Gods, Hammurabi And Kejriwal – Reflections On The ‘New’ India

I’m not a very religious person but have impeccable scriptural credentials which would impress any east Delhi arsonist- as a Saryupari Brahmin I sit at the top of the theological heap and my ancestors are even mentioned in the registers of Bhrigu Rishi at Varanasi and Rishikesh. I’m hoping that Mr. Amit Shah will permit this register as permissible evidence to prove that I am an Indian when the N archy- sorry, NRC- also becomes law with the blessings of the Supreme Court. Like Rahul Gandhi in happier times, once upon a time I too wore a “janau” or sacred thread around my scrawny neck; I even used to wind it around my left ear in the time honored fashion to announce that I was now proceeding for my daily ablutions to the toilet. (I never understood the logic of this ritual but suspect it was to keep it out of the way at the moment of reckoning). But I had to jettison the janau when I went to hostel as it became a grave risk to life and limb: the sub-adolescent unbelievers would give it a mighty tug just as gravity was about to take over on the toilet seat, unsettling a potential future Chief Secretary. In hindsight (the correct word under the circumstances, you would agree) I need not have bothered because I never came within genuflecting distance of becoming a Chief Secretary.

It’s a good thing that we reportedly have 32 crore gods in our pantheon, because there is a very real danger in these revivalist days that we may run short of gods. Every political party or leader is laying claim to his own god, and since we have about 2200 hundred registered parties (and they are multiplying like the corona virus and causing as many deaths), gods will soon be in short supply. BJP has patented Ram, Rahul Gandhi has declared that Shiva is his, Kejriwal has appropriated Hanumanji, Chandrashekar Azad swears by Bhim, Samajwadi Party has just built a temple in Etawah to expropriate Vishnu, the Shiv Sena has monopolised Ganesha, Tej Pratap Yadav of the RJD has merged with Lord Krishna, Kamalnath has claimed Sita, AIADMK which till recently was without a god has nominated Jayalalitha for that hallowed position. There is a scramble these days to find a god, for that way lies, not salavation, but votes, the currency of power. In the good old days Mammon was good enough but in the age of Amit Malviya and Prashant Kishore brand distinction and recall is necessary. But here is something to mull over- why is it that the more gods we have in the fray the more ungodly our politics becomes?

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The law, we are told, is not just an ass but an ass which is constantly evolving- from the principles laid down by the Athenian Draco to the code of Hammurabi to the Napoleonic code to the rationale of our own Supreme Court recently in a habeas corpus petition: If you’ve waited for so long for freedom, what difference does another two weeks make? If, dear reader, it is your impression that jurisprudence in India is evolving in the reverse direction, you have reason to so believe. Grave constitutional issues such as amendments to the constitution, dismembering of a state, detention of hundreds without charges or trials, legislation based on religious preferences- these are now matters of no legal consequence and can be deferred for weeks and months, while the building of a temple will brook no delay and an inconvenient High Court judge must demit charge immediately. The “adjournment” and the “urgent mention” are the new instruments of justice in the evolution of law.

And what about the FIR ( first information report)? It is 9/10ths of the law these days, used as a tool to punish and to protect, all of course without any trial taking place: the new norm is to file ( or refuse to file) FIRs, arrest (or refuse to arrest) those named, and then just forget about the whole bloody thing. Take, for example, the 27th of February, 2020. It should have been declared by the UN as the International Day of the FIR, going by the sheer number filed in Delhi: 148 FIRs relating to the Delhi riots, notices for filing FIRs against Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Manish Sisodia, Salman Khurshid, Asauddin Owaisi, actor Swara Bhaskar, eminent lawyer Mahmood Pracha, radio jockey Sayema. The filing of FIRs against Union Minister Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Singh Verma and Kapil Mishra has been deferred for four weeks, because of the dictates of our evolving law: when ruling party figures are involved then FIRs should not be filed after the alleged offence but at an “appropriate time”.

Am I alone in thinking that the quality of justice in this country is in inverse proportion to the number of FIRs filed?

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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal

Just what is Mr. Kejriwal up to these days? It does not behove a three time Chief Minister who has just won 62 out of 70 seats to act like a wimp and to continue to straddle a rotting fence. His behaviour during and after the Delhi riots can be described as ambivalent at best and opportunistic at worst. He and his party should have been on the ground from day one, demanding that the police act immediately, that the Home Ministry send in the para military. Where is the condemnation of the Home Minister and the demand for his resignation? He has been quick to sanction the prosecution of Kanhaiya Kumar for sedition but is yet to become a party to the case in the High Court to demand the registration of FIRs against BJP leaders for hate speech and for inciting the riots. He cannot be unaware that the two SITs set up to investigate the riots are nothing but a cover up, given that the two police officers heading them have doubtful credentials from the JNU/ Shaheen Bagh incidents, and one of them was even divested of his charge by the Election Commission recently because of his political bias. Why then has he not demanded a judicial inquiry or even petitioned the High Court for one?

Kejriwal should realise that he is no Mahatma Gandhi and that his place during the riots was not at Rajghat but at Bhajanpura or Karawalnagar. When people are being killed in their dozens what we need is a resolute leader, not a Good Samaritan merely announcing compensation. His careful balancing act may have necessary during the elections, but now he must cease juggling the balls and grasp the nettle. He should come out in unambiguous opposition to the ruling party’s hate agenda, and to the implementation of NRC/NPR. Other Chief Ministers with a far weaker mandate have done so already. He must not fritter away the faith the people of Delhi have reposed in him. In at least one respect he must emulate the BJP- just as the latter does not give a damn about the 20% minority vote, Kejriwal too should dump the 38% of the BJP’s core vote: he will never ever get them anyway, not even if he aspires to be a “chhota Modi”. He has his 56% and it is for those voters that he must work.

I don’t expect that Mr. Kejriwal has read the sayings of Confucius but he would do well to heed one of them at least: Man who walk in middle of road get run over very soon.

Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla. He used to play golf at one time but has now run out of balls. He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/

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