ARTICLES FROM THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN
Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2017.
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With every passing day, as it prepares to depart from office, the Congress-led UPA government is becoming increasingly unabashed and brazen. While incriminating papers are being confined to shredders and incinerators, and favourite bureaucrats are being given comfortable assignments in foreign lands, the ruling government is investing all its energies in strategising for its safety and security, post 16 May. Not entirely unexpected, even the Prime Minister's Office fell victim to the proverbial office fire, as reported in the papers. Fire safety standards in the PMO, the nerve centre of our government, must have turned extremely lax. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to delve further into the nature of the files that have been declared dead forever through the fire ruse.
The Congress Party is silently preparing contingencies and exit strategies to secure protection from a terrifying future, when in all probability, government will pass on to an incorruptible, decisive leader, with whom they cannot make quid pro quo deals. They are trying their best to label the decisive leader as divisive or a polariser through constant repetition by themselves and hired voices, but they have learnt by now, that all their shrill propaganda to create a climate of fear psychosis among the Muslims has not yielded results. In fact, the Congress party's excessive overdrive has started rebounding upon itself. The people of India have been given an opportunity to witness directly just how scurrilous, divisive and polarising the Congress has been, particularly, in its last ditch, maladroit attempt to change the voter's mind somehow.
Many of their other ongoing efforts have also failed. Their desperate hurry to appoint a Lokpal of their choice, a protector for their future, has turned to naught. The selection process was judicially so deplorable, that both judicial members of the Search Committee, Justice K.T. Thomas and Fali Nariman, refused to have anything to do with it and resigned. Finally, it took a PIL and the Supreme Court to prevent this lame duck government from appointing a Lokpal of their choice, whom they want so badly as a security for their future. This issue is of utmost priority for them, and they still don't seem to have given up. The Congress party leaves behind a trail of gigantic scams, which closely touch the Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi, her family and several other UPA stalwarts. Perhaps they hadn't expected such early exposure. Perhaps they did not realise that the time-space compression of advanced technology and 24X7 television, hasten the detection of scams by the public and investigative reporting. Perhaps they did not anticipate the momentum of public scrutiny of their corruption during the last three years, something that is making it impossible for them to bury their scams before they leave. Their loose ends continue to dangle dangerously, waiting for the next government to pick up. And a Lokpal of their choice still eludes them.
There are several theories circulating as to why the lame duck government is trying hard to appoint the next Army chief in such haste. The Ministry of Defence had become a UPA den and it is imperative for the present dispensation to ensure a protective continuity in matters that affect them most, the fate of Agusta Westland and the nebulous transactions involving "the family" and "AP", and most importantly, how to make the government lose its case in arbitration, so that Finmeccanica's fortunes do not suffer. These shadowy, murky matters of kickbacks and intrigue remain invisible to the aam admi, whose tax money finances the corruption of those who preside over the government, even while they keep screaming shrilly, to distract the aam aadmi, that they alone are the Lord's anointed ones to give India inclusive and secular advancement.
In their terminal political desperation and bankruptcy, they have turned as expected to communal handouts for Muslims and backward classes, whom they continue to view as election chattels. Having failed for decades in fulfilling promises to them for raising their standards of living and quality of life, the last few ploys that they command as masters of the government are those of reservation in government jobs. I have something significant to say about this issue of reservations that I hope these two segments of our country will reflect upon.
Our Constitution, the foundation of our laws and government, is one of the most secular in the world. While it believes that governmental employment opportunity must be merit based, it never lost sight of the historical reality of our caste-ridden society. For centuries the lower castes had suffered social oppression and humiliation from the upper castes, denial of education, and corresponding opportunity for social, educational and economic inclusion. The long term consequences of social exclusion are equally destructive. They result in stunting and dwarfing mental faculties, erosion of self esteem, a permanent feeling of inferiority, death of aspiration and higher social mobility, and social fatalism. Clearly, historical caste-based exclusion and social decapitation made them incapable of being part of fair and equal competition with the higher castes. Just as a man with tied legs cannot compete fairly in a running race, people with their mental faculties debilitated through deliberate social oppression perpetuated over centuries cannot be expected to participate equally in competitive examinations. The Constitution provided special facilities for them. Reservations, as recommended by Dr Ambedkar were meant to be a recompense from the democratic government of India for the historic and social wrongs committed by our society to certain segments for denying them opportunities and acquiring equal rights as full blooded citizens at par with higher castes. This was the fundamental principle on which reservation quotas for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes was incorporated in our Constitution.
Let me remind the OBCs, that neither Mulayam nor Mayawati are their true friends. Both, with mountains of corruption files hanging over their heads, are willing to barter anything away for a clean chit. Let the OBCs also recall that the Congress party under Indira Gandhi ignored the Mandal Commission report, and Rajiv Gandhi categorically opposed it. V.P. Singh made an attempt to implement it in 1990, but the issue was stayed by the Supreme Court. The Congress party fielded a battery of the best lawyers, including Nani Palkhivala, to oppose it. Vasanth Sathe, a non-practising lawyer, donned his robes and appeared in the Supreme Court, sending out the clear Congress message of opposition to the Mandal report. I was the only lawyer who defended the case, and I won it. This is one victory I am very proud of, and so much for Congress' great concern about the OBCs.
Recently, the Congress party has again played its communal card by including a sub-manifesto that it would provide 4.5% Muslim quota, within the OBC quota. Commendable election tactics and a last minute quick-fix hoping to ensnare Muslim vote banks, wherever the Congress believes it can leverage their numbers to its advantage, and make them eternal captives. Is the Congress party trying to inform the Muslim community that they have for centuries suffered humiliation from Indian society, for their present state of lack of education, or economic advancement? Muslim rulers, who have ruled most parts of this country for five centuries, have imposed jazya on the local population, treating Hindus in general, exactly the way Hindu upper castes treated lower castes. It is only after the British takeover that they lost political power. Historically or socially, Indian society has in no manner humiliated them or done them any social wrong or deprived them of educational opportunity, capacity to advance, or have fair opportunity in competition in government jobs. What really has impeded Muslims of India from reaching their true potential, are their own clerics and their madrassa education that ghettoises them further, even visibly, in terms of separate attire and physical appearance. Neither the clerics nor the madrasas will empower the critical mass of underprivileged Muslims in India to access modern contemporary education, economic opportunity, and acquire greater heights in our socio-economic order that secular India aspires for each of its citizens.
I ask my Muslim countrymen to do some introspection, and look at the lives of the Muslims in India who have prospered. They are the modern, cosmopolitan ones who have avoided the tragedy of a madrasa education. I am tempted to state a simple example. At Independence, the Bombay Bar was dominated by brilliant Muslim lawyers. Today, there are hardly any.
Let the Muslims of the country realise that if they succumb to the bait of reservation (that is in any case constitutionally untenable), they would be affirming that the Congress party has done the same to them as what the upper classes historically did to the lower castes in India. Do not get carried away by this bait — ask instead for better educational institutions, access to skills and expertise, and proactively grab better opportunities for economic progress.