Says who to whom?
The Light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
(Gospel, Matthew, 6:22)
My skimpy acquaintance with the Taj hotel in what was then Bombay goes back to 1962.
I had been selected as a rookie sales executive by the then world’s largest corporate house, Standard Oil, whose Asia division was called ESSO.
Our offices, also then the only air-conditioned building in Bombay, was at Nariman point.
Such was the nature of my job that on two or three occasions I had to be inside the Taj, full of smiles and business.
Some three years later I decided I wasn’t going to sell oil for the next forty years, and I quit cold turkey to return happily to an academic life, liberally enlivened with activist involvements.
In short, the Taj hotel is truly a magnificent structure, although those days it made me happier to look at its magnificence from the outside than wheeling-dealing inside.
Like every other Indian, therefore, I am deeply saddened both by the insane loss of life, notable and ordinary, and by the damage done to this edifice. Especially when I recall that the Taj was the result of a laudable anti-colonial impulse, since Jamshedji had been refused entrance to another hotel reserved exclusively for the British.
My thoughts are here occasioned by a programme that one premier English-language electronic channel has been running since last night.
As I have listened to the outrage pouring out from a diverse assortment of some celebrity Mumbai citizens whose haunts habitually remain restricted to the affluent South Mumbai—a zone of peace and prosperity that has had its first rite of passage to the ugliness that afflicts the rest of the city, indeed the rest of India, and rest of the world—I find myself asking the question “who is it saying ‘enough is enough’, to whom, and why now”?
And how credible is the slogan of unity-at-any-cost that now so invigorates the fortunate classes in the wake of this traumatic experience?
And why should these imperious syllables calculated to shut off debate be received with unquestioning compliance when the mind is wracked by instances when South Mumbai-India has failed to employ the same “single eye” to pronounce on other murderous and murderously divisive events?
Today, thanks to the exemplary courage and discipline of India’s security forces, the Taj may have been disfigured and damaged, however brutally, but not demolished—something that seemed to have been the intent of the terrorist attack.
But, alas, some sixteen years ago a four-hundred year old iconic mosque was axed and hatcheted out of existence while the forces stood and watched, as did the whole nation on television.
Neither that fateful day, nor once in the last sixteen years, has the cry gone up “enough is enough” on behalf of those that are now so outraged. Educated noises have been made, which is not the same thing as saying never again should this country countenance social forces that brought that watershed calamity about.
Only conscientious citizens have struggled since to bring succour and justice to the victims, often suffering opprobrium from elite India that sees them as busybodies.
Indeed, the worthies that were visibly culpable in inflicting that blood-thirsty catastrophe on the nation continue to remain in good favour with influential sections of the corporate media which may have carried on a debate on the issue but never admonished “enough is enough.”
Some two hundred lives have been lost to the terrorist attack in Mumbai. Yet when, following the demolition of the Babri mosque, our own people killed a thousand or so of our own people in the very same Mumbai, the debate never ceased, and has not to this day.
Nor has the same terminal urgency that is now in evidence informed elite comment as to why those found guilty in that massacre (1992-93) by a high-powered Commission of Enquiry have not been given their due deserts
And what of the Gujarat massacres of 2002? No terrorists from outside there too, but our own good citizens, secure in the knowledge that they had the blessings of the top man in the job. The very top man who continues to be the darling of many elites who do not fight shy of drooling over what a wonderful chief executive he would make for the whole country, full of “development” and profit maximization.
No wonder that Mr.Modi should have been the first to hold a press briefing outside “ground zero” (am I sick of that copy-cat phrase) even while the bullets were flying, making it an occasion to deride no less than the Prime Minister.
The same Mr.Modi who until the other day publicly vented his strongest barbs at the ATS (Anti-Terrorism Squad) for daring to enquire into cases of Hindutva terrorism.
Narry an “enough is enough” there; only a shamefaced disapproval barely audible on the channels.
Indeed, should you ask me, I might say that the most heroic vignette during the current imbroglio has been the refusal of the widow of the slain Karkare, erstwhile head of the ATS, to accept Modi’s devious offer of money.
As also an SMS doing the rounds, asking where Raj Thackeray, the great divisive champion of Marathi interests, has been while Mumbai was being butchered? And did he know that it was security personnel drawn from all over the country, including overwhelmingly from the north and the south, who were dying to save his Marathi manoos as much as anyone else in the city?
The same Thackeray clan to whom South Mumbai never seems to say “enough is enough,” cannily remembering that in time of trouble they may after all have no recourse but to their lumpen mercy.
And how ironic that we should then lament how the spirit of a grand unity so eludes us ?
In one brief word, why do we not ever hear an unequivocal “enough is enough” in relation to the politics of fascist communalism? Or an unequivocal recognition of its intimate bearing on terrorism? Why do these realities remain subjects of TV debates from endless week to endless week wherein the culprits are afforded more than equal time?
Tags: Badri Raina, Indian Muslims, Mumbai attacks, Mumbai, Taj Mahal hotel, demolition of Babri mosque, Gujarat massacres of 2002, Mr Modi, Raj Thackeray, death of V.P. Singh, Pakistani Muslims, Hindutva terrorism