IN the present atmosphere prevailing in the country, everything is being politicised, whether the dubious land deals or the racist attacks against African students. Unfortunately, truth is the casualty. Sonia Gandhi has said that the criticism of her son-in-law, Robert Vadra, is political and is directed against the Congress party she heads. Her love for the dynasty has made her ignore the facts. Vadra got land papers changed when the Congress was in power in Haryana. The land was requisitioned for public interests in Gurgaon. And then state government in power gave it to Vadra who made crores of rupees by selling the lands to builders.
A bold IAS officer, Ashok Khemka, brought out the facts but he was punished with innumerable transfers. Now question has been revived because of Vadra’s reported link with an arms dealer in London where he reportedly owns a house. Both Vadra and Sonia Gandhi have denied report and latter has asked for an impartial, independent inquiry. There should be no hitch, because this is what her critics have been demanding.
The Supreme Court should appoint a special investigation team under its supervision to go into the matter. The investigation should be confined to Vadra’s land deals and not spread to other things so that the probe is completed within a short time frame. Recently, the land deal by Maharashtra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse and his family has come to light. In fact, land has become a commodity in the hands of political parties which distribute it among its members, judging on the basis of his loyalty to the leader. One common thing is that all political parties, whatever their ideology, are guilty.
When the Congress is in power, it ensures benefits to its own members and when the BJP is in the chair, the beneficiary is from its party. This is happening particularly in the states because land is a state subject. The Centre puts its hand in the till in the name of national interest. But ultimately the purpose remains the same: grabbing the land by hook or by crook. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s defence that there was no racism in the land of Gandhi and Buddha is a strange observation to make in the wake of recent attacks on African students. In fact, we should admit that we are one of most racist countries in the world. And we should do something concrete to fight against such discriminations.
The remark made by a spokesman of the African students that the Indians do not like Africans has a grain of truth in the sense that we are obsessed with the white. This was probably realized even during the independence struggle. Jawaharlal Nehru had the vision to open the portals of educational institutions to the African students as soon as India won freedom. He hoped that some of them would occupy top positions in tomorrow’s Africa, then casting off slavery. His reading turned out to be correct because some of them came to head governments in their country.
Not only that, the African icons like Nelson Mandela personally thanked Nehru for having boycotted the South African government for its apartheid policy. When I interviewed him at Cape Town many years ago, he said that their icons were Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru, who defeated the British rulers without firing a shot. The reverence that people had for India was visible as well as genuine. I am shocked over the killing of a Congolese student on a street of Delhi. That the Indians are colour conscious does not supervise me. Even today, we hail a beautiful woman as mem, which literally means white. We go out of our way to please a white man but shun the black. This is goes back to the British days when the white ruled us.
I recall an instance when I was studying at Foreman Christian College at Lahore. A history professor from South India complained that the students bowed when the wife of his colleague, a white man, passed their way but did not even notice when his wife was around. The colour prejudice seems to be a part of Hindu society from ancient times. The saints were conscious of that and would say that Lord Krishna was dark-skinned. This argument does not seem to have made much dent in the thinking of Hindus. Even today, they continue to be the most colour conscious community.
The economic betterment seems to have made some difference as well. That may be one of the reasons for the instinctive respect that a while man gets because the West has developed economically. But the truth is that slavery at the hands of white for more than 150 years has instilled an inferiority complex in us. The manner in which history has recorded the 150-year-old rule by the British, too, has made us lose confidence in ourselves. When I was India’s High Commissioner at London, many well-placed Britons asked me whether it was true that the people wanted them back. I told them that the manner in which we had made a mess of things exasperated the people and it made them think that things were better during the British days. But it did not mean that the people wanted the British back.
The British were among many rulers that administered the country. Whether they did something good or bad, or both, is to be judged by the people of India. And they have done that in a way because after independence, the parliamentary system was adopted since this was what the British rulers practiced, and not the presidential form of government. That was 70 years ago. And we do feel today that probably presidential form of govt would have been better because person in power would have planned his govt’s future in more secure conditions and with a fixed tenure. It would have meant transparency and would have lessened scams like land deals and racial discrimination.
—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.