Making capital out of Ambedkar, Maoism, cricket

By T.J.S. GEORGE

We as a people have gifts no other people have.

Italy and New York, for example, are celebrated for their great mafia leaders. But those leaders could only think of routine stuff like kidnapping and smuggling and murder and protection money.

Only an Indian could think up the non-violent idea of making millions from the humble, rarely noticed stamp paper. Telgi never harmed a fly.

Indians have the rare genius to turn everything into an item of trade. Who else has turned God into such profitable commerce? We discovered early that this line of business required the least investment. And the returns are huge.

All it takes is the right kind of uniform—saffron robes or bishop’s cassocks or a neutral white that looks now like a saree, now like a winter shawl—and some kind of marketing mantra. Then you get enough believers around the world to keep you in eternal wealth, not to mention attractive fringe benefits provided by young devotees.

The God industry will remain by far the most widespread and lucrative of all business ventures in India. But ours is a vast and fertile land. There’s plenty of scope for all kinds of growth industries. So we have been busy developing the commercial potential of various other previously innocent ideas.

Like Ambedkar, Maoists, Cricket.

B.R. Ambedkar is one of the greatest, bravest men who shaped our country’s destiny. K.R. Narayanan becoming President and K.G. Balakrishnan becoming chief justice of India are 20th-21st century phenomena and therefore not altogether uncommon.

Ambedkar was born in the last decade of the 19th century into a family that was not only Untouchable but described openly as such. For such a boy to get a scholarship to Columbia University and then to London was an almost unbelievable feat.

Instead of hailing him as an Indian of supreme vision and value, we have reduced him to a convenient bargaining chip of Dalitism. Mayawati today claims exclusive proprietorial rights over him. Rahul Gandhi, on a mission to out-Dalit Mayawati, is not allowed to garland Ambedkar’s statue in Ambedkar Nagar area.

In this one-up-manship game, Mayawati and Rahul Gandhi may or may not score points. But Ambedkar will lose. Because Ambedkar is no more than an item of political trade in their hands.

The Maoists of Dandakaranya are not very different. Home Minister Chidambaram‘s hawkish policy has run into opposition from his own party colleagues who see the futility of a militaristic approach to what is fundamentally a social-economic problem.

Unfortunately for Chidambaram, his earlier association with Vedanta, one of the companies that will benefit hugely if the Maoists are suppressed, has brought his motivations into question. It won’t be easy for him to avoid the impression that the lives of tens of thousands of adivasis are being traded for the commercial advantage of mining companies.

Cricket, of course, beats all other trading programmes, almost challenging the God business in scope and turnover. So many lakhs of crores of rupees are involved in the cricket business that the IPL presents its numbers in dollars and millions. Confidentiality, another word for secrecy, has been its watchword.

Could such vast sums be clean? Could they include black money, terrorist money, underworld money?

It is amazing that such issues attracted the enforcement directorate’s attention only when Shashi Tharoor and the Kochi franchise got into the picture.

Tharoor is a natural magnet for trouble, as a playboy who wants to be everywhere doing everything. But he is a bumbling Batman before Lalit Modi‘s scheming Svengali. How many political VIPs are interlinked with Svengali? Will they ensure that any investigation is yet another eyewash?

Tragically cricket is no longer a sport. It too has become an item of trade, flourishing in a fish-market culture. May all the money-makers burn in hellfire in due course for destroying the decencies that made cricket cricket and the values that made India India.

* tweet courtesy Ramesh Srivats