Letter to Uttarakhand CM : Ripped democracy, not ripped jeans

img1 A. J. Philip
22 Mar 2021

Dear Shri Tirath Singh Rawat Ji,
    
It is my political illiteracy that I did not know much about you when you were catapulted as Chief Minister of Uttarakhand. The circumstances in which your predecessor resigned and you were parachuted to Dehradun are still shrouded in mystery. 

One reason cited is that the Sangh Parivar did not like the idea of bringing some famous Hindu shrines in the state under the state control. They got worried when they visualised a situation in which the Congress or some other political party which comes to power in the state controlling temples like Badrinath.

Since your party believes in secrecy, we do not know why Trivendra Singh Rawat was asked to resign. He himself said he would find out in Delhi why he was asked to resign. The funniest thing is that the  BJP MLAs had no clue who Rawat’s successor was until you arrived at the hall where the BJP legislature party meeting was held.

They believed that you would be the CM only when you were invited to the dais and asked to occupy a seat next to the outgoing CM. Nobody would blame you for your low profile, as RSS pracharaks have a natural tendency to lie low. Nobody knew Manoharlal Khattar when Modi chose him to lead the BJP in Haryana.

You are a beneficiary of Narendra Modi’s popularity when you got elected to the Lok Sabha in 2019. Again, you should be grateful to him for the post that you hold now. When the Congress was in power at the Centre and in many states, it also used to impose chief ministers on states.

At that time, the people, especially the media, would question the practice on the ground that it was a negation of democracy. Nowadays, nobody questions whatever Modiji and his Sancho Panza do because of the fear of retribution. 
Who can forget the ultimate punishment, as described in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty Four, when the dissenter is put in a cage that has hundreds of famished bandicoots. In 2021, the ultimate punishment is to deny a sipper to an octogenarian Jesuit who cannot hold a glass of water because of Parkinson’s disease.

Nobody blames the Prime Minister even when he tells the three Cardinals calling on him that he cannot intervene to save Fr Stan Swamy, as he wants the law to take its own course. 

Yes, let the law take its own course, as when an innocent Bengaluru girl, Disha Ravi, was arrested, brought to Delhi overnight and released nine days later on bail.

I first noticed you not when you were sworn in as Chief Minister but when you made the statement that in future Modiji would be compared to Lord Ram and Bhagvan Krishna. Why leave the matter to the future?

There are already many in the BJP who think that Modiji is made of stuff that Gods are made of. Perhaps, taking a cue from you, a BJP MP from Arunachal Pradesh has said that when he sees or hears Modiji, it reminds him of a celestial being, though, unlike you, he cannot think of a name like that of Ram and Krishna.

I am a critic of Modiji because I do not approve of many of his policies, whether political or social or economic. Yet, I do not want him to be like Ram or Krishna. Do you know why? Lord Ram had a miserable life after his wife Sita returned to her mother’s bosom following her husband’s decision to subject her to an agnipariksha, based on unfounded rumour.

Fed up of life, Ram seeks the solace of the Sarayu river in what can be described as a jalsamadhi. If someone does a similar thing today, he would  attract Section 309 of the IPC.

In the Hindu scriptures, Krishna is the only God who showed his vishwaroop (cosmic form). This happened just before the beginning of the great war at Kurukshetra when Arjun did not want to fight as he knew he would have to kill his own gurus, elders and kins.

In the process of convincing Arjun of his Dharma to take up the bow and arrows and start using them against the “enemy”, he showed his divine form, which was “brighter than a thousand suns”.

When the Americans first tested a nuclear bomb, the scientist of German origin, who knew Sanskrit, compared the light that the blast produced to the light that emanated from Krishna’s body. He titled the book that detailed the making of the first bomb as “Brighter than a thousand suns”.

In the Bible also, there is a similar scene when God appears before Moses, who is considered one of the greatest prophets by Christians, Muslims and Jews. To return to Krishna, I am sure you know how he died. It was a miserable death, at the hands of a hunter. 

Not even one of his 108 children was present to perform His last rites. That was the power of Gandhari’s curse. I do not want Modiji to suffer like either Ram or Krishna, though I know that you did not mean such an end to Modiji when you said that future generations would see him as another Ram or Krishna. 

The point to be noted is that sycophancy is risky. Often, the sycophants do not realise the damage they cause to the persons whom they want to please. Many, including those who consider Modiji as a successful politician with many firsts to his credit, would have laughed at your comparison.

What prompted me to write this letter is not Rama or Krishna. It is, rather, your comment on the dress of a co-air passenger and the conclusions you draw from it. 

You have only yourself to blame for the needless attention you have been getting, especially in the social media. I do not consider your comment as an innocuous one. It was definitely a deliberate one. You claim that the co-passenger, who had two children, was wearing a jeans trouser, ripped at the knee, exposing that area of the body.

