Unconsciously, Ananthamurthy, whom we all know most of all as URA, sets it up as a dialogue, an approximation of a play exploring options, choices, outlining the ethical consequences of each political act. It was the last testament of a remarkable man, a storyteller who quietly became the conscience of an era - Shiv Visvanathan
I will start with the story of Job from the Old Testament. Is evil also present along with what we believe is the goodness of the Divine Will? In the 1950s, the visionary author and psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote Answer to Job, in which he examines what the Christian world underwent throughout its symbolic history to overcome evil.
Let me mention here Raskolnikov, the protagonist of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. He aspires to be a Napoleon – an ordinary man who became a kalapurusha, the man of the age, and acquired glory despite killing thousands in war. The young man is deeply anguished because he could never be like Napoleon, who disregarded commonly held perceptions of evil when he slew thousands in war without guilt.
Godse’s final speech should be compared with Modi’s fervent words of patriotism. When Godse could find no other way to put an end to Gandhi’s all-powerful influence in the country, he killed him. The Congress, which somehow managed to obtain nuclear friendship with the United States, allowed Savarkar plus Modi to occupy the space vacated by Gandhi.
The right of the poor who make soil and water yield food should not be taken away. Farmers’ lands should not be taken away for power generation plants, IT–BT4 enclaves, mining and five-star hotels. It is to the benevolence of Varuna, the god of water, that we owe the cultivation of food. Before agriculture, humans hunted to survive. Animals were prey, but they were also accorded divine status out of a feeling of gratitude. Hunting hounds became the companions of Dattatreya. The humble mouse became Ganesha’s vehicle. The cow provided milk and meat, and in every pore of its body, all the gods were seen.
The hunting that corporates do today we call globalisation. Those who help in a hunting operation get a small share of the kill, just like we do in the capital market. Those from poor countries seeking IT–BT jobs in foreign lands are viewed as cheap labour that boosts profits.
The sixth sutra
The MBAs fresh from Harvard, aspiring neo-capitalists, see benevolence as part of a feudal heritage. For these young people populist programmes are a bait in the hunt for votes. Providing food to the hungry at subsidised rates is antithetical to their view of development.
In the past, poor students were able to study and become successful because of a practice called varanna. Some Lingayat mutts, religious institutions, also provided free meals for them. Today, this is possible because of the democratic benevolence of reservations.
However, Medha Patkar, the satyagrahi afflicted with acute back pain, and Aruna Roy, the Right to Information activist, who had tucked in their sari pallus for the big fight have not loosened it still. People like Teesta Setalvad continue to run from court to court seeking to uncover the truth.
That they have not given up hope in the present scenario, as the Congress leaders have done, has prevented frustration and dejection from creeping into this writing. I mention this right at the start lest I forget later.
I attempt to see the evil that is within us and around us in its manifold avatars. The evil of our times are mines, dams, power plants and hundreds of smart cities. Shadeless roads, widened by cutting down trees; rivers diverted to fill the flush tanks of five-star hotels; hillocks, the abode of tribal gods, laid bare due to mining; marketplaces without sparrows and trees without birds.
If we want development, it is there for the taking. If we don’t want it, we can do without it. Corporates, on the other hand, must have development. Because America cannot be polluted. So the poor of India remain silent. And the tribals who have little choice fall prey to the himsavadis, the believers in violence.
Recognising that the evil that has tasted power is inside us, and then striving to overcome it is the Gandhian path. Believing that the evil is outside us is the Godse path. Godse was not bothered by the fact that Gandhi was preparing for a prayer meeting.
“Development” causes one to forget the past, it belongs to nobody, emaciates the earth, fills the canopy of the sky with smog through which the sun cannot peep, chokes and poisons the flowing rivers, and also boosts a state of excessive irresistible desire – inherent in all of us. Modi, in his short-sleeved kurta, speaking with an uplifted chin, appearing as a dazzling leader, providing twenty-four-hour electricity to corporates, is one of those pushing India towards that hubris. Everyone declares that Modi is not corrupt. That this has become a eulogistic refrain is a tragedy.
When I was growing up in the pre-war years, we complained that goods “Made in Germany” were difficult to get, and dismissed as “Made in Japan” all the shiny cheap items that we actually used. During the war years, German goods were available in the black market. The black market exists even today – in the middlemen who have political patronage. For saying that such people have no place in his regime, Modi has received much praise.
Today all that glitters is “Made in China”. America is incapable of manufacturing even a pin or a shirt. What it can produce are weapons of war and supercomputers. Cleverly worded MOUs for development do not require us to stand on our own feet. Instead, we dream of selling pins to the world like China does and to export garments stitched by poor women in sweatshops. The fashion designers who commission these garments are mostly from developed countries.
NGOs fighting to protect the earth have been declared anti-national. The Modi government is all set to start proceedings against them. Turning a blind eye to the wishes of the southern states, it is constructing a new dam (in Andhra–Telangana), putting the farmers and tribals of the region in a fix. (It was the Congress government that had initiated this project.)
I would like to compare Raskolnikov, who lost faith in Christ because of his overarching ambition but regained it through anguish and love, with Godse, who recognising the strength of Gandhi, assassinated him while he was on his way to pray to the almighty for the well-being of the country rather than his own.
Gandhi did not even have police protection. The Hindutvavadi Godse’s action, committed with utmost detachment and in cold blood, was the sacrificial offering made at the yajna of nation building. And Savarkar’s ideology was the text for this yajna. Only in a democratic system does this sentiment, latent in all of us, find expression in the smooth-tongued Modi raising an arti to the holy Ganga.