Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Lament of the Half Golden Mongoose

Is it possible that the State that is supposed to protect the small fish against the big, may on occasion, sympathise  with murderous predatory fish roaming the territory ? Is it possible that many may witness the hunt passively because their attitude may be poiltically expedient ? One does not, ofcourse believe in such a degree of idiocy, but during disturbed times the absence of other plausible explanations justifies considering it.
This is how Ved Vyas in his great epic Mahabharat muses  about an ancient fratricidal war that wiped out entire families . Truth, he finds, absolute truth, is the first casualty. In this epic, the family elders, great generals and diplomats and priests watch the willful dismantling of Raj Dharma by the powerful mutely . Their appalling self serving silence at that point broken by some of the smallest and seemingly most insignificant and ordinary creatures from the working world and nature indicting them harshly for relegation of their Dharma. After all it is hardly debatable that while butchering and setting of men, women and children on fire is going on the state must exercise its monopoly of power to intervene swiftly and decisively. And the individual’s right to protection by the ruler must not be sacrificed to the god of popular sentiment !
Towards the end of Mahabharat comes the awesome tale about a strange mongoose sniffing around the area where a jubilant Pandava king, Yudhishthir ( also known as Dhrm Raj or the king of Dharma) has just performed the glorious Rajsuya Yagna signaling his arrival on the throne after a long war . The lowly mongoose with half his fur gleaming gold, comes to the site where the fire sacrifice has been performed and as the amused citizens watch, begins to roll in the ashes . While they are wondering at his strange behavior, the mongoose stands shaking the ashes off his fur and yells, “Fie upon you, Dharm Raja, for this your great Rajasuya Yagna is a sham ! If you had really earned the blessings of gods, my remaining fur would have also turned to gold . Years ago in the year of one great drought I happened to be in the home of a hungry farmer and saw him and his family feed their last meal to an unknown  starving beggar and court death . After witnessing this great act of self abnegation I rolled in the tiny patch where a few grains of the last meal lay scattered, and half my body that touched it turned to gold . I thought the rest of my fur would also turn to gold if I rolled in the remains of your regal Raj Suya Yagna. But nothing has happened . O Yudhishthir, you killed your Raj Dharma when you killed your own brothers to get to the throne, so you may mount great and glorious rituals but they will not generate good will . Dharmaraja indeed !”
The mongoose’s ghost is roaming the streets of India once again in the shape of a woman called Teesta . She who had once defied the Emergency by working in an underground magazine Himmat (Courage), is now pursuing justice for the victims of 2002 riots . In a country of over a billion she is among the few to ask the mongoose question : Why did the State, despite its monopoly of power, fail in its most basic duty to protect so many from extreme violence and left them to be slaughtered on the streets as the police watched mutely?  She has, understandably been facing the most suffocating pressures and ugly innuendoes for the past thirteen years. But she and her brave band of supporters have not allowed that fratricidal  carnage to be pushed out of public memory . Make no mistake. The criminal revision petition she has been chasing on behalf of  Zakia Jafri, is not just about the riots in a housing society where Zakia’s husband was dismembered and killed by a violent mob. It is about the much larger issue of Raj Dharma or what the jurist Indira Jaising calls the doctrine of Command Responsibility.
According to Hindu scriptures, the final answerability for all great acts of sin or redemption, Paap or Punya, must lie with the leadership in the Rajya, धर्माय राजा भवति न काकारणाय तु, मान्धातारैव जानीहि राजा लोकस्य रक्षिता(A Raja becomes a Raja only to uphold the Raj Dharma and to protect the people, not to do as he wills. )says the sage Angiras to Mandhata.

It is not Teesta but Raj Dharma, that is on trial. We need her as the post Mahabharata war India needed the half golden mongoose.          


At 2 August 2015 at 00:05 , Blogger sumanji said...

It's a masterpiece

At 5 May 2017 at 12:25 , Blogger meenakshi rathor said...

Nice story with a meaningful message in today's context. whatever points you have described here are undoubtedly appropriate if we link these 2 incidents one of past and one of today. Regards from Jivansutra


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