You found out from the lady that she was running an NGO. Directly or indirectly you are trying to create a bad impression about women in the NGO sector. Worse, you disclosed that her husband was a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University. What was the purpose of disclosing his connection with JNU?

Would you have mentioned the university, if he was a professor of Ashoka University from where professors, including a former Vice-Chancellor of the University, are leaving one by one because the management did not approve of their critical stance vis-a-vis the Modi government?

I know many BJP leaders have a problem with JNU. This is because, despite the best efforts of the Sangh Parivar, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, has always been a bit player in JNU, unlike the Students Federation of India and the Free Thinkers, who have been winning election after election.

The BJP knows why it is unable to grow roots in JNU. The quota system in place enabling students from every nook and cranny in the country to get admission there, has been a deterrent for the Sangh Parivar which would like higher education to be the privilege of the rich and the twice-born.

That is precisely why the BJP wants to increase the fees and the mess charges to a point where even the middle class would not dare to send their wards to JNU. A vicious campaign is made that the JNU is home to anti-nationals and the thukde-thukde gangs, though without an iota of proof.

The Parivar does not miss an opportunity to portray JNU as the citadel of what Hitler called the degenerate art and culture. That is why you dropped the name JNU while mentioning the ripped jeans.

True, I have not been able to understand why ripped jeans became fashionable. The only advantage I find is that it allows air to pass through the garment making it cooler. As it is, jeans is not a very comfortable dress, at least for me.

However, you see it as a cultural issue. You think it is Western. Women in India did not wear brassiere and panties. Of course, Indians had their own undergarments. However, the fact is that most people did not wear them.

Otherwise, five hundred years ago, the Sikh Guru would not have included undergarments as a must among the five Ks a Sikh should wear. They are the Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha (a wooden comb), Kara (an iron bracelet), Kachera (cotton underpants) and Kirpan (an iron dagger).

You were upset that your co-passenger revealed her knees. Was that such a cultural shock that you should vent your grievance at the first available opportunity and earn national opprobrium? You were in the RSS. Until recently, the RSS uniform consisted of khaki knicker and white shirt.

I have seen pictures of Modiji wearing this dress, exposing his knees. I have also seen the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s picture exposing his knees long before they were operated upon and replaced by a US-based doctor who got a Padma award as his reward for the operation which any surgeon in AIIMS can do it today.

You talked about culture. Let me tell you that there was a time when women of lower castes were not allowed to wear blouses or any garment to cover their breasts. In Kerala, there was a protest by the women against such a practice and they took out a large procession at Chengannur in mid-Travancore in central Kerala, where the BJP ideologue and my friend R. Balashankar was denied the party ticket this week.

I do not know what culture you are talking about. Do you know that there is no national dress in India? The bandhgala coat and trousers that are considered the official dress are foreign in origin. Do you know that, traditionally, people in India did not wear any dress that separated the two legs like in a trouser and a knicker.

Even today, the Hindu sanyasis wear dress that flows from the waist to the legs. In fact, they are not supposed to wear any dress that needs to be stitched. A Buddhist monk and former Indian ambassador to Mongolia, the late Reverend Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, told me that he never wore a stitched cloth.

If that is Indian culture, what you and Modiji wear are mostly Western, not Eastern dress. Do you know that most of the Hindu goddesses are draped in sari? It is because Raja Ravi Varma, who is a Keralite, draped them in such an attire in his paintings.

The South Indians wear ethnic dress, quite different from what the North Indians wear. You are worried about people seeing the knees of women when they wear ripped jeans. In Kerala, men have to remove their upper garments and reveal their nipples to enter some temples like the richest one in India, the Padmanabha Swami temple.

Once President Giani Zail Singh refused to visit this temple when he was told that he would have to remove his turban. In sharp contrast, anyone entering the Golden Temple has to cover his head.

I do not know which culture you were talking about when you said that ripped jeans were not part of Indian culture. There are many things which happen in this country like the sexual harassment of women which are against our culture. The increasing number of rapes in India is a matter of serious concern.

Instead of enforcing a zero-tolerance policy towards rape, we have political leaders who give protection to rapists just because they wear a religious garb or they belong to their party. That is something which you should be worried about. Amitabh Bachchan’s granddaughter has given you a good reply that she had no intention to discard her ripped jeans.

I am happy that it is fashionable for the rich to wear the dress of the poor. Let women wear whatever they are comfortable with. Why should you, as chief minister, bother about it?

At a time when democracy is being ripped in the name of religion and pseudo-patriotism, you should worry about it, rather than about ripped jeans, which will soon go out of fashion as bell-bottom pants and skin-tight trousers went out of fashion in the past. Thank you for the patience you showed in reading this letter.

Yours etc
ajphilip@gmail.com
 

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