Ten things the chowkidars failed to protect

Last Updated: Tue, Jun 25, 2019 11:58 hrs
Modi

Over the last several years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his followers – in life as well as on Twitter – have become quite expert at reclaiming the insults their rivals throw their way.

And so it was that the “chowkidar” tag – once used contemptuously by Rahul Gandhi – found its way to the Twitter handles of the powers that be.

Now, no one has a problem with a good chowkidar, a faithful servant who guards the house he is paid a meagre amount to protect. No one grudges him the smart uniform, the annoying midnight whistle, or the ominous baton, as long as he does the job he has undertaken.

Unfortunately, while the government and its acolytes have adopted the “chowkidar” tag en masse, they seem to have forgotten just what a travesty they have made of their assumed roles.

So, as the chowkidars come up for appraisal, here’s a little list of ten things they failed to protect (just for starters, you know):

The promise on every bank note
No currency note can be declared invalid for as long as it was authentically minted without breaking the assurance printed on it: “I promise to pay the bearer of this note _____ rupees”, where the blank corresponds to the number printed on the note.

Demonetisation broke the promise. Overnight, life savings turned to paper, and a time limit was imposed on any claims to that promise.

As banks closed and ATMs ran dry, people died.

So did billions of promises, on little sheets of paper that symbolised hours, days, weeks, months, and years of toil.

Petrol prices
Every time any government has tinkered with the policy on petrol prices, it has been touted as a populist move in the truest sense – a decision made with the people in mind.

Well, so when the international fuel prices soar, it makes sense that the domestic petrol price should double.

But when the international crude oil prices fall to a quarter per barrel of what they once were, why does the public continue to pay more for petrol than we did when a barrel cost $140?

The disadvantaged
The notion of democracy is that whether one is a minority or majority, whether one is empowered or not by one’s religious, gender, caste, or class identity, all will be equal in the eyes of law.

Hate crimes will be punished as severely irrespective of who the target is and who the perpetrator is.

One only has to look at the fates of the accused and the victims to guess accurately what labels they bear.

Room for debate
The illusion of debate glows on our television screens every night.

But not only has freedom of expression died several deaths, with people accused of sedition every time they criticise the government; so, too, has room for debate in the corridors of power.

With a majority in the Lower House, Bills have been pushed through it with scant consideration and other Bills have been squashed.

Online decorum
While the “chowkidars” have been happy to scream about “fake news” every time their supreme leaders have been at the receiving end, little has been done to contain the rumours spread through social media. WhatsApp forwards about a gang of kidnappers have led to multiple instances of lynching across the country. How many arrests have been made?

Little has been done about rape threats and murder threats received by those who dare to speak their minds.

But when the lawmakers themselves have only snark and pejorative about mental illness and learning disability to offer every time they run out of political comebacks, what can one expect?

Peace along the border
Though no government could possibly maintain peace along thousands of kilometres of hostile terrain, it has been a while since there was an active cry for war.

All of a sudden, war became heroic and sacred.

Every person over twenty years old has lived through wartime. Our memories are not of victory or pushback, but of long lists of names in the newspapers, of soldiers and officers who perished trying to protect the rest of us.

And yet, these very adults were screaming for war from the safety of their homes and offices.

A gentleman once said something about an eye for an eye; not long ago, more than seventy years after his assassination, he was burnt in effigy.

The safety of Kashmiris
When a land is in conflict, and its borders are drawn differently on different maps, perhaps its true guardians ought to consider the safety of its inhabitants.

When infants and senior citizens are maimed by pellet injuries and Kashmiris become symbols for the Pulwama attack, it does not bode well for the perpetrators of these attacks to claim guardianship.

Public sector companies
Two acronyms – BSNL, ONGC – and a phrase: Air India.

How can a government that claims to be on an economic upturn have three companies under its wing flailing in their fight for survival?

Collective good
Perhaps part of the reason once healthy companies are sick is that money is being channelled into pointless pet projects that are deemed ideal to lift the profile of the nation – such as the Bullet Train and “Smart Cities” – and which rarely serve the public.

Secularism
Leave aside the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

Set aside the lynching.

Nothing is more indicative of the fact that secularism is passé than the Congress’ leadership – who once prided themselves on their secular ideals – ensuring they are photographed offering prayers in temples.

More Columns by Nandini Krishnan:

Abhinandan Varthaman: Hero, yes, but victim first


Tokenism won't stop terror attacks

Pulwama attack: When humans become symbols


The legislative dangers of election year

Priyanka and the inheritance of power

The G.O.A.T vote: When opinion offends

The hooligans in our homes

Why the Ambanis should rule India

Five statues the government should build


Nandini is the author of Invisible Men: Inside India's Transmasculine Networks (2018) and Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage (2013). She tweets @k_nandini. Her website is: www.nandinikrishnan.com