Jayalalithaa in jail – Indian politics needs to introspect
Prisoner No. 7042, Bangaluru jail
The above label will remain stuck to 66-year-old “Amma” Jayalalithaa till someone in our judiciary deems it fit to grant her bail.
This has happened because a certain unknown John Michael D’Cunha, presiding over a special butt makeshift court in the Parappana Agrahara in prison complex in Bangaluru, ruled that the 18-year-old case against the existing Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu had enough substance to warrant her conviction under the country’s Prevention of Corruption Act. He was convinced that she in fact owned assets to the tune Rs 66.65 crores (which includes 2,000 acres of land, 30 kg of gold and 12,000 saris) disproportionate to her known sources of income during 1991-1996 when she was Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister for the first time. He believed that a four-year term in prison and a fine of Rs 100 crore was punishment adequate for the crime committed.
That judicial verdict has created a virtual tsunami of contradictory sentiments.
The question arises: What is it about Indian politics that makes a very talented, versatile woman become very corrupt? Is it some character fault or is it mere vote-bank craze for power? The question also arises:What is it in Indian politics that makes an outstanding scholar in Economics and a legal eagle like Dr Subramanian Swamy first file the criminal petition under the Prevention of Corruption Act against Jayalalithaa in 1996 and shortly thereafter, to use all his charm to bring her close to Sonia Gandhi through a tea party or something like that?
But there is absolutely no doubt that those who have come to dub corruption as the cancer of Indian politics are happy to see Amma being punished for what Special Judge has punished her. It is really high time convictions against corrupt bureaucracy and politicians became a reality and, more importantly, something that doesn’t linger on for 18 months, leave alone 18 years.
This is why one is aghast at those masses of men and women who were beating their hearts at the possible verdict in Bangalore, who were abusing the DMK top brass in Tamil Nadu for being the prosecutors behind the screen and for trying to burn down Dr Swamy’s residence there. Some of them are even reported to have committed suicide upon learning of Amma’s plight. Even after the verdict, those masses kept protesting on the roads and almost brought Chennai to a halt.
What is it about Indian politics that there are hundreds and thousands who roll themselves on the ground to fall at Amma’s feet and mourn when those feet are in prison? What is it about Indian politics that even the team of lawyers arguing Amma’s case should have protested in public once the verdict came? And what, finally, is it about the Tamil Nadu film industry that all of it, en masse, should have sat on a one-day strike as a symbol of support for Amma? There’s something surely in the human mind that adores even a proven criminal and her feudal trait of accepting prostration that, in modern society, humiliates both parties in that prostration.
Even as these questions haunt and worry us about our nation’s DNA, here is tea and sympathy for Prisoner No 7042 in Bangalore jail and a big big shabash for the likes of Special Judge D’Cunha.
Tailpiece: The fine of Rs 100 crore on Amma looks crazy. But it’s an eye-opener. The fines indicated in our Indian Penal Code of 1880 are too laughable for 2014. They must shoot up to conform to the rate of inflation since then. Will Prime Minister Modi please examine?