address a conclave of Mayors. Mayors in Europe are big shots and not minor fry. The MEA may take note. I had hardly taken charge as Minister at the Indian High Commission in London, when I was asked to represent Dr PC Alexander at the Mayor’s reception joined with an exhibition of five cities. Alas, the exhibits of the Indian city Jaisalmer, prepared meticulously and aesthetically, never reached London. Air India was on strike! The Air India Maharaja is or at least was an indolent fellow. We cut a sorry figure — and imagine all that effort wasted. Wish they had sent the exhibits through another airline which was not on strike!

The air in Delhi has been trashed the world over. If a Chief Minister wants to talk about a success story, why can’t he? What has hierarchy to do with it? I remember a time when the denizens of South Block advised the Home Secretary not to give countenance to Robin Raphel for she was Joint Secretary level. (She was the widow of the American ambassador to Pakistan, who had gone down with President Zia-ul-Haq’s plane. She was very pro-Pakistan and caused us damage). A question in the end. If Delhi had a BJP Chief Minister, would the MEA have denied him or her a visit to Copenhagen?

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