Immoral High Ground

You cannot judge a politician by conventional moral standards, we are told. For example, reacting to the death of Anantnag trucker Zahid Ahmad Bhat, former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted a question for Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, asking how he would explain the murder. In his belated reaction to the lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh, Mr Modi had tried to pass the buck to Akhilesh Yadav, the UP chief minister. Since Mr Modi’s party is a partner in J&K’s coalition government, Mr Abdullah was perhaps, in a rhetorical manner, asking him whether he would own moral responsibility for the poor trucker’s killing. However, Mr Abdullah himself would draw a blank if a similar question were put to him.

Under Mr Abdullah’s rule, when the Congress-led UPA was in power in New Delhi, more than 120 persons were killed during the 2010 uprising alone. So he too can’t escape responsibility. But responsibility apart, his government actually conferred all policemen with cash rewards of Rs 5000 each. Ideally, Mr Abdullah deserves to be tried in the international court of justice for abetting crimes against humanity, or at least sent to a corrective facility for this crass moral bankruptcy. But the masses would soon be reminded that despite those killings, people of Beerwah elected him to the assembly. And that would bring to fore a bigger moral question. Similarly, Mehbooba Mufti had become very passionate last year when she asked the then assembly speaker, Mubarak Gul, how he would feel if his own son were maimed by pellet ammunition. In the past six months alone, two boys have suffered serious visual impairment due to pellet firing sanctioned by the coalition government her party leads. Many would advise against asking her how she feels about this shamelessness because, as they will reason, this is ‘how they are.’ But there is no escaping the moral scrutiny.

Pro-India politicians who do not want to be evaluated in moral terms are engaged in the exercise all the time – constantly hauling their opponents over red-hot moral coals. Had Mehbooba Mufti been in the opposition, she would have been the proverbial nemesis for her rivals, and rightly so. Mr Abdullah looks like an artist playing the role of a bankrupt politician when he fires uncomfortable questions at his opponents. Still, his tweets get aired and published. If pro-India politicians can indulge in this phony battle of morals, why do they deny the media its right to measure their acts on the moral scale? Why do newspapers get subtle threats that government advertisements would stop if they continue raising uncomfortable questions?