Mainstream, VOL LIII No 43 New Delhi October 17, 2015
All the Turpentines in the World Cannot Remove Kulkarni’s Stain
Monday 19 October 2015, by
Seldom does adrenaline flow so instinctively the moment one begins reading the morning newspapers in the Indian Capital, but today is one such day. I am not entitled to claim friendship with Sudheendra Kulkarni but do have an acquaintance going back by several years. I hold him in high esteem as an intellectual and a humanist.
I am unable to read the newspapers anymore today. Can’t simply get past the blackened picture of Kulkarni, smeared with oil paint. I feel numbed with pain as the thought begins stealthily entering the consciousness: This is the face of India that I saw in today’s Indian Express. Yes, this is how India looks after 18 months of relentless RSS rule under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s watch as a gatekeeper.
The episode yesterday on a Mumbai street reminds one of the street battles and violence that the Nazis deployed to supplement their electoral battles in the mid-1920s, which they fought with political acuity, deceptiveness and cunning to convert their party’s non-majority but plural status into effective governing power in the ailing Weimar Republic of 1933. All the while, the Nazis created a mythology surrounding their rise to power.
One can well imagine the complex thoughts that would have raced through German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s erudite mind as she shook hands with Modi last week in New Delhi. If Merkel had been given a public platform in Delhi (which Japan’s Shinzo Abe foolishly did during her visit to Tokyo last year where she spoke of the lessons of history and the virtues of honest repentance), Merkel would have done some plain-speaking in Delhi too, which she is famous for, distilled out of what the great German nation went through under Nazi rule.
What comes to mind is the immortal poem by W. B. Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’ (1919):
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The signs are everywhere in our beloved country, while a whole nation is being systematically bludgeoned into submission by the beast with the shape of a ‘lion body and the head of a man’. No corner of India is quite safe from these packs of wolves anymore—not even Kerala. Modi thundered from a public platform in Mumbai only two days ago that democracy was (re)born in India after the Emergency rule in the mid-seventies. Yet, he blithely ignores that he himself is presiding over the destruction of democracy in our country. The very next day Mumbai has reminded Modi what he chooses to ignore.
Pray, what is democracy worth, Modi, without its elixir of the plurality of opinions? You visit foreign lands ever so frequently and you claim you travel abroad to propagate India’s greatness. Are you qualified to do what you claim you are doing while abroad, when your own ‘parivar’ back in India behaves as fascists—and you are apparently acquiescing with these fascists?
Do you have the foggiest idea that in this information age, the world can see India with its own eyes? No matter what you may propagate, the world will see today the image of India on the face of Kulkarni. That is the honest truth. Even if you go to the Great Canyon in your next visit to America in 2016 for yet another banga banga, Modi, and shout from there at the top of your voice, nobody is going to lend credence to your utterances. The world will only try to understand India by watching Kulkarni’s face.
Therefore, Modi should seriously apply himself on how to remove the oil-based paint on Kulkarni’s face. Modi should understand that all the turpentines and paint-thinners in the world cannot remove the oil paint on Kulkarni’s face. Perhaps, he could bring some high-quality acetone and kerosene (not the adulterated Indian brand) from his next foreign trip and gift them to Kulkarni? And if turpentines don’t work, Modi, in his very next foreign trip, could bring some phoren scrapers and sanders? Opt for coarse sandpaper.
And do not forget to advise Kulkarni to wear protective gear at all times. Now, if scrapers also don’t work, which is probably the case here, then the only alternative left will be for Modi to advise Kulkarni to apply heat to the paint surface. But then, imagine how Bharat Mata would look, emitting toxic fumes. Yes, the growing reality is that Modi is not the solution, but the problem itself.
There is nothing more abominable than being made a gatekeeper by the RSS. The RSS has use for him largely due to his family’s OBC origins (and his mastery of the theatre of the public platform). But this is not what the Prime Minister’s job is about under the Indian Constitution. A Prime Minister can be forgiven for lacking formal education or erudition, for being bankrupt of ideas, for being vacuous—even for being a hollow man. After all, a democratic nation always has the option to get rid of him decently once it sees through his bluff and bluster. But a Prime Minister who is so patently incapable of protecting the life, honour and the fundamental rights of Indian citizens should opt to quit on his own volition—that is, if he is left with self-respect—after reading today’s newspaper. After all, Modi’s party has no dearth of able, experienced national leaders.
Meanwhile, the historic mistake the German people made should not repeat in India. The vast majority of Germans failed to resist the rising tide of fascism, although they could see it coming. Fascism can only be defeated when it is in its infancy. India must learn from Germany’s tragic experience that if it fails to counter fascism, what destruction and suffering can follow when the world community at some point mobilises, inevitably, to drive out the fascists through brute force. The contemporary world has no place for fascists. That is why the fascists cannot and should not be allowed to win in India.
(October 13, 2015)
Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.