To those who take pride in India being land of ancient civilsation/s where the age old social and cultural values still retain moral relevance and legitimacy, the reported incident of stalking and alleged abduction of the daughter of an IAS officer by the son of the Haryana BJP president must have come as a rude shock. It need not have. There was nothing unusually rude or shocking about the conduct of the VIP son. This is the norm. So why pretend to act shocked?
But I wish to throw the spotlight elsewhere. In the Chandigarh case, the great Bhartiya Sanskriti was just a prey on the run as vultures of new culture acted as hounds breaking fresh grounds of audacious immorality. All media reports, statements of political leaders, especially from the opposition, and even the so-called enlightened social media were at pains to high light the pedigree of the victim: the daughter of an IAS officer. And most reactions began with âIf EVEN the daughter of an IAS officer has to face thisâŚâ was the common refrain. My thoughts went to the daughters of those who are not IAS officers. What must they be thinking about the ground on which any offence against them would have to be opposed? They are not IAS officersâ daughters nor of politicians nor of the judges nor of the rich and the powerful. They will have to seek defence behind their anonymity: no oneâs daughters, or daughters of plain ânobodiesâ!
I understand that to some extent this refrain was meant to highlight the sheer audacity of the offender â that he wasnât even bothered about the likely consequences of committing a crime against the member of a VIP segment of society. But keep in mind that the alleged offender himself was not just a common citizen and for him the term âthe daughter EVEN of an IAS officerâ has no meaning. The predator and the victim belong to the same social and economic caste.
The fact is that bureaucrats and politicians rule us. They are the arbiters of our destiny. And they have a deal of mutual consent between them: they normally do not violate each otherâs territory. The offender in this case happened to be the son a VIP from the BJP â a party with a difference, and also a party which champions the cause of the Bhartiya Sanskriti in which women are accorded the status of goddesses. Therefore, there was something ideologically and morally obnoxious in the act committed by the politicianâs son. In fact, there was more than just one violation of the accepted culture.
He had not only violated Bhartiya Sanskriti of old but also the Bhartiya Sanskriti of today in which power is the ultimate religion. And power rests with just three castes: the politicians, the bureaucrats and the rich, with a couple of distant cousins completing the family picture. The boy forgot that his choice of the victim was from within this family, the family Trimurthy comprising bureaucrats, politicians and the rich who treat one another either as first cousins or as in-laws to each other. The validity of this observation is far more than merely symbolic. It is real; it is a fact. The bureaucrats and the politicians hate each other as classes but donât be misled. When it comes to you, they are family; you are outsiders.
Further, an unwritten moral code of the modern Bhartiya Sanskriti is that three blades of this Trimurthy will not only NOT act against one another but will actually protect one another. This is where the son of the politician went wrong. He chose his target from within the family. That amounts to violating the new social morality. He was guilty of incest â targeting a girl from within the family. This is not allowed in the new Sanskriti. If the boyâs victim had been a teacherâs daughter or small shopkeeperâs or a rickshaw pullerâs or farmerâs â anyone outside the trimurthy â then there would have been either no sensation or very little. What is more, the bureaucrats who are now turned against the boy would actually have helped him escape. The father of the girl in the present outrage may also have been one of those bureaucrats. He has been in service in Haryana for 31 years.
These 31 years have not been an era of Ram Rajya carried out by the politicians and bureaucrats in the state. The family culture of powers that be prevails not just in India. It is universal, it is a global phenomenon. I forgot to mention another arm of this Trident: the media. Since there can only be three blades in a Trident, there was hardly space for the media to be accommodated. But how can you âwriteâ media off?
After all, in a democracy â I mean, especially in a democracy â media is also a part of the power equation. Nothing much gets propagated without its help. The raw material of the politicians all over the world is the people. And as per the family allocation of work, it is the job of the politician and not the bureaucrat or the businessman to âmanageâ the people. How would the politician manage the people â except with the active support of the media? Therefore, willy-nilly, the media too has to be allotted a chair on the family dinners. But since there is no blade available in a Trident for a fourth arm, the media is given not a blade but âthe handleâ of the Trident. And that is so appropriate. Media has to handle responsibilities which the politician is unable to tackle single handed.
These are the Four Pillars of the social and political structure in any democratic society. In India, they are like the Four Quarters of the political Upanishads. They are also referred to as the Four Estates, and since media is the last entrant and has been inducted almost reluctantly by the other three, it is known as the Fourth Estate, not the First or the Second or the Third. The Fourth Estate. Overarching these four Pillars is the judiciary. Fear of Contempt of Court holds my lip from saying a few things in their praise here.
For the moment, we will leave the judiciary out of it. Even if they are members of the family, they are kept âamicably out of the family pictureâ â to save them from allegations of bias.Judiciary must appear independent and sovereign. Otherwise, it is useless to the other members of the national family. If you havenât noticed so far, let me point it out to you that the one segment left out of these Sacred Four Quartets are the people. In a democracy, people have to be left out of the family and all kinds of possible excuses or reasons can be advanced to achieve that goal.
