India should adopt the chicken, and not the peacock as its national bird, says Jug Suraiya. Why? Because the government has allegedly been chicken hearted on issues ranging from Taslima to Tibet. Ok. Our esteemed Ms. Nasreen first. She recently left India to an undisclosed European destination, claiming that her physical security would be compromised if she told us where she was going. And why did she do so? Because the Indian government kept her under "house arrest" and caused much emotional distress. She doesn't stop there. She claims that the treatment meted out to her by the Indian government was no less than "cold-blooded state terrorism to drive her out of the country."
Oh yes, it's terrorism when you try to protect a person from angry mobs throwing stones at her house and request that she maintain a low profile until things calm down a bit. Maybe we should have left her at her house in Calcutta, or waited until she was grievously injured and then filed a case of attempted murder on the angry mobs. Would Ms. Nasreen have been happy then? How can a person, whose only connection to India is a temporary visitor's visa, be so ungrateful and accuse the government of state terrorism? I mean, just because she is a woman? Just why is India obliged to host her and provide shelter? She is not an Indian. M F Hussain would have deserved it. But Taslima? Why should we stick our neck out for someone who doesn't care a damn for us? For someone who equates India with countries like Afghanistan under the Taliban and calls the Indian state a terrorist? I am sorry to say that my regard for Ms. Nasreen went down several notches after reading this report.
I certainly support her right to free speech. But one must understand that with freedom, comes responsibility. You can't say what you please and expect your audience not to react. Mob violence is unacceptable in any context and deserves to be condemned and punished. But does a writer not owe something to the society too? She may have had a difficult childhood and adolescence, but that does not give her the right to heap such abuse on a state that tried its best to help her out. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs extended her visa despite much opposition, and on the condition that she tone down her criticism and try to respect the sentiments of the people whose hospitality is enjoying. Is that too much to ask?
Her claims that she was denied access to healthcare and that the Indian government tried to "poison" her through drugs is simply too far-fetched to believe. I do not hold the current Congress government in very high esteem and have in the past questioned its attitude on various issues. But, even I find it impossible to believe that it is capable of plotting someone's slow death. I mean...come on! To me, this seems like the result of a hyper-active imagination. As far as all that crap about Indians treating a guest nobly is concerned, I don't care any more. As far as I am concerned, Ms. Nasreen has proven herself unworthy of the old Indian adage, "Athithi Devo Bhava" (May the guest be treated as God.) by heaping abuse on the very country that has hosted her and kept her safe for almost four years now.
And then, comes Tibet. All I say is this. India has enough problems without taking on those of Tibet right now. Let's set our house in order and concentrate on the more important issues of education, economic development, military and energy security and poverty reduction before we set out to "liberate" anyone else from oppressors. Was one Bangladesh experience not enough? Let's please mind our own business. Let's leave the world's problems to George W Bush.