Millennium Post

Leaders missing on every front

The very fact that Baba Ramdev could attract crowds is not because he is some sort of a leader but because of the one underlying factor which is that there is disconnect between the masses and the rulers of the day. The vacuum is wide, and is spreading out. Any shrewd man or woman who just about knows how to deliver an emotional speech can step in and use people’s anger and frustrations to further his or her own ambitions. He or she can add another dimension to the spreading chaos.

To fight the corrupt in the establishment you need genuine leaders who are above political tilts and slants. Apolitical in every sense of the term. This is lacking in today’s men and women who are said to be leading these recent protests.

Look around, a leader is missing on every front. It was bizarre to see P A Sangma play up the tribal card just before the Presidential candidature. What has he done for the tribal population of this country? This, when tribal land and identity and property is getting looted in the name of development and progress. It is a known fact that tribal men and women are exploited in different ways and yet the tribal leaders play political games.

And what have the so called Muslim politicians done for the Muslim masses? Nothing! Except use them – use their votes, to be precise. Three or four Muslims are handpicked by the establishment to be fitted in the so-called prime slots and they, in turn, maintain a ‘safe’ distance from the masses. No, there’s little connect. And, with this, none to hear genuine woes and grievances. In fact, this brings me to write about the disastrous tragedy that took place at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan, which is an offshoot of this reality. The Muslim community lacks a political leader and this community is used by politicians to further their vote bank politics. Why did that protest meet turn so horribly violent and vulgar? Why couldn’t that anger be contained? Why were they provoked to rioting. Who gave the provocative speeches? And why? Who placed them on the dais? For what were big political interests and bigger political players involved in this mess?

There’s turbulence coming our way. The connect between the rulers and masses ought to come about immediately, otherwise the vacuum will stretch to be filled by Ramdevs. As of now, one can’t even think of going near grievance cells or commissions or the men and women heading them. Not just security phobias come in way, but also the definite information that files are merely pushed from here to there. These big-bodied commissions are set up so that those turbulent are somehow silenced for the time, till the next general elections.

Doesn’t the government of the
day know of the possible grievances? Yet it refuses to react. Simply refuses to reach out to try and
bridge the ever-widening gap.

In fact, it could at least help contain the growing anger amongst the masses. Or else, help the release of the anger in some non-violent ways. Unleash the anger through work through dialogue at organised platforms. So that the young don’t sit depressed or else sit languishing in prison cells.

Just after writing this column I’m rushing off to meet Khushwant Singh. It’s his birthday. Born in village Hadali – undivided Punjab in Pakistan’s Sargodha district in 1915 – he celebrates two birthdays. One, on 2 February and the other on 15 August. Why two birthdays? ‘My father was certain I was born in February but my paternal grandmother was equally certain that I was born in the midst of
. So, celebrate it on 15 August too…’In fact, Singh is one of those rare men who has tried his level best to bridge that gap between communities. This, when he got uprooted during the partition and had to move from there to here. From Lahore to New Delhi, and, though decades have passed, he looks very emotional at the very mention of his birthplace village Hadali. In fact, several years ago, Minoo Bhandara, the well known parliamentarian of Pakistan, who had later died in a freak car accident in China, had brought a couple of photographs of Singh’s ancestral home in that village. Seeing them Singh had got nostalgic. ‘Last when I’d visited my village it was a very emotional experience, with the reception held for me and people coming to meet me. Ours was large
and today it lies occupied by three refugee families who had gone from Rohtak…It was touching to see the gurdwara in the village still intact. Even during the Partition nobody touched the gurdwara though the village population was 90 per cent Muslims and there were few Sikh and Hindu families.

Singh is one of the few who did not let the bitterness of the Partition affect him. Not just that, he has also done his bit to better Sikh-Muslim ties. As he says, ‘I have always wanted to bridge the gap between Sikhs and Muslims… When he was awarded the Rockefeller Fellowship, he decided to write the two volumes on the history of the Sikhs under the auspices of the Aligarh Muslim University. He never did develop any anti-Muslim feeling. No, not even during the Partition upheaval.

And though he is a self proclaimed atheist but its only through him that I have learnt the maximum about the Sikh religion and Sikh history.

Humra Quraishi is a columnist and author

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