Secrecy of funeral only reveals fears of the ruling elite

The government reposes more faith in Shiv Sainiks than those gathered at the Jantar Mantar and Raisina Hill chanting innocuous slogans like "We want justice"

ajay

Ajay Singh | January 1, 2013


People in Mumbai pay tributes to the Delhi gangrape victim and demand a safer society
Photo: Geetanjali Minhas

History bears out the fact that the Indian elite has internalised low cunning and secrecy as its essential characteristics for the statecraft. It would be pertinent here to jog the memories of those who fell victim to structural amnesia and forgot the slogans "khoon ka badla khoon se lenge" that rent the air in the wake of Indira Gandhi's assassination. Doordarshan, the one and only national broadcaster, dutifully showed this utterly provocative rendition and Indira Gandhi's funeral across India. It triggered riots in Delhi, Kanpur, Bokaro and many parts of the country that took thousand lives.

More recently, the state funeral accorded to Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray is instructive to explore the real nature of the state. Who was Bal Thackeray? He was neither holding the post of a political executive like Indira Gandhi nor could he claim the mantle of popular mass leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan or Vinoba Bhave. Then why were political executives of all hues and top national leaders seen paying obeisance to the man whose singular contribution to Indian politics was to lumpenise it?  Despite Thackeray's self-admitted role in provoking riots after the Babri mosque demolition, a cowering Congress government at the centre and the state accorded him the highest status reserved for high public figures after death. Celebrated journalists discovered his liberal traits by referring to how Thackeray invited them over "beer or lunch" despite their criticism of his politics.

Contrast that with the secrecy that shrouded the funeral of the Delhi rape victim. Her body was flown in from Singapore at an unearthly morning hour at the technical area of the Delhi airport where the country's top political leader Sonia Gandhi and top political executive Manmohan Singh were present. The body was taken to her residence in a dingy hovel where none of the political leaders or executives could have dared to tread. The family was coerced to perform the last rites of its beloved daughter in a most secretive manner under the constant and bullying presence of the state authorities.

Does this case bear any similarity with the manner in which the US administration conducted the last rites of Osama bin Laden or execution and burial of Ajmal Kasab? Of course, it is nobody's argument that the rape victim bears any similarity with those terrorists. Far from it, what needs to be critically looked at is the conduct of the elites and state which does not discriminate between common people and terrorists when its own existence is challenged.

The groundswell of emotions that the rape victim and her death generated had proved it beyond doubt that there is hardly any leader in the existing political spectrum who could inspire people's trust. This politically naive but highly assertive section of youngsters is not overawed either by lineage or stature of those who are assigned to govern us. This was reflected in the manner in which they knocked the door of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and laid siege to the ultimate seat of power, Raisina Hill.

It is often said that adversity brings out the best in a person. But in the case of the Indian elite, it brings out the worst. There was no doubt that the body of the rape victim became an instant source of all emotional outpouring that threatened the elite. The body of the victim was seen as a potential flashpoint which needed to be eliminated in order to ensure survival of those who are well entrenched in the power structure.

There is hardly any doubt that the open cremation of the rape victim would have attracted a crowd which would have probably surpassed the attendance at funerals of political leaders in recent times. The fear that such a large gathering of untrained political activists could provoke a serious situation was constantly played up to deny people their right to grieve. Isn’t it strange that the government reposes more faith in Shiv Sainiks than those gathered at the Jantar Mantar and Raisina Hill chanting innocuous slogans like "We want justice"? This is nothing but indicative of the great divide that exists between the ruling elite and citizenry. And the manner in which the funeral of the rape victim was blacked out is a testimony to the usage of Machiavellian skills to curb a genuine and spontaneous struggle of people.

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