The first and the most effective of these reasons is the need to preserve âsecrecy or confidentiality.â Family secrets are too sacrosanct to be thrown in the hands of the people. Information is power. If people have power, people will have power. In a democracy, people cannot be given power because it is given to their representatives. Almost the entire information on how the family is run is âClassifiedâ- that is, it cannot be revealed. (To whom?) The bureaucrat has direct access to information. In fact, he guards it. The politician gets this access through the bureaucrat on a five-yearly basis. The rich business-houses do not want nor need this access. It is an unnecessary burden. It must be carried by those whom the rich can trust: politicians and bureaucrats. The rich choose their confidants carefully.
They are men and women who are always ready to use that information to the advantage of their rich cousins.
Now, back to the Chandigarh stalking-abduction incident. Lest I am accused of treating a very serious issue with utter levity, let me state quite clearly that in my view, it is the most obnoxious and shameful thing to have happened to any girl. I am with the girl, even though I would still want the legitimate judicial process to establish the charge against the boy. I want the girl to be protected not just because she is an IAS officerâs daughter. Similarly, I donât want the boy to be subjected to media trial just because he is the politicianâs son. Every girl should be protected and every offending boy punished, no matter whose daughter or whose son they happen to be.
In the Haryana BJP leaders case, although I consider it a little unfair on the part of the political opponents of the boyâs father to blame the father alone for the sins of the boy, I still believe that if the boy had received the right kind of education at home, especially from his parents, this incident may never have happened. Morally, the boyâs father cannot claim complete immunity or freedom from blame. I seriously believe that he should either let the world see that he judges his son guilty and is not standing by him at least in this or, if he wants to stand by him out of his love or responsibility as a father, then he should quit public office and do it.
But after the first flush of public and media enthusiasm, we will see ânormalcyâ restored and the system returning to its wonted ways. One variant of this family culture is operating here also, A kind of family feud has broken out. The political opponents of the boyâs father are not innocent angels in latching on to the incident as an opportunity to gain politically. That is cheap and unfair. But they are demanding a greater slice of say in decision making processes in the family.
And there is another dimension. I hope you donât hate me for writing this, especially girls. While I am one hundred per cent behind Varnika and her father in their fight for justice, and I will like to see the offenders given the harshest possible punishment, I cannot escape the feeling that this fight would not have been the fight it is if Varnika had not been the daughter of an IAS officer. Nothing wrong with that in the prevailing family values.
But I am certainly not buying the IAS officerâs high profile homilies against the system. Listen to someone who for 31 years of his life has been not only a part of the family (âthe systemâ, a misnomer for family) but one of its controlling hands. He still is one of them, and still has the power to do what you and I canât do. This is what he says: âWhy should I do that, (call the PM)â he said. âAfter 70 years of independence, we should be able to expect that the police, prosecution and judiciary will do the right thing. I am testing the system to see if it can deliver justice.â (He talks as if he is new to the system and the family.) Okay, it is not hypocrisy.)
For 31 of these 70 years, he has been an important cog in the systemâs wheel. What has he seen in the system which you and I havenât to have such faith in it? During these 31 years, thousands of complaints from common people (outsiders to the family) must have come to his desk seeking justice. Did he not realise how the common man in this country has no faith in the system? Does he not know why? Does he really not know that in the common manâs eyes, the system means âpoliticians and bureaucratsâ? May be, he thinks family secrets are still family secrets and people donât know anything.
And Mr Kundu, the officer, is spot on when he says that he will accept neither compromise nor apologies. I am fully with him also when he reminds the father of the accused that he too has a daughter at home and would he accept an apology if someone tries to abduct her? On all this, the officer deserves a salute and full support.
The officer says he would not call the PM because trusts âthe system.â And yet his trust in the system did not dissuade him from calling the UT Home Secretary and another officer (who, he reminds us, is a Haryana Cadre officer) to ensure that the same system did not tamper with the CCTV footage. Can a common man have the privilege of calling a Home Secretary, and, more importantly, receive an assurance from him that âChandigarh main aisa nahin hota.â (Sic) The officer concerned (UT Home Secretary) is a Punjab cadre officer, and his remark says something about him which i donât want to comment on.
And how much does the IAS officer trust his own system is also revealed in his own admission about the state in which he is an important administrator. Says he about Haryana, â It is fortunate that the incident happened in UT. If it had happened in Haryana, it would have been next to impossible to get justice in the system.â He is talking about a Haryana in which he himself has spent all his professional life âdispensing justice to the common man.â
If you ask me, the only fortunate thing I see in this case is that Varnika is the daughter of an IAS officer. Minus that, Mr Kundu may have felt compelled to think of calling the PM. Now, he didnât have to because the Home Secretary was there to take his call.
Family must come first, after all. And within the family also, there are layers. Brothers, cousins, first cousins, nephews et al. But all in all, it is family Zindabad. The main crime of the Barala boy is to have forgotten this family culture and to have sinned within the family: an incest.