By Siddharth Srivastava
NEW DELHI: The BJP wants the security of its PM candidate Narendra Modi upgraded to possibly make him appear even more Prime Ministerial. I don’t wish to comment about the political aspects of such a demand. Also, there are genuine threats as proved by the bomb blasts at the recent Patna rally addressed by Modi.
Instead, I want to talk about the obsession with security of the so-called VIPs in our midst while safety of the common man stands singularly compromised. Encircled by layers of gun toting black cats (BC’s) from the SPG, NSG or others is the halo desperately sought by our VIP’s to convey importance, power and status.
In India, the ten heads of Ravana stand for evil. Our politicians (many actually criminal turned public figures), ministers, officials, bureaucrats, love to be enveloped by a large head count of sleek uniformed BC bodyguards trained to fend off terrorist attacks, but mostly involved in shooing off usual people going about their normal business and also the media. BC protection naturally attracts media, even if nobody is clear about the antecedents of the VIP being protected – some can be long retired, forgotten, irrelevant bureaucrats, politicians or generals.
While consumerism inspired private individuals display expensive cell phones, cars, young second wife as personal embellishments, these cannot outshine the glamor attached to BC’s. The IPhones, BMWs, pretty babes are small change in comparison. BC’s endow star value to those that do not have star value, like a Prithviraj Road address or a Harley Davidson bike. They are the show stoppers. If one can manage to wrangle BC’s, one can pull off much more is the clear message.
Ask Robert Vadra. Ask Mayawati who never steps out without an ensemble of diamond studs, branded bag, sandals and BC’s. Ask LK Advani, who has reluctantly relinquished his decade long PM in waiting status, but tenaciously holds onto his personal BC’s. BC’s dart about when Rahul Gandhi is around.
Modi already has quite a few BC’s guarding him. Obviously, he and the BJP believe, more the merrier. The BC’s are the tip of a deep seated feudal culture that endorses superiority and status. An army of peons, drivers, gardeners, security guards, personal factotums, orderlies are deputed to those connected with officialdom in any way. Officially, they are all supposed to guard the VIP and his or her family. Unofficially they run personal errands such as buying vegetables, milk and groceries. The Indian government, state or center, is the biggest maid agency in the world placing millions of factotums sustaining on tax payers money.
Truth be told, the BC syndrome afflicts most of us in various shades and forms. It is the ceaseless march towards exclusivity – a bigger car, house, gated community, business class, first class. To prove he is at the top of the money game Mukesh Ambani lives in a building that touches the Mumbai sky. Still, BC’s officially allotted by the government are top billing. There are similar embellishments sought with equal vigor — a bungalow in Lutyen’s Delhi, convoy of cars fitted with jammers, no frisking at airports or halting traffic to allow for VIP passage.
In Hindi movies it is usually the bad guy who is surrounded by armed muscular bouncers, either bald or mustached. The hero, the simple aam admni, is unarmed, in love with a girl. Initially the BC’s beat him up.
But, then the villain makes the mistake of eyeing the girl. The hero beats up the villain and the BC’s. This happens only in movies. In real life the story is usually vastly different. The aam admi is the one beaten to pulp.
In this context, I admire cycling groups mushrooming across the country. It is healthy and environmentally friendly, but nobody cares about their existence. Given the dominant VIP, BC culture, cyclists have a tough time surviving chaotic, potholed and dangerous roads, like trying to walk on water without sinking.
The crashes are inevitable the recent Sunita Narain hit and run just one recent example. The cyclists don multiple gears appearing like batsmen out to face pace bowlers, except the beamers are in the form of furiously driven traffic that can kill.
As an aam admi, I too sometimes wish a BC or two. Maybe I should declare on Twitter that I am PM candidate. Maybe, my security threat perception will be graded A+ (instead of Z+) entitling me two unarmed home guards. That would be fun. I may request them to halt traffic a couple of times so I can pass by in glory. Or tell them to wait at the door while I drink coffee at CCD. But, I don’t think I am going to ask them to shoo away normal folks. That is not right.
(Based at Gurgaon near New Delhi, Siddharth Srivastava blogs as Mocking Indian)