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Leaders and their delusions

Leaders and their delusions Prem Chandran Illusion, or delusion for that matter, has nothing to do with reality; yet they .....

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Leaders and their delusions

Prem Chandran

Illusion, or delusion for that matter, has nothing to do with reality; yet they have their space in the scheme of things, and more so for the political class and the other mass mobilizers who thrive on it if only as a means to fool people or stay themselves afloat. The RSS chief for one. How else to explain his outpourings in the context of the rape outrage that benumbed Delhi and the rest of the nation in recent weeks?

The RSS is no ordinary organisation. Other than its alleged link to the killing of Mahatma Gandhi, and some cases of extremism in recent times, it has by large acquitted itself well by doing social service in substantial measure, carrying with it a generally disciplined (occasionally violent) cadre, and very importantly guiding the destiny of this nation and its over-a-billion people through its perceived political arm, the BJP which by and large has an influence equal to the Nehru-family-owned Congress Party. Above all, it single-mindedly pursued the cause of Hindutva in a country that belongs essentially to the Hindus by virtue of the religion’s numerical strength and sweep. Yet, one might require reassurance whether all is well with this Nagpur-based entity, the Nitin Gadkari saga already past us.

RSS would not have picked someone as its chief but for his strengths. For, it is no Indira Congress, no Shiv Sena, no DMK, and no Akali Dal. So, how would the Sarsanghchalak (Supreme Chief) make speeches that look odd, even as he might couch them in a language that would appear akin and relevant to religious fundamentalism? Yet, his assertion that rape happens in India, and not in Bharat -- meaning it is a city-based phenomenon -- is indicative of a general trend of our “leaders” living in glass houses. They are a dime a dozen, being out of touch with the life in general, and feed on information dished out by the city-centric media – as against direct engagement with the people and having a direct feel of the life around them. Gandhi had shown the way, but few leaders of modern India follow that path, or the other paths that he had advocated. When India was waking up from the midnight’s powershift from the British to the native dadas, Gandhi chose to spend his time with the riot-affected families in distant Noakhali village, Bengal, healing their physical and emotional wounds.

Rapes and other atrocities happen more under feudalistic systems that have a rural base, but the victims (subjugated women) have little or no means open before them to put up a resistance or go public. And, rapes happen in cities, where, in the minimum, the media makes a splash of it now and then, resulting in outcries of the kind that Delhi witnessed. That the rapes in rural areas are not reported in the media does not mean there are no rapes there at all. If Mamata Banerjee is the only leader who made a forthright comment on rape, a while ago, to the effect that it does happen where there is human interaction, it is only a reaffirmation of her great sense of understanding of the life around her; of her touch with the masses; and of her being a part of the people. Whatever her faults, she does not live in an ivory tower. This is unlike the rest of India’s political class who spend all their time breezing around in expensive vehicles, throwing their weight around, flying from city to city at someone’s expense or with fleeced money, surrounding themselves with coteries around them, dishing out favours to their near and dear ones and spending the nights in shady deals.

Contrast Mamata’s view with the comment that came from the likes of the southern political super elite Jayalalitha, who is next only to Sonia Gandhi in the conduct of ‘ivory tower’ politics -- that those who indulge in rapes should be castrated or given death sentence. How much of life she has seen around other than in the sets of movies, illuminated public platforms and in the corridors of power, is anybody's guess, given her personal security concerns. To Sonia’s credit, as usual, silence saved her, if not her sense of judgment.

Rape is no acceptable act, and the punishment should by all means be severe. But are we, as a civilized society, to roll ourselves back to a medieval mindset, and execute punishments of the kind that, likely, the nations like Saudi Arabia or the tribal fiefdoms of Africa think of, is a moot point. Men are not the enemies of women; nor are women the enemies of men. They co-exist, wherein lies the beauty of life. In their unity, cohesion and co-existence lie the spirit of human survival. Men who indulged in the heinous gang-rape in Delhi, or in Gujarat 10 years ago on a massive scale, or elsewhere, are exceptions to the rule, and demonstrate an extreme kind of animal instinct. They deserve no sympathy. This nation, as the rest of the world, should have laws and systems to tackle the scenario, but in a civilized way. Else, what is the difference between a Saudi Arabia and India, one might ask. Or what is the difference between Hindutva and the more aggressive forms of religions? What do we take credit for other than for our great sense of tolerance, the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (world is one family) tenet, and respect to one-and-all temperament?

For the RSS chief, again, there is a “theory of social contract in the universe” under which “woman would sit back as housewife and satisfy her man, whereas man would go out, work, and earn a living for the family (Pity the likes of Chanda Kochhar!). And, if she does not do what is her responsibility, man can end the contract and throw her out.” Well, perhaps, just as Sita was hounded out and made an outcast by Lord Rama! As per the chief’s theory, there however is a saving grace for woman as well. She can break the contract too if her man does not discharge his duties. Whether this theory is part of Hindutva, or it is simply a Bhagwat-speak (as distinct from Bhagavata-speak) is yet to be explained, but the social chaos that it can unleash in the form of a whirlwind is beyond one’s imagination. Does Hinduism advocate social chaos? Can a theory be seen independent of its practical import?

Likely, the chief has deluded himself into believing this is the ideal scenario for life to exist on this Earth. He has his right to advocate a theory. Why not? However, in doing so, and circulating this as part of the Hindu ideology or of Indianness, he might have caused irreparable harm to the cause of Hindutva and Indianness themselves. Be that as it may, luckily for this nation and its people, Hinduism is as yet not taking dictations from the RSS headquarters in Nagpur; at best RSS men are the foot-soldiers of a cause that is believed to back the religious edifice. In holding out theories, RSS has its justifications; just as Taleban has its justifications in indulging in the kind of mayhem that it unleashes in a freewheeling way, killing innocent people by their hundreds, and many believe they are promoting a religious cause. Who should stoop to whose level? In all fairness, RSS conducted itself with dignity and avoided indulgences unless it was provoked into situations. It would do well to keep up that aloofness from the theatre of actions, and avoid making comments that look medieval and outdated.

To be fair, the chief’s thinking is in tune with the general concept we have grown up being confortable with; that women should tend to home affairs and men should earn the living for the family. That the concept has its great strengths in family life, devoid of the present hurry-burry, is not questioned. But, mindsets are changing. Today, not just in the West, but in our own land, we have women running institutions with great élan, doing one up on man, and not only excel, but hold aloft the principles of efficiency, fair play and discipline in forms superior to the leadership qualities displayed by men. Chanda Kochhar is only one among them. That has its charm too.

Illusions, or delusions, will not take us forward; a sense of realism will. Indira Gandhi created the illusion of an India free of poverty, and raised the Garibi Hatao slogan several decades ago. But, she came up with no plan to realise the dream. There is a marginal reduction in people’s hunger over decades, but the issue remains grave. Yet, that slogan catapulted her to power for another term. Illusions give a kick to the people, or some people, for a moment. Leaders take advantage. Realism is a long haul, but it has a strength of its own. When the world changes, India cannot demand that it should be living in the Stone Age.

Last edited by Premchandran; 01-06-2013 at 10:31 PM
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