Letter To Colleagues In The Congress And Others Who Are Listening: Salman Khurshid
"To bide time may be good strategy but to be afraid to speak is simple cowardice."
Letter to my colleagues in the Congress and people who are listening
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.
– W.B Yeats
A TV channel called me for a comment on what a BJP MLA of U.P. said about Digvijay Singh. The loud mouth had advocated boycott of my senior colleague by Hindu samaj and even blackening of his face before being deported to Pakistan. I was distressed that the channel was providing an undeserving platform to a character who can only be described as insane. ‘We know that but we have a job to do,’ said the hapless voice at the other end of the mobile connection. Diggy Raja is too experienced and capable a public figure to be disturbed by a crazy publicity seeker but the attack on him is but one of many State supported as well as non-State initiated psychological assaults on decency and secular politics.
Ministers and right wing party spokespersons have been issuing threats of deportation for quite some time and of late the Home Minister has even given national compassion and human accommodation a new definition that conspicuously excludes persons of a particular religion, no matter how persecuted they might be, from the doors soon to be opened to refugees from neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile other public functionaries are gleefully pronouncing on a nationwide NRC to replicate the Assam experience without a thought to the fact that special provisions apply to Assam under the Accord. It matters not to them that their calculations went wrong in Assam and that their own allies look at them with great suspicion. The ethnic fault lines are beginning to erase the artificial religious fault lines. Besides even as the world strains to reduce the number of Stateless citizens India is preparing to add several million to the miserable count of inhumanity.
For decades since the Emergency and the Supreme Court’s dark period of ADM Jabalpur our appellate judges have assiduously built a remarkable edifice of liberty jurisprudence. Yet suddenly an amorphous notion of national security has become the catch phrase that is virtually pushing freedom of the individual to take a back seat.
Contrast the tight fisted response to the plea of one of India’s top public figures, Shri P Chidambaram, the prisoner of conscience, to be set free from weeks of incarceration with the remarkable 11 judges’ unanimous pronouncement of the UK Supreme Court setting at naught the British Prime Minister’s claim of prerogative to seek Parliament to be prorogued to avoid facing MPs in the run up to Brexit date of 31 October. In the former the doors of freedom remain shut for him despite Articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Constitution, not to mention the facile case made by the prosecution, whilst the latter merely relied on unwritten constitutional principles of Parliamentary democracy. Thus Rule of law has given way to rule by ED edicts: the caged parrot has metamorphosed to a vicious viper.
Whilst the Supreme Court valiantly strives to resolve a dispute of self opinionated custodians of religion, the temple of freedom appears perplexed from Koregaon to Kashmir. We used to resonate American songs like ‘This land is my land, this land is your land… and blend them with our own aao bachchon tumhe dikhayen jhanki hindustan ki.’ but have to now hear refrains from sundry unworthiest stating ‘ this Court is our Court!’ The great Indian Supreme Court, ever alert to take suo moto notice of anything rotting in the ‘State of Denmark’ has not heard current sighs of fear because there is no public spirited person confident to draw its attention.
In a country where people have started speaking in whispers, callers advise use of WhatsApp and Signal, FIRs are registered against intellectuals who dare to disagree, the high and mighty get booked for rape with considerable difficulty but victims too are promptly arrested, innocent little girls are being devastated by fiends, inconvenient police officials are denied bail for months or years, thousands of young people are being laid off, politicians argue about etymology of lynching rather than morality of bovine inspired violence, we are told that life could not be any better. And if we doubt all that, we only need to check with President Trump.
All who love India dearly cannot be mute spectators of the plight of J&K. There is no gain saying that Pakistan has chosen to be our enemy but that applies to them more forcefully vis a vis the people of J&K. But we do not tire saying that it is our problem. Be that as it may, it is a problem nevertheless. We have no option or duty other than solve the problem but that does not mean that we crush the protagonists.
Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary steps and endeavour but then it needs extraordinary hearts and minds too as well. The recent forced events do not betray qualities of head and heart that would match the vision that great leaders who brought down the Berlin wall to reunite Germany or ensured lasting peace to the Irish people after decades of IRA bombings. Even late Atalji would have agonized about how Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat, Jambhuriyat, has been given a go bye and replaced by a truncated voiceless zero tolerance on the ground and puerile comments by myopic wonders about improved matrimonial opportunities in the valley.
