Why blame Kalyan alone? He was foe, not hypocrite
By M J Akbar
Deathbed repentance is a charming philosophy. Is it designed to fool God, society or oneself? Since God can't be taken for a ride, and it is pointless making an ass of yourself, it must be society. Poets and seers (who cook up proverbs) have noticed. Hence: Aakhri waqt mein kya khaaq mussalman honge! (Become a Muslim in my last breath? Let me be the way I am...) And, more mundanely, Nau sau choohe kha ke billi Haj ko chali! (After eating 900 mice, the cat is going for Haj).
Apparently, plastic repentance still manages to generate a headline or two, as Kalyan Singh's sudden conversion to secularism indicates.
Kalyan Singh has not found God; he has only discovered a different denomination of voter. He has never asked UP Muslims for support, but thinks he knows how to: with emotionalism, not facts. He is titillating them with false humility.
The facts might serve Kalyan Singh better. He was never guilty of hypocrisy. The BJP had Ayodhya at the top of its agenda. As BJP chief minister he could not have stopped the kar sewaks. He accepted the dilemma between party and state and resigned.
The true guilt lies with those who promised to protect the mosque and then were deliberately complicit in the demolition. Hypocrite-in-chief was the prime minister, P V Narasimha Rao, closely followed by his home minister S B Chavan. A central force was in place to stop the destruction; it was kept on the sidelines. Rao, when asked later, explained that he had been asleep during the day. Rao slept, Chavan snoozed. It was such an effective snooze that his son has been rewarded today with the leadership of Maharashtra. The cabinet and Congress party acquiesced in the Rao deception: the cabinet was full of luminaries who would, doubtless, prefer their names to be omitted now from any column on the subject. Facts are injurious to votes.
Two politicians have the right to be critical of the Babri episode, despite later compromise: Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav. The Congress may have been in power then, but Sonia Gandhi was not. She was deeply distressed by the demolition and did what she could to raise public awareness. The other is Mulayam Singh Yadav. As chief minister before Kalyan Singh, he was unequivocal in its defence. Mayawati was not in power during the years of the Babri agitation.
One fact, which would glare you in the face if you turned your face in the correct direction, is carefully ignored by the whole political class. The destruction of the mosque was only the beginning. The rest of a long story is the quiet construction of a temple at its site, although, in the courts, it is still disputed territory. In the last 17 years, every political party has been in power in either Delhi or Lucknow. Each one has sanctioned or condoned the use of state funds to strengthen the security of this functioning temple at Ayodhya.
It makes sense to argue that any attempt to take a technical and legal view, and to stop the functioning of the temple would cause serious ethnic violence, so such facts are best ignored. If that is correct, then every party, however 'secular' it may claim to be when standing at the loudspeaker, agrees, in practice, with the BJP that a temple should be permitted on the site of the mosque. The law can take its own course, or no course at all; popular sentiment will prevail. Why then blame Kalyan Singh alone?
If the Muslims of UP want to hold Kalyan Singh accountable, why are they being so lenient to those who became cabinet ministers under Rao as representatives of the Muslim community? Why have they forgiven A R Antulay or Jaffar Sharief, not to mention a host of dimmer lights, for not uttering a word of protest before Rao? One Muslim cabinet minister would, in less than the time it takes to whip out a green handkerchief, lace his face with woe, suck tears from his stomach to the brim of his eyes, and say that his resignation letter was in his pocket. It is possible that the resignation letter is still in his pocket; it certainly did not come out during the three years left of Rao's term.
Congress Muslims clambered over the dead stones of the Babri mosque in order to get promotions or places in the Rao cabinet. They sold Babri for a bowl of thin soup. If all is going to be forgotten, why should Kalyan Singh's sins be remembered? He was the opponent outside, not the enemy within.
Appeared in Times of India - February 8, 2009