The mystique of Thiruvananthapuram never wears off – even after a 62-year old life spent in 10 different capital cities in the world. What a splendid sight that a chief minister would subject himself to a punishing Mass Contact Programme in the heart of the city in an open public stadium where he would hear out public grievances for 15 hours at a stretch from 9.30 am on Thursday all the way till 12.30 am on Friday.
Oommen Chandy received 28000 petitions and took on-the-spot decisions on 20000 of them. I wandered aimlessly among the milling crowd in the sweltering heat and watched the drama unfold, walking back home as dusk fell, recalling the strange emotions drifting across the mind when I first stood in front of the the iconic fresco of the hand of God giving life to Adam, painted by Michaelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
Again, where else but in Thiruvananthapuram could India’s defence minister A.K.Antony come and lament that Gandhiji has few takers now amongst we Indians! And that too when the militarization of India’s foreign policy is so far advanced under his own stewardship. But unlike Chandy, Antony was being merely perfunctory.
How else could Antony be a mute witness to the Army’s refusal to budge when a democratically elected leader Omar Abdullah makes the minimalist demand that the AFSPA should be lifted at least from those parts of J&K that have been tranquil for years? Antony couldn’t be subscribing to the Army’s contention that Kashmiris are unvarnished secessionists and deserve the draconian law to put good sense into them?
Abdullah doesn’t claim to be a Gandhian and he is willing to use state coercion selectively to deal with situations when or if mass alienation explodes into violence. That is reasonable. The point of contention here is actually that in future the Army should subject itself to the country’s laws over any alleged instances of atrocities against innocent civilians rather than taking shelter behind the AFSPA.
Antony has two choices: he should either quit his job when he is unable to assert civilian supremacy, or he should cease to profess devotion to Gandhiji’s ideals. The two can’t go hand in hand. In this case, Home Minister P.Chidambaram seems to concur with Abdullah’s submission. Yet, PC never claims himself to be a true Gandhian. Nor Chandy.
Posted in Politics.
– November 11, 2011