By Shamsul Islam
The Indian State may be a modern entity, claiming to be governed by a liberal-secular constitution, but the mindset of its rulers is frozen in the feudal and colonial past. One glaring example is that of bestowing awards or sinecures to its favourites which was common practice with the feudal lords and the British masters when they ruled India. They regularly awarded their henchmen/women with titles like Amir, Rai Bahadur, Salar Jung, Jang Bahadur, Counsellor of the Empress, Khan Bahadur, Grand Knight of Star of India, Sir and hundreds others. The British masters ‘honoured’ Indian rulers or princes of states like Gwalior, Patiala, Nabha, Kapurthala, Pataudi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Nizam, Bhopal etc. with many of these titles for helping the former in crushing the 1857 War of Independence.
The Indian Constituent Assembly conscious of this evil of the pre-independence rulers’ culture to patronize anti-people/nation personalities abolished award of titles under Article 18, which read, “No title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the State…” There were to be no exceptions. It was strictly followed till 1954 when these were introduced from the back door under the heading ‘civilian awards’ which Constitution of India prohibited in clear words. It became a happy hunting ground for favourites of the Indian rulers. The only exception was 4th PM, Morarji Desai who during his stint as PM (1977-80) suspended conferment of such awards on the ground that the “availability of such titles led people to flatter those in power and harmed both government and society a great deal.” The irony was that Desai was awarded Bharat Ratn posthumously!
However, Desai was not off the mark. In a democratic polity where ever person enjoyed the same status, conferment of these civilian titles only showed the rampaging darbari culture to honour those who were part of the kitchen cabinets or in good books of the ruling party, family or alliance. There have been allegations that awards were secured through lobbying, manipulation and even bought. It was not Congress rulers only who indulged in such favouritism. This evil continued with a semblance of transparency, care was taken not to honour people with sectarian and questionable past. With RSS/BJP government headed by PM Modi in 2014 these precautions were abandoned.
How this Lakshman Rekha is being violated by the present rulers will be clear by the declaration of conferment of the highest national award BHARAT RATN (gem of India) to Nanaji Deshmukh and the former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee on January 25, 2019 on the eve of Republic Day. In 2015 Bharat Ratn was conferred to the Hindutva icon Madan Mohan Malviya. PM welcoming the decision referred to Nanaji Deshmukh’s stellar contribution towards rural development showed the way for a new paradigm of empowering those living in our villages. According to him,
“He [Nana Deshmukh] personifies humility, compassion, and service to the downtrodden. He is a Bharat Ratna in the truest sense”.
Praising Pranab Mukherjee [President of India 2012-17] he declared that
“Pranab da is an outstanding statesman of our times. He has served the nation selflessly and tirelessly for decades, leaving a strong imprint on the nation’s growth trajectory. His wisdom and intellect have few parallels. Delighted that he has been conferred the Bharat Ratna”.
Nana Deshmukh (his proper name) is not alive to thank Modi’s government but Pranab Mukherjee lavishly thanked the government for this award. Let us compare the above justifications with the actual facts of history in connection with these two Bharat Ratns.
SOME OF NANA DESHMUKH’S ‘CONTRIBUTIONS’ FOR THE NATION
According to PM, Deshmukh was conferred this award because he personified humility, compassion, and service to the downtrodden. This is neither honest nor complete description of Deshmukh’s ‘contributions’. He remained a paracharak (whole-timer) of the RSS throughout his life, remained committed to Hindutva politics which aimed at converting India into a Hindu State where Manusmriti would prevail as the law of the land reducing shudras and Hindu women to a sub-human status. So far as compassion is concerned he justified 1984 massacre of Sikhs by circulating a document ‘MOMENTS OF SOUL SEARCHING’ on November 8, 1984, when the carnage was on. Nana Deshmukh in this document outlined the majoritarian justification of the massacre of the Sikh community in 1984.
This document was published in the Hindi Weekly Pratipaksh edited by George Fernandes, who later became Defence Minister of India in the NDA regime, in its edition of November 25, 1984 titled ‘Indira Congress-RSS collusion’ with the following editorial comment:
“The author of the following document is known as an ideologue and policy formulator of the RSS. After the killing of Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi) he distributed this document among prominent politicians. It has a historical significance that is why we have decided to publish it, violating policy of our Weekly. This document highlights the new affinities developing between the Indira Congress and the RSS. We produce here the Hindi translation of the document.”