Sheep, sir, we are all sheep

Sheep, sir, we are all sheep

Here’s the Thing

Raghotham

Emperor Akbar once asked Birbal: Who is more powerful, Allah or I? Birbal knew it was a trick question. If he said Allah, he would be accused of insulting the emperor; if he said the emperor was more powerful, he would be accused of not just flattery, but blasphemy. Birbal thought for a while, and said, “You, Jahanpanah, are undoubtedly the more powerful!”

Akbar must have been pleased to hear that, but feigned anger, “Birbal, are you insulting Allah to flatter me? I’ll banish you from my kingdom!” Birbal replied, “Jahapanah, that precisely is why you are more powerful. When you want to banish someone from your kingdom, you can easily do so. But if Allah wanted to banish anyone from his kingdom, he would not be able to do so. For where would he send the sinner?”

Birbal had shown the emperor his place. Akbar was at once happy and humbled.

Our Jahanpanah cannot bear the sight of people of a certain religion, whom he can “identify by their clothes,” and he has the power to banish them from his kingdom. And so, one day, he ‘banishes’ Aatish Taseer for ‘hiding’ from the Government of India, while applying for the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card, that his late father was of Pakistani origin. Another day, he ushers in a law that says that only those he cannot identify by their clothes will be allowed to apply for Indian citizenship if they have come fleeing religious persecution in other lands. Next, he wants all of us – 1.3 billion people – who have been living in this country for decades and centuries, to produce documentary proof that we, and our parents and grandparents, were born in this country and have been living here for decades and centuries, because now, this country has become his kingdom, and he can banish anyone he doesn’t like.

And he wants us all to participate in this circus for the next several years so that he can separate those he can identify by their clothes from the rest of us whom he can’t, and subject them to a special hell. They won’t be able to go anywhere else because no other country will accept them; and they won’t be able to live here in dignity as full citizens of this country, where they too have lived for decades and centuries, if they don’t have the particular pieces of paper that Amit Shah will demand of them. Have you heard this Ajit joke: “Raabert, tum isse liquid oxygen mein daldo; liquid isse jeene nahin dega, aur oxygen isse marne nahin dega.” Our emperor’s plan is something like that, except that it won’t be a three-hour Bollywood entertainer, but a tragedy that will play out over decades in front of our eyes. This apparently is the way to bring security and prosperity to our country, and to make India the Vishwa Guru. Well, we are already there, aren’t we? Authoritarian China cites our example of internet bans to justify its own bans!

On the other hand, look at that poor, miserable country called the US of A. How foolish they are, compared to our emperor. The other day, my brother and his family (who moved to America just around the time our emperor was being crowned) applied for the Green Card. The US government wanted their original birth records. I went to the municipal offices in Bengaluru on their behalf. My brother was born in 1972, my sister-in-law in 1976, but neither had original birth certificates issued from that time. The authorities could find the original registration of my sister-in-law’s birth from hospital records. As for my brother’s, the registry had all the (disintegrating) pages of the month of his birth, except the page for the particular day on which he was born!

So, my brother went back to the attorney handling his immigration case and said, “Look, I don’t have the original birth records, but our government will issue a birth certificate based on the date of birth given in my Class X marks card. Will you accept it?” The attorney told him, “Forget it, we don’t want it, because we know that in your country, you can bribe and obtain any record.” But the US of A did not reject my brother’s application. It said, “It doesn’t matter. We will give you the Green Card and you can live here permanently.”

No wonder America is such a poor, miserable country because it takes such a lenient view of birth records, nationality, etc.

But our Jahanpanah is strict. He will not allow anyone who does not have original documents from decades ago, especially if he can identify them by their clothes, to live peacefully in Superpower India. For in their harassment and disenfranchisement lies the security and prosperity of Bharatmata.

And so, soon, the Hindu Hriday Samrat will give a clarion call to all of us to once again stand in queues across the country, like we did for demonetisation (oh, but did he not bring back all the black money by doing that and bring all the culprits to book as he promised? Look how well the economy is now humming along on pure, white money! What more proof do you want of the country’s prosperity than that the BJP is growing richer and richer through electoral bonds!). And we will all fall in line. For, after all, as the Kannada poet K S Nisar Ahmed said, we are, “kurigalu, saar, kurigalu (sheep, sir, we are all sheep).” Nisar Ahmed, he who also wrote “Nityotsava, Thaayi Nityotsava,” the anthem of Kannadigas, who is gravely ill and whose treatment the BS Yediyurappa government is graciously funding, but whom the Jahanpanah will identify by his clothes!

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