Reactions of the government and opposition alike to the criminally offensive remarks made by Union Minister Ms. Niranjan Jyoti reveal the flawed attitude of those who govern the nation. Ms. Jyoti in a speech violated Article 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code and fomented hatred between different communities. Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi appealed to the House to forget the issue because the Minister had apologized and he too had expressed regrets. He implicitly justified her by referring to her rural origins. Inadvertently he not only insulted rural India but betrayed his ignorance. In north India, certainly, city dwellers are much more prone to using expletives and abuse than village folk.
Cabinet Minister Mr. Venkaiah Naidu said that Ms. Jyoti was a first time Minister therefore members should take a lenient view. Mr. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that Ms. Jyoti was being targeted because she was a Dalit. Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan said that because she belonged to a backward community and had expressed regret the matter should end. Opposition leaders demanded that Ms. Jyoti should resign. Later they softened their stand to demand her censure by the House. Are our legislators oblivious of the laws of our land? Are they living in a make believe world of their own totally divorced from ground realities?
Ms. Jyoti has violated a law. How is it relevant whether she has apologized or not, whether she is backward or not, whether the Prime Minister has expressed regret or not? Is the application of law to be suspended on any of these counts? If an ordinary citizen violates the same law and later apologizes would the State withdraw his prosecution? If an ordinary citizen who is backward violated the same law he or she would be imprisoned without a whimper of protest from any political leader. Indeed Dalits are being treated thus all over the nation. Therefore Mr. Modi, Mr. Naqvi, Mr. Naidu and Mr. Paswan need not deceive the world and themselves by the pretence of showing sympathy for backward community members. Their sole concern is to protect a member of their own privileged class, a fellow MP and a Minister.
To think that Ms. Jyoti is underprivileged would be laughable were it not provocative. Ministers travel first class by air, live in palatial houses and have more than enough money to throw around. Most likely Ms. Jyoti is no different. Most of us as wage earners and members of the so called middle class struggle to eke out a living and make both ends meet. We are supposed to be the privileged class? Politicians need to descend to the real world. It is time they forgot community and caste. What is relevant in India today is class. And every political leader regardless of how humble his or her origins might be belongs to a class that is over privileged, above the law, and an object of disgust among ordinary citizens. Our leaders bask above a volcano waiting to erupt.