It was in the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi last year that I attended a lecture by Jayant Sinha. That was my first experience with him. The lecture was about the major breakthroughs in the Indian aviation industry since Modi government came to power and how he was playing a very significant part in it by holding the cabinet. A mild and eloquent speaker that he was, I clapped for him along with a few others in the audience. I was surprised as to why the government doesn’t project people like him. “This is the type of leader BJP should have,” I said to my friend next to me. My friend, a BJP supporter, seemed surprised and pleased, as I don’t subscribe to the same political ideology as his. Just like me, many other people earlier seemed convinced that Sinha is a progressive liberal owing to him having studied in two Ivy League schools i.e. Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania.
A few days ago Jayant Sinha garlanded eight people (convicted for lynching a man to death) who were out on bail. All the hell broke loose and many opponents including his father Yashwant Sinha started to criticize him for his action as if he had broken a sacred vow. Criticizing his son Yashwant Sinha had tweeted, “Earlier I was the Nalayak Baap of a Layak Beta. Now the roles are reversed. That is twitter. I do not approve of my son’s action. But I know even this will lead to further abuse. You can never win.” It even prompted a group of former civil servants to demand junior Sinha’s resignation from the cabinet, and some people to demand revocation of Harvard’s Alumni membership. Many others, in their ways, joined the protest.
All the reactions that are in display reveal that something is seriously wrong with the whole narrative revolving around the matter. People automatically come to assume that a person having been raised in a cosmopolitan environment and having studied at the elite liberal universities or colleges would grow to be a progressive and a libertarian. If this were true, we wouldn’t have seen the likes of Subramaniyam Swamy- who also comes from the same Harvard. We wouldn’t have seen prominent right-wing leaders like Nirmala Sitharaman and S Jaishankar coming out of “leftist” universities. After all, is it not true that even after living as a minority in progressive nations, a significant portion of Hindu diaspora support the right-wing nationalists in India – who swear to eliminate the cosmopolitan structure of India? Or can we really imagine the people from Muslim or other religious minorities in India to stand with the sexual minorities, and to demand the equal rights for everyone? It is perhaps a great naivete on people’s part to put the whole confidence in the institutions and ideals, and to believe that individual prejudices and biases don’t matter.
Another narrative that needs to be discussed is about the former BJP members whose statements are being used to counter that of current members. In doing so we come to assume that anyone who leaves the BJP fold or protests against Modi-Shah duo overnight becomes secular and inclusive. Be it Yashwant Sinha or Arun Shourie, they are currently being hailed as progressives and have suddenly become a liberal-favourite. Wasn’t it only last year on April 4th that Yashwant Sinha was taken into preventive custody when he, with other party members and supporters, tried to carry a Ramnavami procession in a communally sensitive Mahudi area in the Hazaribagh district? Deputy commissioner Ravi Shankar Shukla and SP Anoop Birtharay had tried in vain to dissuade Sinha from carrying out the rally. Then, the violence against the arrest ensued in which policemen were pelted with stones and two people were killed one each from the Hindu and Muslim community. Even the then Layak Beta had tweeted, “Ramnavami ka pawan julus nikalne ki swatantrata sabhi ko hai aur main Mahudi ki janta ke saath hun (Everyone has the right to rally on the auspicious occasion of Ramnavami and I am with the people of Mahudi)”. Isn’t senior Sinha still all praise to his former comrades who have done colossal damage to the secular fabric of India? So, is it a genuine approach to quote these people?
Coming back to Jayant Sinha, if looked at closely, it shouldn’t at all have been a surprising stunt. Lately Sinha supposedly even regretted the move, “I have said many times that the matter is still sub judice. It won’t be fair to talk on this. Law will take its own course. We have always worked towards punishing the guilty and sparing the innocent. If by garlanding them (Ramgarh lynching case convicts) an impression has gone out that I support such vigilantism then I express regret over it”. According to reports, the whole bailing process was guided by BJP leaders, and after the bail to the accused was granted, there was even a scuffle within the party on who should be credited for the bail- Sinha’s group or the group led by former Ramgarh MLA Shankar Chowdhary who also claimed to work for the release of the convicts. If it were for punishing the guilty in the honest sense, Sinha could have also rallied his support to murder victim Ansari’s family to meet the justice. When he says that he expresses the regret over the impression of supporting Vigilantism, instead of being apologetic, he rather questions the sanity of people on whom the impression has been made. In a classic way, he didn’t offer any sorry for felicitating the convicts, but for the impression he made. And this sorry doesn’t really hold importance since the other convicts of lynching (and potential lynchers) already feel further emboldened. Further emboldened because it was just a continuation of what his other colleagues have been doing.
If he were really concerned about the rule of law, he could have presented his unease over Mahesh Sharma- government’s minister for culture. “Was it ethical for Sharma to attend the funeral of one of the Dadri convicts, and was it lawful for people to drape a murder convict’s body in Tiranga?” Sinha could have been asked. Or on the matter of honouring the due process of law, Sinha could have objected to his party leaders attending the rally in support of the rape accused or spoken against the leaders who openly supported Karni Sena that had created havoc across many states in India. Or most recently, he could have stood in support of his colleague in the cabinet, Sushma Swaraj when she upheld a law that prohibits any discrimination.
What we say around is just the hollowness. Thus, it ultimately comes down to the fact that all the reactions to the matter are as empty and baseless as Jayant Sinha’s claims of upholding the law are.
Hanzala Aman is a columnist writing for HW News Network. The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of HW News Network or any employee thereof. HW News Network makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use.