Concluding part of the series on how the Kanika Niti episode in the Mahabharata has valuable lessons for contemporary Indian politics and policy
Remember M.F. Hussain, the late barefooted, overrated pervert who masqueraded as an acclaimed painter for the better part of his life? Not too many know that before he plumbed the depths of his depravity by painting degenerate images of naked Hindu Deities, he had also painted a portrait of 20 horses (or pillars, I forget which), each representing Indira Gandhi’s infamous 20-point programme at the height of Emergency. Quite naturally, he was handsomely rewarded for it even as millions of decent people were languishing in jail. This is the other point I keep harping about in most of my pieces: not a single person in the Nehruvian sultanate has been punished for their serial crimes against the Indian people and the Hindu society.
Duryodhana might have had just one Kanika and one Shakuni. The Nehruvian sultanate had whole yards of such advisors and kilometres of wannabe doormats impatiently salivating at the prospect of getting just one foot in the door. These toadies though are the human embodiments of a phenomenon and a mindset that Arun Shourie has summed up as “Weak to the strong, Strong to the weak” in the context of M.F. Hussain’s painting exhibition being deservedly torn down by Hindus in Delhi sometime in the 1990s.
Entirely, eerily consistent with what Duryodhana did. He never won a single military victory against the Pandavas. Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa’s classic Parva has a brilliant scene in which Bhishma tells the haughty Duryodhana, “My child, I’ve never lost any war that I’ve fought in and you’ve never won any war that you’ve fought.” So how does Duryodhana get the kingdom he desperately craves? By “defeating” his more superior and vastly virtuous cousins in a game of dice.
And how did Nawab Nehru “become” India’s first Prime Minister? By oiling Mohandas Gandhi’s Bakasuran ego and weeping and pleading. Sardar Patel, the popularly elected candidate in an overwhelming forty-seven constituencies was made to give up his prospective Prime Ministership by a putative Mahatma through sanctimonious blackmail.
Like father like daughter. There is a case to be made for an observable historical fact that evil only multiplies with each succeeding generation. Recall the manner in which “gungi gudiya” (dumb doll) Indira Gandhi not only monopolized political power but converted the Congress party into her pet teddy bear that she could maul at will. Here is how the indomitable Ramnath Goenka describes her chicanery.
I was associated with the Congress Party before and after independence…my association…continued till 1969 when the great Congress split took place… The intolerance of the ruling Congress towards dissent revealed during emergency…had its genesis in the split of the Congress itself. The techniques adopted by Mrs. Gandhi to capture the party were not ordinary political methods…. The symbolic democracy in India eclipsed with the declaration of emergency on 26th June 1975… It was yet another instance of blatant misuse of powers vested in the Government by the people on trust. [Emphasis added]
If this is what Indira Gandhi did when she had absolute, despotic political power, recall what her grandson did in one of those heightened moments of his intellect lethally eclipsed by chemical powders: he tore up an ordinance passed by the Prime Minister of India. This when he wielded no political power officially. Which ordinary Congress MP can muster this level of arrogant gall? As we noted, evil multiplies over generations.
Who said Duryodhana and Kanika and Shakuni are dead?
A study of Kanika Niti is also valid in the realm of foreign policy. In fact, for the longest time, Kanika Niti was precisely what the prosperous and powerful Western democracies had practiced vis a vis India and other so-called Third World countries.
What kind of foreign policy is it that gives billions of dollars in aid to the Jihadi terrorist state of Pakistan, embraces it as the most preferred ally against terror and in the same breath, preaches religious tolerance to India, which is a victim of Pakistan’s ceaseless terror attacks? Let us not delude ourselves by thinking that the West has abandoned this policy. Indeed, anyone who has especially observed the US foreign policy with respect to “third world” nations for any length of time will know the fact that its foreign policy rule is to have no rules. The current leadership of India over the last six years has sent a clear message that extending such perfidious patronage to Pakistan will come at the cost of India’s goodwill and business prospects something the US leadership has also understood.
But even when we turn our attention back to domestic politics with a sense of history, it’s equally not difficult to spot how Kanika Neeti has unfolded. To which I must allude to a tangential story from the same Mahabharata.
After losing everything in the game of dice, we witness the sorry plight of the humiliated Pandavas, now exiled to the jungle. The king of the Sindhu Country, Jayadhrata on a visit to the forest enjoys the hospitality of the Pandavas. Not content with that, he lusts after their wife, Draupadi, and when she opposes him, abducts her with the intent to rape her.
And then, when Bhima and Arjuna hunt him down, rescue Draupadi, and correctly say that Jayadratha must be killed, the eldest Pandava, Yudhishtira stops them with these words: “We must not kill him for he is the husband of our sister, Dusshala, the sister of Duryodhana, daughter of our father- like figure, Dhritarashtra. She should not become a widow because of her husband’s crime.”
But the ultimate consequence of Yudhishtira’s Gandhian forgiveness is not immediately apparent. That consequence of sparing Jayadratha’s life is suffered more than a decade later by Arjuna who obeys his eldest brother and spares Jayadratha. And the selfsame Jayadratha instead of being grateful, is instrumental in the cowardly murder of the sixteen-year-old Abhimanyu, the warrior son of Arjuna at the hands of six seasoned warriors who mercilessly butcher him by abandoning every known tenet of warfare.
How qualitatively different is this from Mohandas Gandhi’s Yudhishtirian forgiveness beginning with his blind indulgence of the fanatical Ali Brothers, then his weak-kneed capitulation before Jinnah, and further to the 55 crore rupees he blackmailed India into giving to Pakistan, which then used the same money to launch its first Jihad in Kashmir?