Opinion Columnists 27 Jan 2023 Farrukh Dhondy | All ...
In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."

Farrukh Dhondy | Allegations in a democracy: It’s best to debate, not ban things…

Published Jan 28, 2023, 12:05 am IST
Updated Jan 28, 2023, 9:27 am IST
People watch the screening of the BBC documentary 'India: The Modi Question', in Thiruvananthapuram. (PTI)
 People watch the screening of the BBC documentary 'India: The Modi Question', in Thiruvananthapuram. (PTI)

“He hid the breakage of his heart

This poet of love and loss.

His poise and purpose remained smart

Unlike the two thieves on the cross

And yet I read between the lines

The pain in surreal perverse

The illogic of his language pines

For the shroud of sorrow in his verse….”

From The Trick of Balan Singh, by Bachchoo

 

Politicians don’t like criticism and unlike the British royalty they don’t ever ignore it. In the rough and tumble (or is it bluff and jumble?) of democratic politics, it’s perfectly acceptable and right for the media and the Opposition to exercise the right to free speech and scrutiny.

No media outlet in Russia is allowed to criticise Vladimir Putin or condemn his sanctioned, purposeless and doomed genocide of civilians in Ukraine. That criticism can only come from outside Russia, and it does. Of course, Russians are not allowed to access any of it.

And what of Kim (King?) Jong Un of North Korea and Xi Jinping? Did Un do away with his half-brother? Are the Muslim Uyghurs happy in their work/concentration camps? Turning a blind eye to genocide, murder and any atrocities may be punished in heaven or hell, but the wilfully blind get away with it in this life -- unless of course karma works and deprives the wilfully blind of their actual eyesight. (Now there’s a chilling threat for believers in the Hindu doctrine of karma!)

These considerations, gentle reader, are occasioned by the fact that in even partially functioning democracies, the truth is debated and allegations examined. The powerful shouldn’t be immune from scrutiny and punishment. Take the case of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Hedgie Sunak, who, during a staged publicity stunt, was filmed in a car not wearing a seat belt. The Lancashire police counted it as an offence and Hedgie apologised and was fined £100 which must have seriously dented his few-billion-pound hoard. There, we have it? The workings of true democracy -- all equal before the law? Or was it a deliberate publicity stunt to harmlessly and sportingly demonstrate just that? Maybe. There is a distinct odour of one of those creatures the cats sniff out.

Not so in several other cases in the sceptred isle to which I shall refer below. Yes, this happy breed of men, this other Eden, has been exposed in the last few days and weeks as possibly (one has to be so careful these days!) not being quite free of corruption in high places.

There is the fact that Nadim Zahawi, a member of Hedgie’s Cabinet, has paid over £4 million in hitherto unpaid (criminally dodged?) taxes to His Majesty’s Revenue Collection (HMRC).

When this “misdemeanour” was exposed, Mr Zahawi, who was briefly chancellor of the exchequer and so in charge of HMRC, pleaded that it was an oversight rather than an attempt to dodge tax. The Labour Party’s leading hound, one Anneliese Dodds, wasn’t buying it. She persistently called for an investigation into the whole affair and Mr Zahawi has been urged to stand down while it takes place and even to resign from the government. He claims that the shares he owned in an off-shore company actually belonged to his father, but somehow, he neglected to mention the transfer of very lucrative shares from his own accounts. Another case of appearing very guilty while protesting innocence?

Then there’s the chumocracy turned corrupt. Alexander Boris Johnson (yes, the scandal has revealed that BoJo has a first name shortened to “Al” by his pals). Al was assisted by a banker friend, Richard Sharp, to secure an £800,000 “loan” through a third friend, also a banker. Mr Sharp was allegedly instrumental in securing such a loan for the broke BoJo, who then as Prime Minister, in consultation with his cultural secretary Nadine Dories (who wouldn’t know Bach from Bite?) appointed him to the very prestigious post of chairman of the BBC. This post, at least nominally, makes Mr Sharp the guardian of the BBC’s mission and neutrality. All three of these involved, or not involved, in the loan affair deny any quid-pro-quo in Mr Sharp’s appointment to be overseer of the nation’s voice. They plead that Jesus didn’t appoint Peter as Pope because he helped him secure a loan, but on Peter’s suitability for the job. They don’t really plead this, but they could.

So, on to the as-yet partially dormant scandal of the taxpayer’s money handed out to private health firms to shore up the failings of the National Health Service. It is now alleged that these billions have been paid to firms in which Tory cronies, even Tory MPs, have shares. Tut and more tut!

In healthy democracies, allegations will be argued over. They shouldn’t be subject to a total niqab being drawn over them. The BBC has issued a documentary accusing India’s PM, Narendra Modi ji, of several very nasty things. The documentary has been banned in India and the social media has been proscribed from discussing it. The Indian government censors should realise that these bans will undoubtedly contribute to the conviction that some truth is being hidden. Much better to publicise the documentary, have an open debate in which those who deny the allegations about Mr Modi’s complicity in riots etc. can forward detailed, refutation of every allegation and demonstrate, if they can, the BBC’s bias.

They could even complain to Richard Sharp -- if he’s still there.

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