20th September, 2020. It is the first death anniversary of eminent lawyer-cum-politician Ram Jethmalani. These days whenever anyone mentions the name of Mr Jethmalani, one story comes to the mind— Bibhu. It’s a story of some candid truths of self-realization which transcended in his mind just a few days after the death of the renowned lawyer. Bibhu Bhattacharjee was then posted as an Assistant IG of Police at State police headquarters, Tripura. It was a hectic day. In the morning there was a meeting in the conference hall with sister organizations of police for maintaining law and order during Durga Puja. The meeting ended in a cordial note and during the high-tea that followed, he had a hearty chat with Thinktank. He had nicknamed so a friend from the para-military forces. He is an officer of his age and his actual name is Tomthin Nganba. There may be some additional alphabets before and after. Their professional symbiosis made them natural friends though Bibhu couldn’t pronounce his name properly. So, he opted to call him, ‘Hi Thinktank!’
His friend does not object, rather he appears to enjoy it. He is from Churachandpur District of Manipur. Their State is still struggling with the tacit insurgency due to conflict of interests amongst different ethnic groups. Lengthy discussions with him made him a bit pessimistic as he could make out that the problem is not going to end very soon. His friend is a sort of a polyglot. He can speak fourteen- fifteen languages. Apart from English, Hindi, Bengali and Assamese, the rest of course are languages or dialects of local indigenous population.
Bidding him adieu, he sat in his room alone. The lunch break was hardly half an hour away. Most of the officials had left for home. Bibhu brings his tiffin to office. This helps him in carrying out his task silently during recess. But presently he got engulfed in the thought of insurgency days in his State. Unlike his friend Thinktank he has very poor knowledge on the Kokborok, the official language of a great majority of the indigenous population in Tripura. His stock of Kokborok vocabulary may not exceed double figures and it was a major hindrance for him in those days when they were fighting insurgency. Often, he used to come across a peculiar sight during meetings, especially during breaks. The Kokborok speaking officers used to bunch together to chat merrily and on his arrival they would become hushed. Their behaviour hurt him somewhat. He felt as if he were an outsider to them. He used to see similar behavior in schools, colleges, offices, courts and other public places. He was ashamed of his Kokborok knowledge.
Bibhu’s thought process was interrupted at the arrival of a guest with a file. Santanu Majumder was his junior colleague and proud father of a brilliant boy nurturing MBBS dreams outside the State. His boss praised him for grooming his son. He grinned and said, “Sir, if you permit me, I can tell you how I did it.”
The chief nodded his head.
Santanu continued: “Sir, I am indebted to Gopal da. That is, constable Gopal Debbarma. Perhaps you know him. His son is completing MBBS this year. In fact, he topped the Joint Entrance Examination amongst the ST students that year when he was selected. His daughter has completed B.Tech from BIT Mesra and pursuing her M.Tech presently. One day, I asked him how he managed to provide guidance to his children despite working 24×7 in the interior areas. With a pleasing smile, he said, ‘I gave only one instruction to my wards. You can speak in Kokborok in your house but outside you should speak in English, Bengali, Hindi and other languages. You should prefer to mix with students irrespective of tribal or non-tribal. In fact, you may get better guidance from non-Kokborok students. The result is amazing which you have seen.’
The advice of Gopal da was an eye opener for me. In our State, the basic education stands upon private tuition. My son was a student of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Kunjaban, Agartala. Usually, I dropped my son to private tutors where students from other reputed schools of Agartala like Ramakrishna Mission, Holy Cross, Don Bosco, Bharatiya Vidyabhavan, Pranavananda, Hindi School, Srikrishna Mission etc also attended. Their guardians also assembled for dropping or taking their wards for the next assignments. On many days I used to wait for my son to complete his lesson. Soon, I could able to identify the guardians of students who topped in different schools. At the beginning, I stood in their close proximity for eavesdropping. Occasionally, I offered them tea or snacks to continue chatting. One day, I realized that I had become a trusted member of their group. This indirectly helped my son as he also developed friendship with these brilliant students. They started exchanging notes. Since that time, my son earned the desired confidence to go without the support of parents and it was reflected in his academic results.”
