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The Morse manifesto

Perhaps all of that — all of that Morse manifesto of things that were never promised but were fulfilled in the blistered course of the past decade — brings no sense of peril to you

Sankarshan Thakur Published 05.04.24, 06:41 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. Sourced by the Telegraph

We are well into that time again, the time that all manner and hue of claims begin to fly, like April centigrades. We are also into that time when we might want to heed the disclaimer hemmed so finely into the claims, it’s almost ineffable, like April rain.

It’s a don’t-tell-us-we-didn’t-tell-you sort of disclaimer that is floating about somewhere in the heated haze of claims; ignore it at your own peril.


Or perhaps that’s delusional, as good sense has often come to be. Perhaps all of that — all of that Morse manifesto of things that were never promised but were fulfilled in the blistered course of the past decade — brings no sense of peril to you; perhaps you sense accomplishment and achievement in all, or most, of it. In which case, please feel responsible, put your shoulder to the manifesto of unwritten consummations.

About its first manifestation was the lynching of a fellow Indian for what sort of meat he may have stored at home in the hope of a future meal he was never to have. That was followed, not long after, with one of the killers being carted to his funeral draped in the Tricolour, a hero. That was followed, not long after, with the murder on a train of a teenager for his festive apparel and headgear — kapdon se pehchaane jaane waale log, those that their manner of dress picks out. Down the decade, and closer in time from where we are now, a constable-protector cocked his service weapon and proceeded unhindered up and down the vestibules of a moving train and shot down three men whose attire had given them away as expendable. He then stood at the head of one bleeding victim and annotated his crime as if he were spelling out the Preamble to New
India — the operatives of Pakistan will have to go. To call it a hate crime would be to do injustice to description; it was a crime of entitlement to hate. Save the ranks of our minorities, it didn’t light up fears. It didn’t darken our clotted conscience.

But why must we be surprised? There’s a crime, egregious and of epic infamy, whose celebration causes little visible discomfort — Mohandas Gandhi was a traitor, Nathuram Godse, his killer, a hero who unselfishly redeemed native pride and went to the gallows for it. Nobody signed up for such apostasy, but it seems to have the widespread sanction of indifference.

Nobody was promised the savage and wanton act of wickedness called demonetisation. The nation suffered it, willingly swallowed the subterfuge it was fed as justification, and, having taken punishment, proceeded to reward the whimsical author of such tyranny.

Nobody was promised the smooth flight to freedom of regime-friendly carpet­baggers upon the ransacking of public vaults. Nobody was promised the brassy and brazen power fiat to the enrichment of monopolist cronies. Nobody was promised the cartel heist attempt on our farmers and farmlands. Nobody was promised hundreds of our farmers would die protesting before a roll-back of laws they were opposing. Nobody was promised such a generous shower of electronic surveillance — spying devices planted remotely, so too dubious incriminatory content. Nobody was promised the throttling of civil society, media and research institutions that prided free feathers.

Nobody was promised the magic relief the purchase of electoral bonds could bring from the unleashing of agency hounds. Nobody was promised that a care fund named after the highest elected executive office in the land would be spared the requirements of transparency. Nobody was promised that due obeisance to the powers would ensure teflon protection to crime and corruption. Nobody was promised invitations to natural calamities scripted by rampant and unthinking dismantling of fragile ecosystems.

Nobody was promised mumbo-jumbo thaali bajao-papad khaao prescriptions to overcome the most hazardous global pandemic in generations. Nobody was promised ‘vishwaguru’ pronouncements over riverbanks strewn with the dead, the castaway consequence of serial administrative bungling and of cynical dereliction. Nobody was promised sanction and space would be granted to babas and gurus peddling spurious notions and potions. Nobody was promised they would be licensed to untold profit. Nobody was promised purposeful mendacity with history and its texts. Nobody was promised the killer squeeze on higher education, nobody was promised the widespread downgrading of curricula on one pretext or another. Nobody was promised that the fancy incentive to youth masquerading as an employment programme would put them into uniforms at 18 and leave them by the wayside just a few years later with practically nothing to take their lives forward with. Nobody was promised such innovation with applied science as steaming up kettles with gutter gases and conducting bomber raids on enemy territory using cloud cover to nullify the scrutiny of its radar systems.

Nobody was promised the lie of denial, and then of pusillanimous silence, on the loss of territory — not to forget some of our bravest soldiers — to the Chinese in eastern Ladakh. Nobody was promised that when the Chinese envoy, who eats, sleeps, walks and issues statements from within a kilometre of the prime minister’s residence, puts out an elaborate written claim to territories we claim as ours to this day — the Galwan Valley — not a squeak, much less a protest or a rebuff, would emerge from the formidable seat of elected ultranationalism. The chief mandarin of the establishment would, at a later date, respond with incredulity to suggestions that the big neighbour up north be confronted on its landgrab — what do we do, fight them? Do you even know how big they are? Nobody was promised we would come to hear this. Nobody was promised our military air ambulances would be motioned off a speck of an island nation where, good years ago, we sent our troops to vacate a military coup and restore democracy.

That last word above. The one thing we have been promised, hoarsely and repeatedly, is that we are the mother of it. What we may want to ask is: what did we do with the child? The Morse manifesto would be a good location to go looking.

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