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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 9, February 20, 2010

3 Idiots versus ‘Two Idiots’

Monday 22 February 2010, by Braham Dutt

The recent developments in Maharashtra are against the very spirit of our Constitution and unhealthy for the future of democracy in India. Both the senior and junior (Raj) Thackerays are competing with each other for their political survival and indulging in poisonous politics by playing regional, linguistic and religious cards, putting the unity and integrity of the nation in danger.

Some time ago we saw North Indians being beaten black and blue by the Shiv Sainiks/MNS activists in Mumbai during examinations for jobs in the Indian Railways, banks etc., a senior SP MLA being assaulted in the State Assembly itself by regional fanatics for taking oath in Hindi (the national language), hoardings written in non-Marathi languages in Mumbai being pulled down, the chaos over licenses being given to taxi-drivers only in a particular language. All these incidents have contributed to damaging the secular fabric of Indian nationalism. As if this was not enough, the Thackerays have declared that “Mumbai is only for Maharash-trians”, just for gaining political mileage.

Baba Ramdev, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Mukesh Ambani (Chairman, Reliance Group), Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and many others have rightly pointed out that “Mumbai is for all Indians”. I would like to add that Mumbai, a film city and the commercial capital of India, should be open to foreigners as well, that is, those who lawfully want to visit or stay in this global city for any noble cause.

Making a hue and cry over a simple and straightforward statement of Shah Rukh Khan, the senior Thackeray (who could not also digest the record-beating success of Amir Khan’s latest wonderful film 3 Idiots) has deliberately and strategically singled out Bollywood’s two Khans (Aamir and Shah Rukh) in his party daily Saamna, projecting them on the front page with their photographs by calling them “two idiots”. The tandav of the Shiv Sainiks on this issue thereafter is there for all to see. Interestingly, the Shiv Sena chief praised Amitabh Bachchan, an icon of the same stature and even taller as he is known by his nick-name “Big-B”, for not going to Australia to receive his award in protest against the attacks on Indians in that country. One does, though, wonder why “Big-B”, the Brand Ambassador of Gujarat, has not cared to come out this time to say even a single word when the same is happening with Indians in his own country. Sarwan Garg, in his special comment on this issue in Dainik Bhaskar of February 4, 2010, has rightly asked: “Why do you differentiate between Melbourne and Mumbai?”

The famous Praveen Togadia of the VHP, who seems to have telepathic understanding with the Shiv Sena chief, has openly come out a step forward with his biased agenda on the non-issue by giving a call that “all Hindus should boycott all films of Shah Rukh Khan”. Sometime back we had found people of the same mental make-up giving a call to destroy the valuable paintings of M.F. Hussain, an artist of international fame. It is an irony that the people of such a mind-set claim to be the most tolerant creatures on this earth!

But the people of this great country will continue to love and respect the aforementioned “two idiots” and more such ‘nationalist idiots’ like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Gandhi, Mukesh Ambani, A.R. Rehman, Amitabh Bachchan, M.F. Hussain, Raj Kumar Hirani and the likes of them who are Indians first before anything else, that is, Hindu or Muslim, Bengali or Marathi, Brahmin or Bania, North Indian or South Indian etc. Most of our countrymen feel proud of them not only because they are great public figures, industrialists, artistes or sportspersons but also because they are better human beings.

One need not add that Aamir’s latest film
3 Idiots is one of the best and most popular films India has produced so far. It has given a sigh of relief to a large number of students and their parents who had become almost mad running the blind race of competition and so-called success. Under tremendous stress and strain many of them were passing through the stage of depression and some of them even committed suicide.

The film has very well exposed the limitations of our education system. It has beautifully and artistically depicted what we are teaching (in our traditional methods based on cramming) and what we should teach (that is, knowledge and creativity-based education) to our younger generation.

Moreover, the film has brought out a vital social concern as well. One of the three idiots somehow completed his engineering degree when his family was passing through economic hardships and when getting a job was a question of ‘life-and-death’ for him. In this situation he got an interview call for a job. The interviewing officer put certain conditions for offering him the job but the idiot refused to compromise with his principles and said: “Sir, you have your job and I will have my attitude.” So, one can well under-stand what type of message the film is trying to give to its audience through these idiots.

The central theme of the film is conveyed by its genius, the second idiot, the role of which is very well performed by Aamir Khan himself, that “don’t run after success, be able, success will run after you”, When Aamir Khan was asked by Prabhu Chawla in Seedhi Baat on ‘Aaj-Tak’ TV channel about his message to the people of this country, he said: “I would like to request the parents not to pressurise their children for scoring more and more marks, ask them to help each other, ask them to respect the feelings of others, ask them to learn to live together with love and affection. And when they will grow up with these ideas, imagine what type of society will emerge there-after.” See the beauty of the message.

