In his first political book, the Trinamool MP and party’s leader in the Rajya Sabha, Derek
O’Brien minces no words while dwelling upon the burning issues facing India. Here are some selected excerpts from ‘Inside Parliament: Views from the front row’
Parliamentary office is temporary. It is a phase of one’s life, not life itself. Don’t get
married to the perks. As the joke went in Parliament recently, if the finance minister were a footballer, he’d be wearing jersey number 110. Many great footballers—Pelé, Maradona,
Messi—have worn jersey number 10. With Mr Jaitley, it would be number 110 as a tribute to Article 110, under which a bill can be declared a money bill and moved out of the jurisdictional purview of the Rajya Sabha. Article 110 is liberally used these days for everything, from the Aadhaar Bill to the GST legislation.
We Calcuttans remember the Communist years. It was a time when, one by one, so many of my school buddies, college friends, business associates and others I had met socially left Calcutta. Companies shut down, factories gathered rust, the best young minds of our state fled to universities and jobs outside Bengal. The bright lights of Park Street were darkened by the red flags of Communist trade unions and ransom seekers, hijacking a city and its vitality.
Far from a happy life, rural folk in West Bengal faced bullets and knife blades from the CPI(M). From Marichjhapi in 1979 to Nandigram in 2007 to Netai in 2011, the thirty-four years of CPI(M) rule saw thirty-four instances of mass murder—one genocide a year. From 1977 to 2009, there were an estimated 55,000 political murders.
Kashmir, the land, and Kashmiris, the people
Years ago, I read a definition of the difference between a nationalist and a patriot. The nationalist loves his country; the patriot loves the people of his country. This one-liner came back to me as I considered the volatile and worrying situation in the Kashmir Valley, and how some people in India, on social media, on prime-time TV shows and in real life as well, unfortunately, seem to make a distinction between Kashmir, the land, and Kashmiris, the people.
In the end, Kashmir and Kashmiris will be persuaded not by guns and hard power, but by the opportunities in India’s economy, and by the openness and variety of our society. An openness of which democracy is one manifestation. An openness of which pellet guns can never, never, never be a manifestation.
‘Digital India’ vs ‘Divisive India’
The social-media armies of the BJP systematically threaten religious harmony and social peace in Bengal. I have often stressed this in the Rajya Sabha, explaining how ‘Digital India’ is being turned into ‘Divisive India’.
Out of nothing, a Twitter trend was created by manipulating timelines and using hashtags like ‘#BengalIsBurning’. A mischief-maker used Photoshop to concoct an incident and his cohorts ensured it went viral. They pretended it was an organized religious attack. Actually, it was a made-up case, a hoax. #FakeNews. Why is Bengal often singled out? Is it because the Trinamool has taken such a strong and principled stand against the BJP regime’s whimsical and irresponsible policies?
Riots before key elections
In Gujarat, the BJP was set to lose the election in 2003. The pogrom of February 2002 was engineered by friendly forces; the election was brought forward. And we know the result. In Muzaffarnagar, in western Uttar Pradesh, religious violence was encouraged before the 2014 Lok Sabha election. It was sustained till the 2017 assembly election.
The governor of Bengal, a crafty Shakha veteran who has been plotting against the state government while residing in Raj Bhavan, often jumps in. He has sometimes used unacceptable language against the elected chief minister. This man writes letters to the chief minister attaching memos on a BJP letterhead. Unbelievable.
Assorted bhakts and the entire Sangh Parivar troll army—‘Digital Yoddhas’, as they have been called by the BJP top leadership—spew bile on the Internet. Step 1: Get someone to put up a provocative (often morphed) picture on Facebook. Step 2: Amplify the rumour-mongering through digital media and by word of mouth. Step 3: Spread propaganda through mouthpieces masquerading as news channels and independent journalists. Step 4: Get party politicians to jump in and validate the digital dirt as if it were really happening.
India is a ‘live and let live’ society. Beef is forbidden among most Hindus and the cow is held sacred. I respect that and am certainly not asking for beef to be served at state banquets or in the Parliament canteen. But to ban its use and consumption even in the privacy of a citizen’s home and kitchen?
The BJP has every right to attack the Congress, but I’m sure it can do so without firing over the Mahatma’s shoulder. Why involve him at all? There has to be a difference between senior political leaders and TRP-chasing news anchors on excitable channels. The party that sought to make merchandise of faith with Lord Rama has deliberately insulted a man who died with Rama’s name on his lips. What a pity. What an unpardonable pity.