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Periscope
The Mountain and the Mouse
By Saeed Suhrawardy

There is a well-known Urdu proverb, Khoda pahad nikli chuhiya (We dug out a mountain but discovered only a small mouse). The marathon verbal exercise in both the houses of Parliament aptly qualifies for the proverb. To sum up, in Lok Sabha, quantity defeated the quality. The poverty of intellect in the treasury benches was miserably exposed by speeches delivered on the floor of the House.

Muslims are presently looking beyond Gujarat and Mayawati, so they cannot afford to ignore the ‘mountain of words’ and the poor little ‘mouse of secularism’ that has raised so much dust without producing a strong ray of hope. Muslims have strong and genuine reasons for pessimism and equally good reasons for well-grounded optimism. Depending on your mind set you may interpret ‘mouse’. Well if can’t see beyond the dark clouds, eclipsing the horizon, the mouse is the rat that destroys the crops and is enemy of farmers. It multiplies very fast. It is a carrier of germs of deadly diseases like plague. If the mouse is to be accepted as a symbol, it should stand for communalism. It deserves no sympathy, no space. 

The mountain of words that dominated the political scene in both houses of Indian Parliament, is a welcome development. It showed the ruling coalition of National Democratic Alliance in very poor light. Communalism is not their only qualification. They are selfish, power-hungry, ignorant, opportunist and apathetic beyond redemption. The person, who holds the highest executive position in the country, is no exception.

That is an assessment for those who are deep in despair. 

For those who never say ‘die’, the symbolic mouse is the cerebral mouse of your personal computer, which links you with the ‘ocean of opportunities’. It helps you in ‘traversing the world of knowledge’. 

From whichever angle you look at recent events, there are reasons for hope and despair as well. If we confine our vision to the functioning of political parties, it is a matter of serious concern that there has been serious erosion of their ideological foundations. There is a general lack of commitment to the principles they stand for. There was a time when ‘secularism’ was the familiar catchword for aiming at respectability. 

It is a sign of changed times that religion, particularly one branded as "Hindutva" is a serious contender for monopoly of patriotism. The ‘Hindutva Brigade’ goes about creating the impression that faith in secularism is not an essential qualification for faith in the future of the country.

On May 4, 2002, Union Home Minister while renaming the Port Blair airport was uncharacteristically emotional during the ceremony. He made the strongest statement on the ideological moorings of Bharatiya Janata Party. He declared," There is no reason to feel shy of Hindutva, propounded at great length by Veer Savarkar. It’s an all-compassing ideology with its roots in the country’s heritage." Today it is Savarkar tomorrow that may be Godse to be revered as one who stood by "Hindutva." 

If you are capable of reading between the lines, the inference is obvious that any thing not rooted in the Hindu heritage is not Indian. That is a sinister development. That excludes and eliminates everything accepted and assimilated through the centuries by the country’s ethos. That should be dubbed as ‘foreign’. 

According to ‘Sangh Parivar’ everything that is alien to their concept of ‘Indian’ has to be despised and eliminated. That is exactly what has been done in Gujarat. That parochial approach provides the logical support for the domination of their vocal minority over the majority that does not subscribe to their vision of ‘India’ and the ‘Indian’.

The functioning of the democracy in the country has revealed several schisms in its armour. That certainly requires repair and restoration. With democracy in disarray, the executive that is subordinate to the elected rulers finds it difficult to carry out its allegiance to the Constitution of the country.

If that was the complete political scene of the country, the feeling that ‘all is lost’ would have been natural and instinctive. The Establishment, with two weak arms- Legislature and Executive- has not distinguished itself in the present hour of crisis. Their conduct has been a blot on the fair name of the country.

The politicians and the bureaucrats have to apportion the blame for what has happened in Gujarat. They may well pass on the buck from one to another. But that shall not help the country and the people. 

Unfortunately there is no provision in the Constitution of the country for the right to recall their elected representatives if they do not perform according to their obligations and promises. So there is no legal and constitutional remedy available for correcting the failure and shortcoming of democracy.

Luckily for us, the media, both electronic and print, particularly the English press has alerted public opinion to the threat posed by fascist forces. But media can diagnose the disease, but it is not in a position to prescribe the right and efficacious remedy.

In these circumstances, the judiciary has stood as sentinel of secular democracy. It has not remained a mute spectator of the decadence in the country. It has been forced to perform many functions that normally should be in the orbit of the legislature and the executive. Traditionally that has been the only institution that has kept the faith of the minorities and particularly Muslims alive in the secular character of the country. 

On account of global competition, the Indian media is no longer in a position to conceal truth. There was a time when BBC enjoyed higher credibility than the official Indian media. With a large number of news channels operating in a competitive environment, facts cannot be suppressed any longer. The senile old men of ‘Sangh Parivar’ conducted so far their business in surreptitious and clandestine manner. They miscalculated the impact of media. Their act was seen in glaring light in Gujarat. That mistake has brought disgrace for them. 

They are acting in desperation, because they realize that time is running out for them. That accounts for the pace with which they are naming roads and airports for leaving their ideological imprint behind.

In the struggle to hold mirror to the state and society, media is not alone in the effort to improve conditions. The watch and vigilance of the learned members of the judiciary effectively supplements their role. The Supreme Court has begun a process that could transform the polity, provided the Election Commission rises to the occasion. That includes not taking any nonsense from political parties.

If the Election Commission comes up with strict guidelines and enforcement norms on the five mandatory disclosures ordered by the court e.g. a criminal conviction, involvement in a criminal case, personal and family assets and educational qualifications, parties will have no option but to comply. If they pick up shady candidates it will be in their knowledge that their past will become an easily accessible public record and therefore risk voter alienation.

The ball is in the court of Election Commission. They must prove worthy of Supreme Court’s confidence. While appreciating and respecting the ruling of the Supreme Court, one important lacuna has to be pointed out. 

That does not bar the participation of persons with communal background who have no faith in the secular democratic foundations of the Constitution. Had there been many convictions on the basis of the reports of the Inquiry Commissions appointed to go into the causes of the major communal riots, many leaders of communal criminal background would have been excluded from the electoral process. But their reports have been consigned to cold storage. Many communal minded criminals have gone about scot-free. Armed with that knowledge, they executed Gujarat carnage with impunity. 

With a ‘mountain of communal criminality named Narendra Modi’ before us Mayawati is merely a ‘mouse of opportunism’ that carries a very poor credit rating. Muslims should not make a fuss about her.
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