B S Raghavan

Arrogance that knows no bounds

B. S. RAGHAVAN | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on August 17, 2011

The exact translation of the Latin aphorism is “Thus passes the glory of the world”. From the 15th Century until 1963, a master of ceremonies leading the papal coronation procession shouted it three times to impress on the new pope the transitory nature of life and earthly honours.

Likewise, ahead of the Roman Emperor's spectacular processions also, a Grand Herald, appointed under the authority of the Emperor himself, used to march carrying the Imperial Emblem and shouting for everyone to hear: Memento mori (Remember, you will die). This was to rub into Emperor's psyche the inescapable reality that sceptre and crown must one day come tumbling down.

There seems a pressing need to revive those practices for many present-day rulers in view of the far greater relevance of those warnings to them. Whether it is a democratic or despotic government makes no difference to the way those in pedestals of authority and power, in their insufferable arrogance, conduct themselves towards other mortals, as if the people count for little, and as if they can go on enjoying for ever the luxuries in which they wallow and the servility with which they are surrounded.

We see what is happening to Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, whose autocratic rule lasted 30 years. He has been kept confined to a narrow cage like an animal, and most probably will be sentenced to death. Nicolae Ceausescu, who was the despotic President of Romania for 20 years was dragged, on a Christmas Day, along with his wife Elena, out of his palace which had beds and bathroom faucets made of gold to a threadbare, snow-filled courtyard and shot after a 10-minute court martial.

The fate of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was similar. His pleas before the Supreme Court about the indescribably horrible conditions in which he was kept in solitary confinement make heart-rending reading.

INSULT TO INTELLIGENCE

But blinded by megalomania, arrogant rulers do not learn from these parallels. They assume that people are nothing more than morons and it is possible to fool all of them all the time.

A glaring example of this propensity is the assertion of Messrs. P.Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid and Ashwin Kumar that the Delhi Police had acted absolutely independently in the measures they have taken, including issue of prohibitory orders and taking Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal into preventive detention to scupper Team Anna's protest fast demanding a strong Lokpal Bill. In reply to Anna's appeal against the curbs, even the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, asks him to approach the Police for redress, saying it is they who had taken the decision.

It is an insult to even a person of the meanest intelligence to expect him to believe that in matters of such grave and vital importance, the Delhi Police will act without political guidance from the highest levels of the Government. In fact, having worked in the Home Ministry for 10 years, I am sure that every step that has so far been taken would have had to be at least mentioned to, if not cleared by, the Prime Minister himself.

The second big mistake arrogant rulers commit is to think that the people are not noticing the outrages they are perpetrating. Nothing escapes the people's observation and every injustice, every hardship, every suffering they have undergone at the hands of those in power is kept stored in their memory. Often seemingly trivial causes trigger people's reprisal: Eviction of a pastor from his quarters in Romania, or Police brutality against a vegetable vendor in Egypt.

They may not retaliate immediately and, as in the case of the French and Russian Revolutions, may even wait for more than hundred years. But strike they will, and the longer they have been patiently bearing the rulers' atrocious behaviour, the harsher, and sometimes, the more savage, the punishment.

History tells us that the people never fail, at some stage or other, to catch up with rulers who trample upon their rights and demands and to make them answer for their misdeeds.

Published on August 17, 2011
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