Saturday, February 27, 2016

By indulging in histrionics and spouting a series of lies, the Union HRD minister has disgraced Parliament and all it symbolizes

A lesson in tall stories

Oscar Wilde need not have worried. Far from decaying, the art of lying is in full flower, at least in the Indian Parliament. Politicians here have not been known for their truthfulness, but Smriti Irani, the Union human resource development minister, managed to set an enviable standard for the outpouring of blatant lies when she conducted a lesson for parliamentarians on nationalism. She may shudder to learn how close to Oscar Wilde's heart she would be, since one of his principles in "The Decay of Lying" is that art does not follow life; life follows art. Ms Irani, soap actor extraordinaire, found a replica of her television studio in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. She blazed forth in uncontrolled rhetoric, calling down sentimental empathy for the 'child' in the university being shaped as a weapon by oppositional forces, promising to lay down her sliced-off head at the feet of an unperturbed Mayavati should she be proved wrong, trying to destroy the last shreds of rational debate in the Houses by carrying on about Mahishasura and in general having the time of her life. It was all art; very few of her claims, explanations and premises for argument had anything to do with life, or reality.

But it was very bad art, nothing to do with Wilde's beautiful untruths. Most of Ms Irani's lies relied on pure distortion of facts by suppression of essential details, such as her claim about the internal procedure that found the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University guilty, or her pretence at fairness in the declaration that all letters, whether from a leader of the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party, were sent on to the Hyderabad University. In the last she suppressed the fact that the Congress leader's letter was exactly the opposite of the BJP leader's, which was a factor in precipitating Rohith Vemula's suicide. But Ms Irani also excelled in unalloyed misstatements: that the Hyderabad University had decided to "expel" Vemula and other students - they had been suspended from their hostels, or that no doctor was allowed to see Vemula or try to revive him - a doctor was there immediately upon being called.
In all, these speeches and comments were a disgraceful exhibition. The HRD is one of the most important and prestigious ministries. To have its minister use Parliament as a theatre to exhibit her histrionic skills and spout a series of dangerous lies is to bring the House and all it symbolizes into shame. There is also in Ms Irani's declarations a deep stupidity that perhaps spells greater danger for the polity. It is even more alarming that the minister in charge of education is afflicted with a fathomless ignorance. All that she has absorbed is the ideology of her party that strives to wipe out difference and silence dissent. So in her defence of the violence being unleashed by the State through different routes, she cannot be bothered about truth, logic or sanity.

The above is from the Editorial in The Telegraph of 27.02.16

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