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Home > 2021 > Anandavalli Differs From Adityanath | TJS George

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 12, New Delhi, March 6, 2021

Anandavalli Differs From Adityanath | TJS George

Friday 5 March 2021, by T J S George



Introspection has caught me. Week after week, I criticise our leaders. Is this right? After all, they are in power because they have the support of a majority of citizens. If I dislike them, it means I am in a minority. In the democracy that is India, the minority must yield to the majority. That is, I must swallow my minority view and submit to the majority view.

But minorities also must have their place in the sun. That is why I feel good about Anandavalli, a sweeper who became president of the block panchayat in Pathanapuram, Kerala. Her official designation was “casual sweeper.” When a casual sweeper became president, local bureaucrats had difficulty accepting her. It didn’t take them long to realise that their stand was untenable and that Sweeper Anandavalli becoming President Anandavalli was a fact of life they simply had to accept.

This kind of reality is unthinkable in Yogi Adityanath’s terrain. The dominance the caste system continues to have in most parts of northern India is peculiar to the north. True, there are places in Tamil Nadu where prehistoric caste distinctions still exist. But that is no reason to ignore the differences between the north and the south. A sweeper turning panchayat president is a phenomenon Yogi Adityanath’s India will not accept.

The acceptable standards there are different. Not long ago sweepers and ward boys were assigned the jobs of doctors and nurses in the district government hospital in Bulandshahar, UP. It was a legitimate adjustment if we accept the authorities’ way of looking at it. The chief medical officer of the district said sweepers and ward boys were assigned responsibilities only because there was a shortage of staff. In other words, if a doctor has failed to turn up, the ward boy can do a heart transplant. India grows from strength to strength because of its reliance on the basic principle of life — chalta hai.

Recall what happened in a Madhya Pradesh hospital in 2009. Ram Charan Balmiki was a sweeper at the district hospital in Sagar. One day he performed an operation on a three-year old child who had a problem on the neck. Balmiki claimed he acted on the doctor’s orders. The doctor said he only asked Balmiki to prepare for the surgery. The child’s parents said that things were all right for the present, but they were worried about what could happen in the future. If something went wrong, they would have to take their child to hospital again, this time making sure that the child is attended to by a doctor, not a sweeper or a gate watchman. The details that call for attention in India are astonishing.

So, I keep watching, looking for something that I can feel happy about, something that won’t make me criticise our leaders. I look for something I can praise. I look for the slightest opportunity to sing hallelujah for the wisdom, the foresight, the patriotism and the prudence of our leaders. I am looking. I’ll keep looking.

The key to happiness is to see something good in whatever happens. Better still if you can see humour in everything. There must have been wisdom in the rulers of old appointing court jesters. In modern times, too, a bit of jesting enlivens any court. Even Ronald Reagan understood that. When he was lying on the operating table, he looked at the doctors around and said, “I hope you are all Republicans.”

Our Ministry of Culture recently did something which, if taken seriously, will make most of us worried. But if taken as a joke, it can be enjoyed by all. This was a formal announcement by the Ministry which said: “Tribute to a profound thinker. M. S. Golwalkar on his birth anniversary.” It underlined the main point: “His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration and continue to guide generations.” As Mitali Saran pointed out, this is a free country and you can say anything. “JNU is a tukde-tukde gang, Kashmiris are terrorists, Muslims are traitors, liberals are communists, communists are anti-national,” and so on.

I’ll let her have the last word. “It takes only the merest few strands saffron to yellow a whole pot of biryani... And thus it is that we have gone from an imperfect but pluralist democracy to a puffed-up state that is dangerously megalomaniacal and insecure.”

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