Others have convinced themselves that the Kashmir issue is about investment and development, even about weaving tales of prosperity. Accustomed to penchant for rewriting history they believe what can be done to books can also be done to living civilizations. Hope that their naiveté will not cost India what we cannot afford.
Undoubtedly liberal parties have become self conscious about the methods used by the BJP to win the land slide mandate. This is sadly feeding the monster of misrepresentation and deceit because there is no alternative narrative. Caution is understandable but psychological retreat will be disastrous. Gnawing fear of further defeats will almost certainly deliver us to defeat. Thus conquering fear is our real salvation.
As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Mahatma our tribute must be to become fearless. But that does not come without sacrifice. Time to depart from symbolism and embrace substance of satyagrah. There is little talk of honour in these times. Together let us reclaim honour for each one of us as indeed collectively of the entire Indian people.
More recently it was back to the TV channels again. In a free wheeling chat with the foreign media I had ventured to express my deep distress at our party not having been able to reflect upon the causes of our 2019 defeat. Without a prognosis I said, we would not find a cure. I said that we were left in disarray because despite our earnest pleading our leader chose to resign from Presidentship. He retains our allegiance despite two defeats, something that has no parallel in the democratic world. He should have and even now should lead the party. There was a media storm and every correspondent sought clarifications.
It was far from clear whether I had earned a hero’s adulation or a villain’s rebuke. How does one clarify the truth? Some colleagues in the party said these remarks hurt the party. It will hurt to say let us find out why we are hurt! It will not hurt if we if we continue to suffer hurt caused to us by the adversary? To show courage and fortitude and not cry is character but to pretend we have no pain is silly and maybe even fatal. My critics are either hypocritical to deny pain or plain simple impervious, heartless machines that know not the spiritual dimension of pain.
I am amazed at being lectured by people who know little about personal faithfulness or political strategy. So once for all I hereby let them know that I believe faith and allegiance is about trust and personal choice. Yet for grown ups it has no place for unqualified awe and deference, real or contrived. I support the Gandhi family because of personal gratitude and understanding of history and Indian democracy.
Strategic silence is sensible in critical moments but equally speaking up is an imperative for our collective future. Only dead fish flow with the water. Our Congress is not like the BJP and must never be. When our spokesperson points to our duty to counter the BJP he must remember it is possible only if we can manifest our different world view and expression of a mind without fear. The battle we join is not mere screaming ossified phrases against the RSS but in how we react to specific situations, including of conflict. We must prepare for a grand war to save the legacy of the Mahatma, not petty skirmishes of transitory populism. Finally our opponents and media can eat their hearts out but I do believe that Rahul Gandhi is our leader, he should return as President of our grand party that Soniaji will continue to inspire. We have taken a blow but we will rise again to rule over the hearts and minds of our beloved people.
Congress can give India the life of freedom and fulfillment where the head is held high by one and all without fear and favour. Each post along the path will be approached to conquer. Victories will not cause arrogance, defeats will not cause doubt in our cherished values. But convenience and adversity, far less the machinations of the BJP must not force compromise on our values.
A word for the media without whom our democracy is incomplete. It is easy to turn ‘walk away ‘ to ‘run away’ but these petty betrayals of the truth that the media is custodian of, is complicity in the beginning of dismantling of democracy. As sentinels of free speech is it fair that they raise howls of confusion whenever truth is stated in public? Do we want a nation of tutored parrots or a wholesome marketplace of free ideas and opinion? My vision for the country and my party is the latter, not the former. Every living moment of my life is dedicated to that vision. I pray and hope that my leaders, Soniaji and Rahulji will attract such like minded souls who are willing to dedicate their lives to the Congress.
We cannot be afraid of those we admire and love if we have to carry conviction with people not to fear the powerful who wield the weapons of soul destruction. We must not retreat from our convictions because of contrived notions of the mood of the nation. To bide time may be good strategy but to be afraid to speak is simple cowardice. I have been taught to be a Congress soldier, not to be a coward.
If my voice has the resonance of my colleagues we will be battle ready; if it remains a cry in the wilderness I will seek solace from the legacy of Mahatma, Badshah Khan, Pandit Nehru and Nelson Mandela because
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.