I have admired Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh ever since I saw him making a fool of journalists during the Nineties when he was still the Madhya Pradesh chief minister.
The Congress had done very poorly in his state during a series of the frequent Lok Sabha elections in that decade – and, even while Singh looked miserable, he proved quite adept at putting such a spin on those defeats that it left all journalists confused. They told him as much.
Watching him on television I saw his miserable visage brighten as it lit up with a smile, “Good. That means I am doing my job well!” he exclaimed.
Now, I must say, he is still trying to confuse and confound to the best of his abilities. But if his other admirers are befuddled, I am most disappointed in the man for his recent statements – there is a thing like going too far and I think Singh has been doing just that on the past few occasions.
I thought he had crossed the line when he supported the claim of some loony writer that the 26/11 attack had been perpetrated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. I can understand the fringe elements among some Muslim groups who, on the morning after the attack, even as commandos were fighting the Pak terrorists, sent around e-mails claiming that the RSS had mounted the attack on the Taj, the Oberoi and Nariman House – they called it a Jewish-Christian-Hindu conspiracy by Israel, the US and India to kill and maim their own citizens for some tenuous reasons beyond anybody’s understanding.
That was before the world knew that Ajmal Kasab had been caught alive and even then was singing like a canary in police custody. But, a couple of years later, Singh should have known better
As I believe he should have when he came down on the side of Osama bin Laden, attacking the US for dumping the terrorist into the sea. I believe that was quite uncalled for – no Congressman, or indeed any Indian, had any business with the world’s most wanted terrorist. And Singh had no locus standi in the matter, either. It was entirely the US’s business what they did with him and if any one should have objected, it should have been Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.
Singh should have stopped to consider that Saudi Arabia would not have Osama bin Laden, dead or alive. Nor would Yemen whose citizenship he had acquired after Saudi Arabia, his country of birth, kicked him out following the 9/11 attacks on New York.
But even if those facts had escaped Singh’s conscience, he should have considered the reaction of Indian Muslims soon after the 26/11 attacks.
Nine of Kasab’s fellow terrorists were killed in that attack. Their bodies were rotting in the JJ Hospital morgue for more than 15 months because Muslim groups, including the clergy, refused to allow a burial in any of their burial grounds saying they had attacked the country where they were seeking a burial and killed scores of Indians. Even Pakistan would not have those terrorists. Ultimately, Bombay’s cops, in a top secret mission, disposed off their bodies in January 2010. Even today, no one knows where – a fact that was revealed by Maharashtra home minister R R Patil only in April that year when some questions were raised in the Assembly at their bodies being preserved at the cost of tax payers’ money.
Perhaps Singh should have first asked those mullahs and maulvis in Bombay who refused to give those terrorists their last rites how they felt about allowing those ‘criminals’ a burial place – there were many Muslims, too, who were killed during 26/11 and their relatives do not believe justice has been done with Osama’s killing. They are still baying for the blood of Hafeez Saeed an other Laskhar commanders who ordered those attacks and caused the killings of their loved ones.
I know that Singh was playing to the gallery – he thought he was safeguarding the Congress vote bank. But I think Congressmen like him should stop to think how much they actually hurt the minorities by believing that all of them support the al Qaeda and terrorism and would be grateful for the kind of defence that Singh put up for Osama bin laden.
That sort of a thing only succeeds in driving minorities out of the mainstream, makes their reactions (like refusal to bury Kasab’s nine terrorist-mates which, going by Singh’s standards, would be a disrespect of their religious rites, won’t it?) look unreal and calculated and leaves them with nowhere to go. He should know that not every Muslim in this country is a terrorist-sympathiser and no one at all has so far been found to be a member of the al Qaeda.
So I do not believe that any of them would have been impressed with Singh’s shedding of tears for a man who not only killed thousands, including Muslims, but also made the community suspect in the eyes of the world forever. He could have lost the party more votes than he had hoped to gain.
And did he really refer to Bin laden as ‘Osamaji’? How appalling if that were true! He should have taken some time to read the New York Times which is still very old-fashioned and correct. It has on occasion even referred to Adolf Hitler respectfully. But on Sunday night when Osama was killed, its top editors sent out a discreet note to its late night staffers: drop the ‘Mr’ (which they have never done before) while referring to Osama in their stories. Just capitalise the ‘b’ and use plain ‘Bin Laden’ on second reference, they instructed.
I have not even heard anyone refer to Osama as ‘Janab’ bin Laden, either.