Retire the Peacock and make Chicken the National Bird of India
From Taslima to Tibet, India proves chicken
Instead of the peacock, India should adopt the chicken as its national bird. Apart from the fowl being the dish of choice, at least in the northern part of the country, our official response to various situations - ranging from the Taslima Nasreen controversy to the protests in Tibet - can best be described as chicken-hearted.
Forced into exile from her native Bangladesh by religious fanatics who didn't like her feminist writings, Taslima sought sanctuary in Kolkata in whose Bangla milieu she felt creatively comfortable. However, after street riots instigated by local goons disguised as religious zealots caused the Marxist state government to decide that minority-appeasing discretion was the better part of secular valour, the writer was bundled out of the city and taken first to an undisclosed hideaway in Rajasthan and later to Delhi, where she was kept in virtual isolation.
Made to apologise for her 'anti-Islamic' views, she was warned by no less than the information and broadcasting minister - supposedly the custodian of the fundamental right to freedom of expression as spelt out in the Constitution - that she should not say or do anything that might hurt the religious sensibilities of any group. (Should the I&B ministry be renamed the ministry of intimidation and browbeating?)
Finally, Taslima has sought sanctuary in distant Scandinavia, saying: "A person who couldn't be scared by fundamentalists has been defeated by cold-blooded state terrorism inflicted by the Indian government. My terrible experience has shattered all my notions about a secular, democratic India.”
Why did Taslima - yet another personification of freedom of expression — have to quit India? Because when push comes to communal shove, for all its professions to the contrary, India is too chicken to stick to its principles of liberalism and democracy and allows mob rule to subvert the rule of law. In the case of the Chinese crackdown in Tibet, India's official response has been so politically correct, not to mention politically chicken, that it has earned praise from no less than the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao (who might have made special mention of the Indian Left whose non-response might be summed up as 'Tibet who?').
Despite China's continuing claims on Arunachal, and despite its proven nuclear proliferation to Pakistan, New Delhi walks on eggshells where Tibet is concerned and seems vaguely embarrassed by the Dalai Lama's presence on Indian soil. Why? Because then, maybe, China will support India's admission to the UN Security Council. Or at least stop using Pakistan as a foil against us. Or sell us cheap pichkaris for Holi. Or something.
The truth is that we are just too chicken to take on the big demons - Chinese totalitarianism, religious fundamentalism - but make do with assailing minor imps of the perverse. For instance, Fiona Mackeown, mother of the murdered Scarlett Keeling, has been strictured for having left her 15-year-old daughter alone in Goa. What an unnatural, monstrous mother. How unlike the caring, sharing mothers of the suitably named Mother India, where female foeticide and infanticide are as common as the common cold. Or take the case of health minister Ramadoss who is so busy fighting the evils of tobacco and liquor - by putting 'gory' pictures on tobacco products, and banning surrogate liquor ads - that he has no time to address the much larger ills that plague our practically non-existent public health system.
Can't move mountains? Find convenient molehills, turn them into mountains, and then move them. That seems to be the recipe. Not just for the health minister but for the entire sorry mess which might aptly be called Indian chicken curry.