On the 52nd death anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Madhya Pradesh government paid a special tribute to him by transferring a district collector who praised India's first prime minister's matchless contribution to India.
Ajay Gangwar, district collector of Barwani in south-west MP, was transferred because of the following post he wrote on his Facebook wall:
"Point out the mistakes that Nehru should not have done, so that good could have happened. If he stopped the nation from becoming Hindu Talibani country, then it was his mistake. He (Nehru) brought IIT, ISRO, BARAC, IISB, IIM BHEL Steel Plant, Dams, Thermal Power, this was his mistake. At the place of intellectuals like Asaram and Ramdev, he provided opportunity to Sarabhai and Homi Jahangeer - this was his mistake. He opened universities in the place of Gaushala and temples, this was his mistake. Instead of making you superstitious, he showed you the scientific way - this was his mistake. For all these mistakes, Gandhi family's apology to the nation becomes mandatory."
The IAS or Indian Administrative Service has, for long, been a puppet of politicians, but the latest move by the MP government has raised the bar for other state governments.
|PM Modi too paid a tribute to India's first PM on his 52nd death anniversary.|
If praising the first prime minister becomes the cause for punishment then the reverse would also be true: Nehru-bashing can fetch you rewards; we should not be surprised if Rishi Kapoor, who recently went on a post-10pm rant against the Nehru-Gandhi family, is honoured with a Padma award in the next instalment of these national honours. He might be late but he has arrived with a bang.
BJP's Nehru problem
Even before the BJP government camp to power two years ago, much muck was thrown at India's first prime minister by the RSS and its khaki cadre. In fact, it was because of leaders like Nehru that RSS and the Hindu right-wing failed to divide the country on communal lines post-independence.
Nehru to them has been the "enemy within", an upper-caste Hindu (Kashmiri Brahmin). He is loathed for being modern and secular, for being an Indian nationalist instead of being a Hindu nationalist. His commitment for the creation of a united India is reflected in his speech in the Parliament in 1955 in which he clearly underlines the threat of communalism:
"They are only a relic of some ancient period. They are hung neither in the past nor in the present; they are in mid-air. India tolerates everybody and everything, including mad men; they also exist and carry on… But their (communalists) trend of thought is a dangerous trend… if we maintain this kind of communalism… India… will go to pieces."
Intolerance of the "other" is a defining feature of communalism. And in the last two years, we have witnessed many forms of this intolerance. From falsely accusing Mohammad Akhlaq of Dadri of eating beef, and murdering him, to labelling those who oppose the government as "anti-nationals" to asking those who refuse to toe the RSS line on nationalism to go to Pakistan.
The sudden transfer of the Barwani collector is nothing but a symptom of such intolerance. An honest and objective reading of his post reveals that there is nothing in it that is offensive to anybody, including the most fervent cow-worshipper.
Today, many of us may not be aware of this, but cow protection was enshrined in the Constitution - in Article 48 - thus: "The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and other milch and draught cattle."
"The young generation today is being misinformed and has misconceptions about our history as a country. I was only commenting on the contribution of Pandit Nehru towards nation-building. Since when has that become a crime? I believe I have not violated any government protocol. I am in government service for the last three decades and I certainly know the difference between propriety and impropriety", Gangwar tells me over a phone chat.
Gangwar was once an officer-on-special-duty to Digvijaya Singh, a former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, but that doesn't seem to be the reason for his transfer.
What then has moved the MP government so much that it acted promptly against Gangwar? Could it be praising Nehru for the dams, the heavy industry or the reference to child rape accused Asaram? The government should come clean on this and lay down a clear policy for its officers.
Pandit Nehru inherited a nation almost ready to implode, a country that was tottering after the Partition (RSS blames him alone for it in its wisdom), he strove to put in place a system which was to help a nation build itself fairly and squarely for all.
When India was at its poorest and weakest, he led a government that gave all her citizens the requisite avenues that help define modern states, including giving all women and men the right to vote.
On his 52nd death anniversary, PM Modi displayed propriety in remembering Nehru in a tweet, but the BJP government in MP plunged to a new low.
It needs to be remembered that Nehru ensured that even those opposed to him and his rivals were included in nation-building. He had many flaws including perhaps his idealism, but as a country that takes pride both in scientific achievements like the "Mars mission" as well as our diversity, we ought to thank him before anybody else.