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July 14, 1997


Farzana Versey

Blame it on Rio

Laura's illustration I refuse to blame myself. I have been a secular liberal since the day I discovered God lived in the skies and could pose no immediate threat. I have hated my fellow beings equally and my vile thoughts have been equitably distributed.

But since every human society is an irrational one, we seek guilt, not logic. However, no individual can shoulder the burden of responsibility, for no one remembers who did, in fact, cast the first stone. So we look outside and find a hundred-odd people to blame.

Why the police? Because a suburban slum-dweller, bent with age and debilitated by illness, told me, "Every policeman should be shot dead." While their huts were being torn to shreds, the cops were ambling nearby. No one heard their cries.

Like every powerful group, the policemen's lobby has come out with explanations: that the force is inadequate to deal with huge mobs (According to my information, however, the cops do know which mobs to fire on).

That the weapons are substandard (True, I was shown bullets, normally used to shoot wild animals, which were fired on young men).

That the media fanned the fires of dispute (No one complained when the same media went berserk in their praise during the shoot-out with an underworld gang).

The man responsible for this shoot-out had admitted, in a conversation with me, that the publicity had done great things for his boys. I had wondered aloud how morale could be so dependent on appreciation when the police were only doing their job by catching criminals. He had elaborated, "I meet young criminals and ask them how many men they have killed and their reply is, 'Sir, who remembers?' There is unemployment and, during curfew time, the boys have nothing to do. So they turn to crime."

But why do the police fire on innocents?

Why blame politicians? Because they are insensitive, uncouth, publicity-crazy.

Maharashtra's governor, in his first address to the state during the riots, wished Doordarshan viewers a happy and prosperous new year! He toured the affected areas wearing a dapper suit.

The then defence minister came to town to show how much his heart bled; at the same time, his ego was getting its daily dose of transfusion.

The chief minister had to read from a prepared speech to assure us commoners that things would be under control.

The prime minister came on a package tour.

The BJP strongman consoled a woman while his partymen applauded the stabbing of her husband.

Why blame the fanatics? Because they are kafirs. While their noses are buried in the scriptures, their heads are buried under the sand. The Sadhvi Rithambaras and Imam Bukharis must be asked some tough questions: Will they ever die? What happens after death? Do they know what the inferno is like? These may seem like anachronistic queries but, unless these people are made aware of their mortality, they will continue to behave as though they are here for keeps.

Have you met even one fanatic who felt deeply about another human being? All they are interested in is misinterpreted ideologies. It tickles their funny bone no end to think they can hold a whole society to ransom. Their only religion is autocracy.

And, if at all we must blame ourselves, it is because we have let these aberrants dwell in our midst. They are the pampered minorities. They are the candidates we reserve seats for in every area of life. Knowing their penchant for proselytising, though, they will soon be on the move.

Illustration: Laura Fernandes

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Farzana Versey