OPINION
OPINION

BJP’s History Toolkit: Ctrl+Alt+Delete

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
William Blake, Songs of Experience

Tiger, Tiger, not burning bright! The tigers at the trilateral crossroads of the dense forests of the Nilgiri Reserve in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, were as elusive as ever. Of course, you can never see them, but they can see you surely. Especially, if you are celebrating another Fancy Dress Solo, hat, high-end goggles, jungle khakis, big binoculars, and a huge zoom lens which even the most seasoned global wildlife photographers would find difficult and delicate to handle.

Indeed, the tigers must have seen the solo photo-ops, which, as usual, look funnily stage-managed, like with the peacock and exotic birds earlier; besides, the security protocol etc., must be a huge posse, with all the paraphernalia of a Super VIP visit to the Bandipur National Park. Shy creatures as they are, tigers avoid human company from a safe distance. And, as a cartoon in a Bangalore English daily said, the tiger knows that he does not vote.

Apart from the overwhelming outpouring of spoofy memes, caricatures, bad jokes and general entertainment at this Fancy Dress Show, there was genuine concern that the poor forest department staffers and dedicated forest guards would be at the receiving end! So, what can they do if the tigers refuse to entertain The Great Helmsman!

In this season of rewriting history and a beautiful garden in Lutyens’ Delhi renamed, even while deletions in the NCERT school books have yet again revisited our dictatorship in the garb of a democracy, somebody should inform the fancy dress organisers that the National Parks were created to protect and preserve the fast-dwindling tiger population of the country, and all wildlife and ecology. And who was the architect of this ecologically historic project in a country where forests were rapidly depleting, ravaged by miscellaneous forest officials, dubious politicians and the timber mafia: Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India.

Hence, the legacy of Beautiful Bandipur. Hence, the rise in the number of tigers in the latest census, from its abysmal low in the past.

In many forests, especially after the enactment of the Forest Rights Act by UPA1, the exploited forest-dwellers are now peacefully reclaiming their inheritance to their ancient habitats while facing huge resistance by the forest department and local officialdom. Indigenous communities live in these forests in peaceful co-existence with the wildlife, including tigers, even in the core areas. Like the Tharus in the beautiful Dudhwa National Park in the India-Nepal border, next to a rippling, zigzag river, Mohana.

Now, if, in a fit of rage, they decide to punish history because the tigers refused to oblige, will they delete the name of the original architect of Project Tiger– like they are trying to delete her father’s incredible legacy from the history of pre-and post-Independent India?

If only realities and memories could be detached and separated with cold-blooded precision, like a mechanical act of clinical vengeance, and are replaced by new, narcissist fancy dress photo-ops, or fake news and propaganda in past tense. In that case, the world would need no classroom lectures, or academic research, or schools and universities. All books, including history books, would turn redundant. It’s like the public spectacle of Nazis burning books in a flaming bonfire, while singing a robust Nazi song of Nazi Nationalism!

It’s like the photoshopped pictures in Stalin’s totalitarian Russia – the comrade who disappeared, his image in a group photo too must therefore be eliminated. But the group photo manages to survive – until one more ‘class enemy’ has to disappear, in reality and in image!

If they ban the BBC documentaries, raid their office, badmouth the media organisation, call it an imperialist conspiracy, can they eliminate the tragedy and the nightmares, etched inside millions of minds, including journalists who reported it, and cameras which recorded it? Especially, can they kill the memories inside the minds of the survivors of Gujarat Genocide, 2002?

Surely, the simmering wounds become transparently tangible, like a photograph in a dark room, when the killers and gang-rapists, as in the case of Bilquis Bano and family, are released, amidst garlands and ladoos! Not only that, one of them, soon after, finds himself in an honourable dias with honourable leaders of the BJP in Gujarat! If the message is not brazenly intentional, then what is the intent of this message?

Can we ever forget the State-sponsored massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere in that bloody November of 1984, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her security guards? I was there on the ground as a student volunteer in the relief camps, then, as a young reporter with an English daily in Delhi – I have seen it all. Ordinary, honest, hardworking Sikhs, living in modest, humble, neat and clean homes, as in Trilokpuri in East Delhi — weavers, taxi drivers, coolies, daily wagers – butchered in broad daylight in an organised orgy of unprecedented violence! Should that collective memory be eliminated from the public domain, and from private consciousness, among other similar memories – like that of the killings of around 50 innocent Muslim citizens in cold blood, shot dead by the security forces, in Maliana, Hashimpura, near Meerut in May, 1987?

ALSO READ: India Stands Up To Hate Politics

Those who want to delete history must read Hannah Arendt’s long essay, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). It’s on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Chief Mass Murderer of the Holocaust, under whose reign millions of Jews, children, women, men, elders, were gas-chambered and murdered in the Concentration Camps, including in the labour-death camps in Auschwitz and elsewhere. In the course of the trial she discovered that he, like his fellow mass murderers, simply had no guilt. Not an iota of regret!

This ‘no-guilt’ psychology was a universal phenomenon among the mass murderers. For instance, one officer would murder scores of Jews through the ‘working days’ of the week, only to return to his fawning wife and kids in the weekend. Some of the murderers and their wives — who were fully aware of their husband’s ‘work’ through the week — would then go out together for a fun and frolic picnic. Their smiling group photos were uncannily eerie.

Hence, can the Nazi past ever be eliminated, despite those who deny the Holocaust? Or, can it be denied that one of the founding fathers of Hindutva was actually glorifying the Holocaust and Hitler even while our freedom fighters and revolutionaries were being hanged for their ideas and ideals by the British?

Besides, can they deny that they did not participate in the freedom movement at all — and all they were doing then is what they are doing now and what they have done in the ‘entire political science’ of their entire life  — hate politics! That is their only and final, time-tested trump card. The Final Solution!

So, who killed Mahatma Gandhi if not Nathuram Godse? And what were Godse’s original ideological links, and who were his best buddies?

Mughal Gardens will always remain Mughal Gardens. Allahabad will remain Allahabad. In public discourse and public memory.

Across the Ganga, in the revamped station, you can put up the new name in glitzy flashlights all over, but the locals, coolies, vendors, rickshaw-pullers, even the railway staff, still call it by the same name: Mughal Sarai. It’s like CP in Delhi shall eternally remain CP – never can it become Rajiv Chowk.

Hence, let us not blame the tigers. Let us instead praise the architects of Project Tiger that the tigers have been able to survive against all odds, and multiply, because the ravaged forests and its wildlife were preserved and conserved. Including in Bandipur.

Frivolous Fancy Dress solos can come and go. Real history stays, forever. Etched in the political, aesthetic and social unconscious of the nation-state, it will find its way, the truth of the past and present. Deletions just cannot work. Like the lovely old Blake poem, in childhood rhyme, celebrating the mystery of ‘God’s Creation on Earth’: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!

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Devaki Khanna
Devaki Khanna
11 months ago

paraphernalia

Sreela Das Gupta
Sreela Das Gupta
11 months ago

Such a superb piece. And so depressing..

C G Prince
11 months ago

When someone is mad after a mission in wrong direction , many acts of senseless expressions are inevitable…

Subhash Gatade
Subhash Gatade
11 months ago

Another great piece from the author.

Karen Gabriel
Karen Gabriel
11 months ago

Apiece that is as hauntingly sad as it is passionate

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