Mani Shankar Iyer’s Moment of Glory

published on July 24, 2011

Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

Following the infamous night of June 4, 2011 when a Hindu yoga guru/sannyasin, Swami Ramdev and his gathering of peaceful non violent followers were attacked on orders of the Congress President and her two henchmen(according to press reports of the day) Mani Shankar Iyer covered himself in a moment of glory when he said publicly that this was an unnecessary event. He went on to say that the crowed was peaceful, showed no signs of violence, and were actually asleep when the attack occurred. Furthermore, that the Ramlila grounds were designed to accommodate large crowds.

Mani Shankar Iyer spoke as any Hindu would do. Attacking a guru/sannyasin is simply not done and Prime Minister  Manmohan Singh (normally submissive to the high command) but who belongs to a dharmic faith, seemed to have had no hand in the infamous act initiated by an Italian Catholic with no respect for the sentiments of Hindu India. Mani Shankar was not being a ‘democrat’ or a ‘secularist’ whatever those words mean in contemporary India. He was simply being a Hindu.

Regrettably, he has since then eyed the new opportunities opening up by supporting the Congress action,  by referring to it as a ‘ TRANSIENT’ episode.An  attack on a Hindu guru and his followers and one which left many seriously wounded, especially the elderly lady whose spine was broken and whose four limbs had been paralysed was now described by our bland hero as a TRANSIENT episode. This occurred in his television debate on NDTV with Swapan Das Gupta on the question of whether Digvijay Singh is a loose cannon or a secret weapon for the Congress party. He dismissed the episode and has now entered into the political game of whitewashing Digvijay Singh’s actions.

He did this primarily by fulsome praise of the staunch secular principles of Digvijay Singh and by engaging in a brazen attack on the RSS which would put to shame even Signh’s  own antics in that direction. The nation knows of Digvijay Singh’s many pronouncements : Swami Ramdev is a thug, a fraud; the RSS is a bomb factory and so on and so forth. The staunch ‘secular’ principles evidently included the crime of attacking a yoga guru and his peaceful followers !       

Mani Shankar tried to pedal the old shibboleths, so shop worn that even a high school student in India would pronounce him to be a liar. The outstanding one was  his reference to the RSS being associated with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, which even as he said it, he must have known it to be a blantant lie. Neverthless he said it, so eager was he to hang on to the coat tails of his new patrone. But, as we see now, he went from one blunder to another. His customary sang froid can now be shown to conceal a multitude of sins ! That program was a public relations disaster, its outstanding feature being his dismissal of the Ramdev event as a TRANSIENT episode. This has been recorded for posterity in the studios of a national televison station, NDTV !

There was more to come as he narrated his baiting of Mr. Adavani about whether the latter considered himself to be a Hindu- Hindu, whereas the minorities were Hindu-Muslims or Hindu Christians since they were converts and so on. He also falsely accused Dhananjaya Kumar from Karnataka of having said that anyone who did not want to read the Bhagavad Gita should leave India. Shri Dhananjaya Kumar had already clarified that he did not say that ( on a previous program with NDTV’s Barkha Dutt ). What he said was a well known incontrovertible historical truth namely that the Gita  is a native Indian product whereas the the Bible and the Quran came from outside India. Recommending teaching the Bhagavad Gita in Indian schools (as Dhananjaya Kumar did) cannot surely be  unwelcome ! !

The point that Dhananjaya Kumar was labouring to make was that in a colonized country the schools did not hesitate to teach the lessons of the Bible, but had not started the teaching of the native classic the Bhagavad Gita (a point incidentally that the anchor Barkha Dutt herself made during the program while referring to her own schooling).

But Mani droned on caught in the coils of his new found mission : to save his patrone from condemnation by Hindu India for his crime of  attacking a Hindu sannyasin and buy himself some political clout. He went from one blunder to the next. First, that the infamous attack on a Hindu sannyasin and his followers was a TRANSIENT episode and then that his patrone was a man of the highest principles !

None of this will work since Hindu India is not likely to forget that Digvijay Singh called a Hindu guru (Swami Ramdev) a thug and a fraud even while he called Osama bin Laden, OsamaJI ! Nor will Hindu India forget (or forgive) that he sanctioned an attack on a Hindu guru. He has tried recently to tone down his abusive speech, but no one is buying it.

Nor will Mani Shankar Iyer be forgotten, but not exactly in the way he fondly imagines he will be remembered. And in the end, he may not even get that political reward, the mess of pottage he is hoping for.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).

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