And not to talk of one city (Mumbai), this whole country belongs to all Indians irrespective of their caste, creed, region, language, faith and religion. Ever since I have come to my senses, I am of the firm view that the people of the minority religions have the same rights in this secular and democratic country as the people of the majority religion and it is a universal truth that one cannot and should not be ousted or sent out of the boundaries of this country on this or any other pretext. So, what is needed? Should we create hatred, ill-will, jealousy, enmity between people of different faiths or should we maintain mutual love, goodwill, cooperation, tolerance, fraternity and togetherness amongst people?

On Martyrs’ Day, January 30, we remembered Gandhiji, the Father of the Nation, and his unforgettable contribution towards peace and communal harmony of the masses before and after independence. He even sacrificed his life for this noble cause.

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Philosophy, interests, tastes and ideas may differ from man to man. But when we are living together we will have to learn to respect the feelings of others. We can develop such a mechanism of understanding to say: “We agree to disagree with one another on certain points.” But one cannot certainly agree with Bal Thackeray when he relates Shah Rukh to Kasab and Afzal. Sorry, one cannot go to that level. It might have hurt him as it hurts me. But Shah Rukh needs no certificate from people who do not believe in human values and who are neither democrats, nor secular, nor nationalists, nor patriots and, who above all, do not even believe in the Constitution of India. He is already the Hero of crores of Indians (obviously the Maharashtrians as well) not only because he is a great artiste but also because as a person he is so good that they love him like anything.

We have every right to criticise the government or political parties and their policies and programmes. To me, it appears that most of the political parties, both national and regional, most of the times are engaged in “vote-gathering” politics to attain or remain in power by befooling the people on the basis of caste and creed, faith and religion, language and region or by giving popular/attractive false slogans instead of
talking of principles or working on policies and programmes. The real problems of the people are most of the times made non-issues and non-issues are often made issues. For instance, to say “Mumbai is only for Maharashtrians”, or to highlight the Mandir-Masjid dispute, Ram Sethu issue and the like.

Though the Constitution of India ensures freedom of expression to all its citizens, that does not mean that one can pass any nonsensical judgment against anyone. The senior Thackeray has called the two Khans (Aamir and Shah Rukh) as “two idiots” and we also find him advising Sachin Tendulkar and Mukesh Ambani to “keep themselves away from politics” as if he alone has the monopoly from the Almighty to do politics, cheap and dirty, and the right to speak anything about anyone. He also thinks it is his birthright to speak on behalf of all Maharashtrians. The poor Thackeray has not yet realised that those days have gone when people did not know him well and that they can’t be fooled any more.

Man is known by the ideas he subscribes to and not by how he is dressed up. One cannot become a great philosopher only by wearing the Greek or Roman gown and one cannot become a revolutionary only by wearing a “hat” like Bhagat Singh. Similarly, one cannot become “noble” only by wearing Bhagwa choga, Rudraksha mala and Chandan ka Tilak. When we analyse who is big or who is great, we find the one whose thinking and ideas are big, high and great.

Long back, King Ashoka had said when Islam and Christianity were not even born that “to criticise or condemn the other’s religion is (as bad as) to criticise or condemn one’s own religion”. That is why he is known as great and the same is true in the case of Emperor Akbar the Great. But the Sena chief smelled something foul in the patriotic statement of Sachin Tendulkar when he said: “I am proud of being Maharashtrian but I am Indian first” and the pronouncements of Mukesh Ambani and Rahul Gandhi: “Mumbai is for all Indians.”

The junior (Raj) Thackeray (MNS chief) has not been far behind. Both of them—the senior and junior Thackeray—have been fighting each other like cats and dogs for the survival of their respective regional shops. In the recent past they have been competing with and blaming each other for gaining an edge and are involved in exploiting the emotions and sentiments of the people for their petty political interests at the cost of the nation’s unity. So, I think both uncle and nephew are best suited to be characterised as the ‘two idiots’ of their own kind.

