The Hari Putar Dialogues - 34
(Gulf Times; 2 December: Thiruvanathap: People across India reacted with shock and dismay over Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan's remark that even a 'dog' would not visit the house of commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who was killed fighting terrorists in Mumbai. Some demanded the Marxist leader's resignation. Achuthanandan refused to apologize, but Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat described the remark by the chief minister as 'regrettable' ' a view that was echoed by several communist politicians.)
Putar: According to a report in the Gulf Times today people across India have reacted with anger at the Kerala Chief Minister's remark that even a dog would not visit the house of commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan.
Hari: I haven't read the story, Putar. What provoked the Chief Minister to make such a statement?
Putar: After Sandeep's death during the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the Chief Ministers of Karnataka and Kerala went to give their condolences to his father. Sandeep's father refused to meet with the Kerala Chief Minister.
Hari: Had the father met with the Karnataka Chief Minister then?
Putar: Yes, he had, earlier in the day. He wanted both to come together, and get it over with, I guess. The Kerala Chief Minister said there was no rule that both the Karnataka and Kerala Chief Minister should go together to his home.
Hari: But there is also no rule that you can force someone to meet with you.
Putar: Exactly. And Sandeep's father had already informed the CM's office that he did not wish to meet with him. The CM came over despite this. The father refused to speak with him and then the CM forcibly entered the house and condoled with the mother. He then issued the statement that was it not for the fact that the son was a hero even a dog would not have looked at his house.
Hari: It doesn't appear that the CM had any real feelings for what the father was undergoing, otherwise he could not have made such a statement.
Putar: Very possibly it was just a photo opportunity for him, to show how much his heart bleeds for the family.
Hari: But his subsequent remark shows that he did not have any genuine feeling. It's such an incredibly insensitive and callous remark to make. Isn't the CM from the Communist party?
Putar: So he is.
Hari: So was he casting aspersions on the ordinariness of Sandeep's father's house? Was that the meaning of the remark?
Putar: That may also have been part of the reason for his comment.
Hari: For a veteran communist leader to make such a remark shows that he does not actually hold communist values of simplicity and ordinariness close to his heart.
Hari: Has he subsequently apologized for the remark, made in the heat of the moment perhaps?
Putar: He refused to apologize but the General Secretary of the Communist Party (Marxist) Mr Prakash Karat issued a statement to the effect that his remark was 'regrettable'.
Hari: That's simply not good enough.
Putar: Politicians are also upset that they are being blamed for the Bombay terrorist attacks.
Hari: What is the meaning of such a reaction? They want power without any responsibility.
Hari: Of course Mr Karat could not have approved of the Chief Minister's remarks. That was impossible. But to brush it aside as simply 'regrettable' without giving a reproof smacks of too much party loyalty. If he cannot get the Chief Minister to apologize he must apologize on his behalf.
Putar: Mr Karat and his wife Brinda would certainly have been more vocal had this statement been made by some other party.
Hari: That's true enough. How have other politicians reacted?
Putar: The Railway Minister Lalu Prashad Yadav is reported to have said: 'Such remarks are an open insult to our martyrs and no one can take it lightly. This is a very serious matter and I will tell the CPI-M that the chief minister should be packed off,'
Hari: Good for him. How about politicians from other communist parties?
Putar: T J Chandrachoodan of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) is reported to have said: 'Politicians should avoid such controversies. It proves that age is a factor in politics too.' You see, Mr Achuthanandan is 85 years old.
Hari: As an older person he should have the maturity to understand the wishes of a grieving father to have some privacy, Putar. And if he is so old that he does not have any control over what he says he should anyhow resign from his post.
Putar: Politicians from all parties are insensitive. The Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra made a statement to the effect that incidents such as the terrorist attack in Bombay keep happening.
This clearly shows someone incapable of understanding the feelings of people.
Hari: Aside from rudeness and callousness the refusal to apologize by the Kerala CM shows that the man persists in being stupid.
Putar: He has now created a problem for himself, Papaji. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists arrived at the secretariat with a black dog and with a picture of Achuthanandan slung around its neck. And Youth Congress activists took out a march to the secretariat and burnt an effigy of the chief minister.
Hari: And what is his reaction to these protests?
Putar: I believe that he has now issued a denial that he ever made that statement.
Hari: Unlike the USA nobody takes perjury in this country very seriously, Putar. After another couple of days he will apologize to save his position.
Putar: That's more than likely. Tell me something, Papaji.
Hari: Bol, Putar?
Putar: A master should not demand servile behavior from a servant, but surely he can quite legitimately demand politeness and courteous behavior.
Hari: No doubt about that, but I'm not sure that I understand you, Putar.
Putar: Isn't the chief minister a public servant?
Hari: That is the generally understood idea.
Putar: So in a manner of speaking, we the public are his conceptual masters.
HARI; And so?
Putar: And so, we the public should have the right to dismiss someone who makes statements that are offensive to the public. It is conduct and not caste that must matter in politics. Don't you think that Mr V S Achutanandan ' by his conduct and not his caste ' has rendered himself an Achut?
Hari: I don't know, Putar.