Bibhu knew Gopal da whom Santanu was referring to since his posting in a district. He was a personal guard of an SDPO. The gentleman was also from the indigenous population and fond of getting together with Kokborok speaking officers. He earned enough reputation and got promoted as SP before retirement. He has also established huge landed property which includes rubber plantations more than hundred acres. Like his personal guard Gopal, he was blessed with a daughter and a son. The girl married a tribal boy of her choice before completion of her graduation. The bride-groom is running a transport business. The boy is looking after his paternal property after completing civil diploma.
That evening, returning home in a relaxed mood, Bibhu was recollecting the happenings of the day. His ignorance of the Kokborok language no longer hurt him like before. His focus fell on a poem My dying conscience circulated in social media after the death of eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani who passed away at the age of 95 a few days ago. It was claimed that the verse was composed by the celebrated lawyer-cum-social activist. Though he does not endorse the philosophy of Mr Jethmalani he loved his attitude of calling a spade a spade. But there was a twist. The poem was actually written by one poet Rashmi Trivedi. He visited the Facebook profile of the lady to get confirmed. In fact, Mr Jethmalani’s son had also given a rejoinder. Once more he read the poem as he loved it by heart. The poet has portrayed some day to day happenings of life to tell how she behaves contrary to her ethics. Thus, after a lavish meal, she shrugs away seeing a poor-paid guard opening the door or does not mind seeing a small child Chhotu selling vegetables without going to school. In a gorgeous dress when she comes across a woman in tatters, trying unsuccessfully to save her dignity she ignores. Similarly, during Christmas after buying expensive gifts for her children when she finds poor children selling Santa caps at red light, or when the daughter of a sick maid is compelled to perform extra work despite knowing that she has bunked school for attending her mother’s work, she remains aloof. She allows her son to come late from parties but tells her daughter to stay home, saying it’s not safe outside. After passing some worried time getting information of a rape or a murder of a child, she expresses a sigh of relief that it was not her children. Seeing our country going astray due to fighting of people over caste, creed and religion, she absolves responsibilities by blaming corrupt politicians. Her city is choked and breathing is dangerous in the smog but she prefers to drive her personal car to public conveyance system. After all these finally, when she revisits her conscience and finds she is still breathing she gets surprised.
Against the backdrop of this poem he recollected a famous quote of Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay which he came across during law classes in police academy. The Indian Penal Code or IPC was drafted under the Chairmanship of Mr Macaulay. In his speech in the British Parliament in February 1835, he said, “I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”
Bibhu realizes that the intention of the ruler has become successful. The India which he wants to visualize is the eternal India. In this perpetual India, Santanu, Gopal, he himself and many other common citizens are the competitors and they are involved in true struggle for life with conviction. There is another India which he also perceives every now and then. The Britishers became our ruler after coming for business. They taught us English, etiquette, rules and regulations. The common people love the age-old oriental customs of our country, yet they have accepted the good qualities of the English, especially their sense of discipline and respect towards the law. Side by side, there is another group of people who have preferred to follow the horrific qualities of the English, the tyrant genes. They utilize the loopholes in the law to defraud our banking system and amass wealth in foreign banks. They take it as an opportunity to weaken our government institutions and of course the economy. Often, one finds lawyers like Mr. Jethmalani stand for their defence, ignoring that it sends a wrong message for a great section of people. They have become slave of these corrupt people unknowingly which Mr. Macaulay dreamed almost two hundred years ago. They are defending their clients which are not a sin as per the Act enacted by that gentleman. Thus, when a person accused of rape and murder gets acquitted from the Court by using his wealth, people cannot but accept the reality though their eternal voice asks them to protest. It is against the Indian culture, which expects truth will prevail over untruth. The Dharma will concur against Adharma. Bibhu can make out that the spiritual and cultural heritages of the country have been shattered. There exists a two-fold India, both loyal to law yet mutually antagonist.