Tough questions to Arvind Kejriwal: Spell out your personal politics
I am judging you as I judge all politicians - through statements and silences, through action and inaction.
Dear Mr Kejriwal,
Now that the proverbial filth is hitting the fan, you can consider yourself fully initiated into politics. Fun, eh?
Maybe you’ll initiate a probe against yourself and that’ll be something! But you do see how tricky it is when someone accuses you of corruption, criminality or venality. The mud may or may not stick but there’s a shadow across your aura. Rivals are full of glee. Will you dig in your heels?
Just a few days ago, I was having a cup of coffee with a friend and like all good Indians, we discussed politics. Lots of breast-beating (metaphorical, of course). We discussed you: AAP as an alternative and you as the last round of ammunition in the nation’s democratic belt.
I had my doubts, but it was not on account of electoral setbacks. For a new political outfit, one without a lot of money backing it, AAP did alright in Punjab and Goa. You didn’t "lose" ’em because you didn’t have ’em to begin with. My doubts were about your values.
My friend argued, what do I know about your values? How could I judge?
I was judging you as I judge all politicians - through statements and silences, through action and inaction.
I noticed you doing good viz health and education, electricity and water. You are trying to fix a deeply unequal system and I respect that. But sometimes I wonder if you are committed to core constitutional values. Freedom of religion, speech, choice. Justice: social, economic and political. Equality. You talk the talk. Do you intend to walk it?
My friend said, just ask Kejriwal? So I’m asking.
When Akhlaq was murdered, you wanted to go visit his family. You made a lot of noise about how you were prevented from entering the village.
Did you try again, Mr Kejriwal? In the last two years, did you or AAP members go to Dadri again and try to fix what’s broken?
Before that, Haryana decided that the sale of beef should attract five years' rigorous imprisonment. I’ve been looking for reports where you’ve expressed horror at such laws. Nothing turns up.
Students, politicians, transporters, even cops are attacked in the name of cows. One of Akhlaq’s killers was draped in the Tricolour. Pehlu Khan was murdered in Alwar. There were attacks on chicken shops in Gurgaon during Navratri. Silence from the AAP.
Then there’s an attack in Delhi, which is your ilaaqa. You are responsible for it. The least you can do is take a position.
Do you think a cow is more precious than a human? If Delhi attains full statehood, will beef eating be a crime? Will cow terrorists also be picked up on suspicion, like any other kind of terrorist?
Next question. There was the JNU fracas, then violence at Ramjas College: ABVP members attacked other students and teachers for wanting to discuss problems that affect our country. You condemned the violence, which was a relief.
Yet, AAP has not taken a clear stand on freedom of speech. Why do you not set up student wings to recover ideological ground? Why wait for violence instigated by the opposition? Why not lead the debate? You are the government, after all!
Next question. Haryana’s state Assembly hosted a lecture by a Digambar Jain monk who publicly stated that you, Mr Kejriwal, had invited him to the Delhi Assembly too.
This is in violation of democratic principles. Religious leaders have no place in Parliament or state Assemblies. If monks, clothed or not, want to address the Assembly, they need to win elections. Do you agree with this, or not?
Alternately, do you agree that leaders of ALL religions must be invited so they have an equal chance at digging a "dharmankush" of choice into the flesh of our democracy? Or do you think Jain monks deserve a special, elevated status?
Next question. Reports suggest that before the Punjab Assembly elections, you promised to ban alcohol and meat in Amritsar.
Over 70 per cent of this country eats meat (and likes it!); another 8 per cent eats eggs. Do you believe that any state has the right to enforce vegetarianism?
Madhya Pradesh, battling severe malnutrition, and despite being a meat-eating majority state, has denied eggs to kids on the state mid-day meal programme. Do you agree that this is a gross violation of our rights?
Next question. "Anti-Romeo Squads" are formed next door. Two states bordering Delhi have them - Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The police have assaulted, harassed and humiliated citizens in public and private spaces.
This love jihad bogey is an assault upon Indian women’s right to choose our lovers. Do you believe in our freedom to marry outside caste, sect and religion?
You have big problems.Too easily, you let go of Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, moral forces in their own right who did not deserve to be treated as trouble-makers. Now AAP is said to be top-heavy and intolerant of internal dissent.
AAP is accused of spending a fair bit on advertising. And sure, all parties do. But AAP is the party with a difference, right? You’re judged more harshly than others.
Kumar Vishwas has hinted at corruption. There was a raid at the Secretariat. You say "politically motivated". And it probably is. But after all that hoopla about Jan Lokpal, there’s no evidence of a powerful, pro-active Lokpal in Delhi. Why didn’t we see investigations into municipal contracts, for instance? What was stopping you?
As it is, since you do not control the police in Delhi, there’s a lot of hand-wringing. "We cannot do xyz because we don’t control the police". "We cannot do xyz because the Centre will not allow it". But you did not wait for government permission before launching your movement, did you?
Helplessness, Mr Kejriwal, is unattractive in politics. Voters have supported bootleggers, scamsters, riot-accused and murder-accused goons. They’re frightened when faced with big bullies and if they can’t beat ’em, they will join ’em. So, unless you plan on joining ’em (and some say, under that muffler, you ARE ’em), you’ll have to beat ’em.
You used satyagraha to capture the public imagination. But remember, Mahatma Gandhi risked being very unpopular. He risked his life, not just for communal harmony but also to break down caste barriers. You’re no Mahatma but you need to stop hedging your bets. One gets the impression that you don’t want to upset any casteist and communal apple-carts.
So I ask you to spell out your personal politics. Pellet-guns used on students in Kashmir, leading to mass blindings. Rape of adivasi women allegedly by cops and the armed forces in Chhattisgarh. AFSPA. Housing discrimination. Tell us what you think.
A leader is not just a provider of electricity and water, Mr Kejriwal. A leader is a force that shapes the destiny of a nation. A leader leads by pointing people in a certain direction. Some leaders point towards violence, hatred and discrimination. Where are you pointing us?