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Heartless Leaders, Helpless People

Jacob Peenikaparambil Jacob Peenikaparambil
31 Jul 2023
The silence of Modi in the face of ruthless violence and inhumanity is not something new. Journalist Tavleen Singh in her Sunday column in The Indian Express expressed wonder about Modi’s reluctance to show timely response to inhuman acts.

When we read the alarming news reports, hear the testimonies of eyewitnesses and watch the heart-wrenching videos coming from Manipur, we naturally ask the question, “Where is governance and what the leaders who are entrusted with the task of governing the country are doing?”

The brutal violence and inhumanity being perpetrated in Manipur for about three months are mainly the result of our leaders becoming insensitive and inhuman. No sensible person can believe that the central government is incapable of controlling violence in the State, with a population of 35 lakh population, and protect the life and property of people within a period of three months. The leaders who boast of making India a Vishwa Guru appear to be careless and inhuman. 

The eloquent Prime Minister was silent on Manipur till the horrendous video of two Kuki women, who were paraded naked by a mob and sexually assaulted, became public. Even when he expressed his sadness and anger no one could sense any empathy in his statement. His mention of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh along with Manipur exposed his political intent rather than his human concern. His statement was nothing but an unedifying “whataboutery”, a technique often used by politicians to respond to an accusation by making a counter accusation. 

The silence of Modi in the face of ruthless violence and inhumanity is not something new. Journalist Tavleen Singh in her Sunday column in The Indian Express expressed wonder about Modi’s reluctance to show timely response to inhuman acts. If the PM had given a stern warning after the first beef-related lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, there would not have been a chain of such mob lynching across North India. Silence of the topmost leader in the face of cruelty and inhumanity was a license to the foot soldiers of his party to indulge in any kind of inhumanity. The same strategy is being reenacted in Manipur. 

Taking a cue from the Prime Minister, many BJP leaders and the party media cell began to divert the attention from Manipur to a rape incident in Rajasthan and violence related to panchayat polls in West Bengal.  The gang rape video of a woman in Rajasthan of 2019 was picked up, recirculated and made viral. It has been four years since her assault and three years since her rapists were convicted. The BJP fielded Union Minister Anurag Thakur who alleged that there is a long list of heinous crimes against women in states ruled by opposition parties such as Rajasthan, West Bengal and Bihar, but they were playing politics over the Manipur incident. 

Political parties and their leaders, instead of taking action against the perpetrators of the heinous crimes like gang rapes and devising measures to prevent such incidents, often try to exploit such occurrences for electoral purposes. Insensitivity of our leaders makes the victims of these crimes desperate and helpless. 

There are many leaders in the ruling party whose hobby appears to be spreading the venom of hatred against the minorities and accusing them of the cause of all ills of India. Prominent among them is the Assam Chief Minister Himant Biswa Sarma. One of his recent statements is that Muslim vegetable vendors were responsible for the vegetable price-rise in the state. He issued a call for the state’s youth to come forward to take up jobs in order to clean Guwahati from ‘Miyas’. Miya, in local parlance, refers to Bengali-speaking Muslims who live in Assam but are believed to have originally migrated from Bangladesh. Sarma’s rise in the BJP firmament is a reward for demonising Assam’s Muslims as illegal immigrants to unite Hindus for winning election after election. 

In a parliamentary democracy, the Prime Minister is accountable to the Parliament. The opposition parties have been demanding a statement from the PM on Manipur, but the latter and his party have been stoutly refusing to make a statement. Modi and his party refuse to accept their mistake. Accepting mistakes by the rulers is part of accountability. Not making a statement in Parliament at a time of grave national crisis is an “absolute abdication of responsibility” by the Prime Minister, in the words of historian Ramchandra Guha. Not sacking Biren Singh, the Chief Minister of Manipur, who has been partisan to the majority Meiti community and utterly failed to control violence, is not only a great moral and governance failure on the part of the Prime Minister but also lack of sensitivity and humanity. 

The root cause of insensitivity and inhumanity that have become the culture of today can be traced to three factors. First and foremost is the failure of political parties to educate people on democracy and the core values of the Indian Constitution. The Congress party that ruled the country for almost 54 years of 76 years after independence is primarily responsible for this failure. At the same time, the forces that are inimical to the Indian Constitution and secular democracy were working hard to brainwash people with an anti-secular and anti-democratic ideology. The whole nation is paying the price for the complacency and neglect of the Congress party and other secular parties. 

The second factor is the failure of the followers of different religions to practice the core values taught by their respective religions. One can easily understand when one goes through the teaching of great religious leaders that humanity is the greatest religion. Religious leaders promoted religiosity based on rituals and dogma and made religion a business. Political leaders made use of religiosity for polarizing people on the basis of religion for winning elections. Blatant use of religion in electioneering by the BJP is an abuse of religion, according to the soul of the Constitution. Thus, politicization and commercialization of religion converted religion not only into an opium but also a poison. Converting India into a ‘market of hatred’ is the result of the cumulative effect of commercialization and politicization of religion.  

The third factor is a career oriented educational system that has neglected inculcation of core human and ethical values and building responsible citizens and visionary leaders. As a result, we have only a few visionary leaders who can be counted on fingers. On the contrary, ambitious and self-centred leaders have taken control of the livers of power not only in politics but also in all other fields too. 

There is a huge difference between visionary leaders and ambitious leaders. While visionary leaders are altruistic, ambitious leaders are selfish and egoistic. Visionary leaders are original whereas ambitious leaders blindly copy others and it leads to unhealthy competitions and conflicts. Visionary leaders are creative and they set new trends and make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others. On the contrary, ambitious leaders often support orthodoxy and fundamentalism. 

Visionary leaders unite people whereas ambitious leaders are divisive. Visionary leaders are spiritual whereas ambitious leaders are ritualistic and dogmatic. Visionary leaders are sensitive to the poor and the marginalized, and ambitious leaders are indifferent and insensitive to the underprivileged groups. Visionary leaders leave a legacy behind them, but ambitious leaders disappear from the memories of people. Two examples of ambitious leaders are Hitler and Mussolini who were cruel and inhuman.  

Education plays a crucial role in developing visionary leaders. An education that gives equal importance to character formation and competence building is needed for the building of visionary leaders. In the absence of character, competence can become dangerous. As John Salovan Dicky says, “The end of education is to see man, made whole; both in competence and in conscience (character). For, to create the power of competence without creating a corresponding direction to guide the use of that power is bad education. Furthermore, competence will finally disintegrate apart from conscience”.

If education itself becomes a business for making money, it leads to division and disintegration of society. The unprecedented growth of hatred and violence that we witness in Indian society today is the result of the diffusion of an ideology that promotes exclusion and divisiveness. Certain organizations have made use of education copiously to spread this dangerous ideology. Unfortunately, many organizations involved in education, including the Catholic Church, failed to promote a counter culture by inculcating in the students the core values enshrined in the preamble of the Indian Constitution: secular democracy, justice, equality, liberty and fraternity that ensures dignity of individuals. 

Today the majority of those who support the exclusive and divisive ideology that often justifies the use of violence, are mainly the rich and the middle class. They have been the main beneficiaries of the educational institutions that impart education through the English medium in India. In the backdrop of increasing violence against the minorities, one is reminded of what Dr. Haim Ginot, a child psychologist and psychotherapist, wrote years ago based on his own experience. 

“I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness. Gas chambers built by the learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education. My request is: Help your children become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters or skilled psychopaths. Reading, writing and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human”.

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