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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 31 New Delhi July 20, 2019

Matching PM’s Words with Deeds, Shah Alam Khan’s latest Book

Saturday 20 July 2019, by Humra Quraishi


Shouldn’t the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, have the Pehlu Khan lynching case re-opened and with that re-examined? Yes, he should. So that the murdered man and his family get justice and also that his killers are not bailed out and with that allowed to roam about scot free, as they are doing so.

I’m simply appalled and amazed at the very turn of events. Short of having the dead man’s broken bones and frame (that is, whatever remains of that!) dug out from his grave, every effort seems on by the state machinery to further dent and destroy the already battered and shattered Pehlu Khan family. What, with the latest news of the arrest orders against his sons. Imagine, the murdered victim’s sons are booked and the murderers are out on bail!

The least that the present-day Congress Government in Rajasthan ought to do is to have the Pehlu Khan case re-studied so that the message gets relayed to the masses that those lynched by the Right-wing goons will not get re-lynched by the state machinery.

In fact, this brings me to focus on another extremely dangerous trend: law-makers turning brutally violent and then sitting justifying the brute use of force and authority they yield! The way Akash Vijayvargiya used a bat to thrash a municipal corporation officer in Indore should have called for his immediate dismissal from the world of politics; yet the man was arrested and imprisoned only briefly before getting bailed out and then garlanded and made out to be some sort of hero! With media attention unmoving from him he came up with those strangely unapologetic statements—“I am not guilty or embarrassed about what I did as it was in public interest...” Of course let’s not bypass the fact that Akash happens to be the son of Kailash Vijayvargiya, the BJP’s Bengal campaign in-charge in the national election, and who managed to get away with the supposed crime of hitting a government official on duty...amply justifying it too. Shouldn’t such a violent man be stripped of all his perks
and power and made to sit in a prison hell-hole!

Now, of course, comes Prime Minister Modi’s statement along the strain that stern action ought to be taken against such violent political characters like Akash Vijayyargiya. But isn’t it time the Prime Minister’s statement gets trans-lated into action? The sooner the better. So that the other legislators and parliamentarians do not go about armed with bats and bricks to settle the so-called crisis moments in every day governance. Not to be overlooked the fact that a large percentage of the parliamentarians and legislators have crimes and criminal charges fitted against their names. And ah yes, a terror accused also sits in Parliament!

Another Book On These Dark Times — Dr Shah Alam Khan’s Announcing The Monster (Aakar Books)

I had first heard of Dr Shah Alam Khan on the small screen. As far as I can recollect, it was a panel discussion on NDTV on controversies around the hip replacement implants imported by a leading medical company. And he was giving his expert opinion. After all, he is a Professor of Orthopaedics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS, New Delhi)... But before I move further, I must offload that what I liked about his arguments was his sheer confidence; that certain firmness and grit in his voice came through as he was speaking out in that discussion. He came across much more than a medical man; more of a passionate activist who dared to talk aloud, irrespective of the aftermath.

Months after this programme was telecast, in a surprise of sorts, as there came in Dr Shah Alam Khan’s novel—Man With The White Beard. A strong hard-hitting work (Nah, can’t say of pure fiction!) And after that I kept track of his writings in the various national dailies and online platforms, where he has been writing; focusing on the political degeneration and all the mess that invariably comes along with that.

In fact, this latest book from him —Announcing The Monster—(Aakar) carries his features and essays. To quote him—“Announcing The Monster is a collection of more than sixty essays written on various aspects of the so-called ‘New India’ which we saw emerge after the May 2014 general elections. This new India is fiercely religious, murderously sensitive to a cow carcass, unknowing of the poor, but knowing of the interests of the rich and powerful. The country threw many horrors, many trepidations, and many stories which were interesting and horrible enough to write upon. The period between 2014 and 2019 saw unprecedented changes in our social and political life. A remarkable change in this regard was the gradual erosion of the freedom of expression and right to dignity and life, all under the watchful eye of the regime.”

Yes, each one of his essays focuses on the eerie political build-ups and the offshoots spreading around, affecting you and me. Though I am tempted to quote rather extensively from several of his hard-hitting essays but space constraints will come in the way, so it’s best if I quote on the very crucial ‘why’ he decided to unleash words, such an array of strong sentiments, “The Marxist theorist, Rosa Luxem-burg, had once said that those who do not move, do not notice their chains. Nothing can be closer to the truth, particularly in societies which ‘normalise’ chains, instead of neutralising them. It is thus essential to make the correct noises at the correct time and if need be all the time... In my opinion one of the best ways to create noises is through the written word. When all is said and done, words will survive to tell the story of our times. The rough jangle of chains which Rosa Luxemburg mentioned, can reach the ears of history through words and hence it is essential that we etch our times on paper.... Announcing The Monster is one such effort to put on record some aspects of India’s social, political, and economic history during the times of ‘Modi Raj’, a period extending between May 2014 to May 2019. There are the whispers of blood and the pleading of the bone marrow.”

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