India Uncut

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

The new nawabs

Whether or not Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, nicknamed "Tiger" long before it seemed ironic, will be adjudged guilty of poaching is up to the courts, writes the Telegraph. But, they point out:
[T]here is one charge that the former nawab cannot avoid being levelled against him. For more than a fortnight, he deliberately refused to cooperate with the police in investigating an illegal act. He was asked to appear before the police and he failed to turn up. The former prince became a common absconder from the law. This charge is in no way as important as the shooting of a black buck but it is suggestive of a mindset. It suggests that Pataudi believes that even though he is a citizen of the republic of India, he is above the law of the land. This attitude harks back to the time when Indian princes, big and small, ruled their principalities according to their whims and fancies; and most of them — and let this be said candidly — squandered the resources of their estates and lived debauched lives. They made little or no contribution to national life. The attitude displayed by Pataudi and his ilk is completely out of tune with the foundations of the Indian republic.
Actually, the attitude isn't in contrast with "the foundations of the Indian republic," but is enhanced by it. The Indian republic was founded on a paternalistic foundation where the state is mai-baap to the citizen, and the massive amount of discretion this gave to instruments of the state – the police, tax officials, municipal officials, the whole damn bureaucracy – made the continuation of the nawabocracy inevitable. They gave rise to a new group of elites, who got their power from that usurped by the state from the people.

When I was in college, I knew hordes of people who wanted to give the IAS (Indian Administrative Services) exam only to enjoy that power, which would put them above the law, which would make them the law. And that still continues. Influence is everything in modern India, who you are and who you know, and money plays a part in it as well. As for Pataudi, he just got unlucky, a member of the former elite failing to enjoy the privileges of the current one. Had a minister, a DCP or a chief secretary been out hunting with Pataudi, he wouldn't have had to abscond from the police, as if they were doing him an injustice. He'd be watching Parineeta instead, marvelling at his son's performance but wishing, perhaps, that he'd been a world-class cricketer instead.
amit varma, 12:26 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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