When I say “3 Idiots versus ‘Two Idiots’”, to me it means an option or a choice or a side or a differentiation or a comparison or a fight or a decision between good and bad, right and wrong, real and unreal, true and false, grace and disgrace, honesty and dishonesty, morality and immorality, trust and mistrust, human and inhuman, love and hatred, sportsmanship and ill-will, politeness and arrogance, light and darkness, openness and prejudices, broadmindedness and narrowness, high thinking and meanness, depth and shallowness, selfness and selfishness, fraternity and enmity, cooperation and non-cooperation, principle and opportunism, tolerance and intolerance, knowledge and ignorance, rationality and irrationality, scientific temper and blind faith, liberal and conservative, secular and communal, modern and feudal, democracy and dictatorship, gentleness and cunningness, justice and injustice, progressive and reactionary, growth and decline, national and regional, patriotism and disloyality, true nationalism and national chauvinism, advancement and back-wardness.

We often criticise this or that government for not doing this or that work. We have the right to do that and we should, but at the same time is it not our responsibility to ask ourselves what we are doing, what we can do for our country and its people instead of only talking? We cannot leave everything to the government. All problems cannot be solved by administrative measures alone. For instance, communalism or fascism cannot be checked only by suppressing them. The divisive forces will have to be fought on the intellectual ground by awakening the masses. Who will do that? That is a question to ask oneself.

In his short and meaningful write-up in The Hindu, February 3, 2010, Siddharth Varadarajan has asked: “Can the Idea of India pass the Thackerays’ Test?” The answer is ‘No’, Perhaps the Thackerays have no idea of India and its history and culture. We all know that ours is a multilingual and multicultural country. We should be aware of the fact that in the war of independence against British imperialism, the people of all religions, castes and languages had made utmost sacrifices with the dream of a new India in which every Indian will enjoy social justice, economic security, equal civil rights, religious freedom, equal opportunities for development and a life of self-respect. We have yet to go miles to fulfil these dreams of the freedom fighters. But this cannot be achieved by following the Thackerays’ path.

The Thackeray-style of thinking is not confined to Maharashtra only. Many of the so-called “sarva-khap” panchayats in Haryana and North India are giving undemocratic and unconstitutional diktats in the same style.

It has not been long since we came across slogans like “Indian dogs get out” on the walls in Guwahati (Assam). We see what is going on in almost all the North-Eastern States. Some time back what happened with the Pandits in Kashmir, the Hindus in Punjab, the Sikhs in Delhi, the Muslims in Gujarat and the Christians in Orissa? Slogans like “Kurukshetra ho ya Guwahati, apni dharti apni matti”, that is, sons of the soil, are written even to day on the walls of the city (Kurukshetra) where people from all over the country come for a holy-dip. It is said that outsiders have made the face of Delhi ugly. North Indians are not liked in the South and South Indians are not welcome in the North. Where will we go? And, after all, where will we stop?

We are living in the world of the 21st century when democracy has matured so much that Barack Obama, a Black, has occupied the most powerful seat of the President of the USA by fair and democratic means. The seven times elected Left Front Government in West Bengal has been working in the capitalistic framework constantly for the last 33 years without any major problem. A young Dalit woman, by virtue of her capability, is occupying the prestigious seat of Speaker of the Lok Sabha in India and another has become the Chief Minister of the biggest State of UP for the third time. Another lady, known for her impressive speeches and belonging to the major Opposition Right-wing party, enjoys the status of Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and yet another lady is in command of the ruling UPA at the Centre. This is not to forget the lady who is now the head of the Indian state. But on the other hand it is unfortunate that in this age of science and advanced technology, there are certain people and groups which are trying to drag our country back into the Middle Ages.

More than 62 years of independence have passed but the narrow, regional, linguistic, communal, fascist, dictatorial, undemocratic, undesirable non-issues are still at the centre of political activities in different parts of our country. Enough is enough. The time has come when the intellectuals of this vast country will have to take up their responsibility towards the society and the nation. I do hope that all honest and right-thinking people—who are humanists, patriots, democratic, rational, secular, true nationalists—would take up their respective roles. Social scientists, teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, artists, film-makers, movie-stars, poets, critics, political observers, journalists, mediapersons, forward looking educated youth and peace-loving awakened persons of all sections of society will have to collectively come forward to educate the common masses of this great country to make them understand, before it is too late, that there are so many higher things in life to do than to fight among themselves on the basis of narrow caste, creed, region, language, faith, religion etc. This is of utmost importance if we have to attain the status of a developed nation and be able to stand united to meet the challenges of the time. Let’s hope that good sense will prevail. Time will tell and the people of this largest democracy of the world will decide as to who will win the battle—the ‘Two Idiots’ or the 3 Idiots?

Dr Braham Dutt, who retired as the Head of the History Department and Dean of the Arts Faculty, Post-Graduate Government College, Faridabad, Haryana, is a social scientist and political observer.

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