When I phoned Swami Agnivesh to invite him for an inter-religious memorial service at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Delhi as we normally do, his response was, “though I like you having such memorial services, I would want you to have a more radical response to such things, since our politicians and bureaucrats have all failed us miserably…”
Swami Agnivesh reflected the churning going on in my own mind which is now being voiced by millions of ordinary citizens against politicians and bureaucrats. The spontaneous reaction of the public against the politicians has been outrageous, though not violent.
One needs to only look at how the father of the late Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan turned the Chief Minister of Kerala Mr. Achuthanandan out of his house and refused to meet him. Similarly the wife of Mr. Hemant Karkare, Kavita and his kin who clearly expressed that they did not wish to meet anyone when Narendra Modi’s protocol officer contacted them, as he had constantly criticized Mr. Karkare for his investigation into the Malegaon blasts and things connected with that.
The public is also simply wild at the statement of the Maharashtra Home Minister Mr. R. R. Patil who made light of the whole thing by saying, “in big cities such small things do happen”, not to mention about the ‘terror tourism’ by the Chief Minister Deshmukh who went to see Taj Mahal Hotel with his son and Ramgopal Verma. One hopes that such outrageous ‘spontaneous reaction’ from the public will ultimately change things in politics and in our society.
It is good to recall at this time that ever since the Late Rajiv Gandhi made the statement after the assassination of the then Prime Minister and his mother Mrs. Indira Gandhi saying, “when a big tree falls the earth around it is bound to shake”, the theory of ‘spontaneous reaction’ as mass violence in return for such occurrences have got a legitimacy. So whether in the recent past it is at the arrest of Raj Thackery in Mumbai when the Shiv Sainiks went on a rampage in a bout of “spontaneous reaction”, burning up buses, taxis and beating up north Indians or Narendra Modi infamously stating, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction” after the burning of S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express in February 2002 at Godhra, following which thousands of Muslims were brutally killed and their properties destroyed or indeed the ‘spontaneous reaction’ in August 2008 after the brutal killing of Swami Laxmananda Sarswati in Jalaspetta ashram at the hands of the Maoists, they all seem to be justified by the perpetrators of inhuman violence committed against their own brothers and sisters. It appears that human lives, their houses or public property have absolutely no value as compared to the violent reaction, mostly instigated by one leader or a handful of them for their own political advantage. And quite often the police and other law enforcing agencies are just mute spectators and sometimes even collaborators in the crime.
Are we, as a society becoming more violent day by day or “have we”, in the words of German philosophers, Adorno and Horkheimer, “reached the end of reason”, as they wrote in their “Dialectic of Enlightenment”, while analyzing the German society at the height of Nazi uprising in the Germany of 1930s? The terrorists’ attacks are certainly mindless in every sense.
Most, if not all, the sane citizens of our country are deeply pained at instances of such total insanity. A civilized society like ours certainly does not approve of killing innocent people.
Nearly ten years ago, when Graham Staines and his two little sons were burnt alive by Dara Singh and his companions in the dead of the night, no one from the group of those he had served for over thirty five years took up arms to settle scores with those who had committed, what the then President of India, Mr. K. R. Narayanan had described as “an incident to be assigned to the dark pages of history”.
His wife Gladys Staines stunned the world by her ‘spontaneous reaction’ then. Hours after receiving the heartbreaking news of her husband and two sons burnt alive, she stood before the world and declared, “I forgive those who killed my husband and my two sons”. It was hard to believe what our ears heard. Similarly the late Pope John Paul II went to meet the person who had attempted to kill him at St. Peter’s Square – in his prison cell to offer him forgiveness and to pray with him. Also nearly 75 years ago in the undivided India, when thieves stole some cows from Gurudwara Tikana Sahib near Faislabad, now in Pakistan, and when the devotees urged Baba Sahib Dayal, the administrator of the Gurudwara that they would beat up the thieves who were camping a few miles away and bring back the cows, Baba Sahib Dayal seems to have told them, “they were probably in greater need of the cows, so please give the calves to them too…”.
Hasn’t Mahatma Gandhi, about whom Albert Einstein once said, “Future generations will scarcely believe that such a man as this walked the earth…”, taught us the path of non-violence through which he won the greatest victory against a powerful empire. He would go on indefinite fasts to make a point. He never wavered from the path of truth. In fact for him, Truth was God. Was his not a ‘spontaneous reaction’, that some of our countrymen could emulate?
The Mumbai terrorist attacks and a different type of spontaneous reaction of the public against the shameless politicians shows that it is high time that the citizens of this country rise up to question seriously the theory of violent ‘spontaneous reaction’ and seek alternate ways of expressing their anger, one which would promote lasting peace and change things for the better in our public and private life.
* Dr Dominic Emmanuel, 2nd Dec 2008, Asian Age’ & ‘Deccan Chronicle’.