Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pass the methyl isocyanate, please

We’re no banana republic, okay? We’re the world’s largest democracy and we have robust democratic institutions. Take the recently concluded case of the Really Trying, Whiny People of Bhopal vs. The Chaps Who Were Just Making Some Damn Pesticide. India should thank the district court in Bhopal for winding things up in a lightning twenty-six years, because frankly, nobody wants to go on listening to aforesaid really trying, whiny people say the same things witness after witness, year after year. Untold suffering is so out.

Hear ye, o people of India: don’t think you can get away with really bad stuff, because the long arm of the law will reach out and bring you to trial and give you what you deserve. In Bhopal the law heard 178 prosecution witnesses on the stand talk about the estimated 25,000 people who have died or suffered from methyl isocyanate poisoning and its after-effects since 1984; it heard eight defence witnesses mutter darkly about sabotage; it examined 3,000-odd documents; it fast-tracked the whole thing so that only one of the accused died in the process. The law weighed up the evidence, decided the accused were guilty, and then fearlessly sentenced them to the legal equivalent of a wedgie.

Do you really want a wedgie, o people of India?

Didn’t think so. Better wise up and keep your misdeeds on this side of horrific, else you may be asked to sit in prison for two years and pay a lakh of rupees. You’ll get bail in the evening, but the whole thing is an avoidable spot of bother. Do you really want inconvenience and fines to pay, o people of India? Didn’t think so.

The judge, Mohan P. Tiwari, summed up the Bhopal verdict by saying: “Surely justice has been done.” If this sounds strangely like a question to himself, it’s probably just the inherent ambiguity of language at work. Some people said things like “travesty of justice” and “too little, too late” but we must remember that they are not judges with a mandate to retain a sense of proportion and fairness, and dole out punishment commensurate with the goof-up. It’s as if, after twenty-six years of the court trying this case, people expected it to try harder.

Some of these tiresome people also wanted to know why Warren Anderson, big cheese of the Union Carbide Corporation, was arrested at the time of the disaster and then allowed to leave the country. The former Joint Director of the CBI, who on TV looked as if he hadn’t slept for twenty-six years, revealed that the Ministry of External Affairs directed that extradition attempts be dropped. He also said that asking for an extradition now simply “exposes us that why did we drop it?” Well said. Had everyone forgotten about our National Image?

I wish all these carping critics would focus on the good bits, the way that US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake did when he said, “We hope that this is going to help to bring closure to the victims and their families.” Positive thinking can change your life, you know.

Now that we have a benchmark, though, I really think it’s time for the judiciary to be similarly fair with Ajmal Kasab. He may be halfwit with a rage problem who waged war on India, but I mean, the guy only killed seven people and didn’t have a visa to enter India and that sort of thing. It seems awfully extreme to be talking about the death penalty when he’s so young and full of promise. I say let’s just wash his mouth out with soap and fly him home. For free.


The world responded with a single voice to Israel’s autistic behaviour earlier this week, when it applied the Bush Doctrine to a flotilla of Gaza-bound relief ships put together by its own allies and still sailing in international waters. “We have a right to defend ourselves,” said Israel. “Are you out of your paranoid minds?” yelled the world, outraged.

Totally understandable. But how come nobody in India was outraged by the insult to our own national pride, delivered a few days before that? I mean, it usually takes very little for people to start frothing at the mouth at the slightest slight—perceived, planted, or made up when none can be perceived or planted. But this time the whole country seemed to be blind, deaf and dumb to the facts. And the facts are that Pakistan just gave us the bird.

Did you follow that story? Of course not, you were too busy being outraged about Israel to notice the filthy treachery in your own backyard. About a week ago AFP reported that an alert Punjabi farmer in our border regions with You-Know-Who, found a white pigeon on his roof. It had a ring around its foot and a Pakistani phone number and address stamped in red ink on its body. The farmer’s antennae immediately sprang out from under his turban and he grabbed the bird and delivered it unto a police station near Amritsar.

Now there’s a real patriot. Because of him, and because some people are still bothered about national security while the rest of you are busy joining flotilla protest groups on Facebook, this feathery slur/threat to our national something or other was immediately put under armed guard. The law suspects it of being here on “a special mission of spying”. The note that they speculate was attached to the ring on its foot is gone, and the pigeon is not talking. Nor is it saying why exactly it allowed a large farmer to lumber up and grab it when, after all, it has wings, but we can probably just put that down to widely documented pigeon stupidity.

International conventions on animal cruelty forbid us from openly torturing the creature, but we have no lack of maverick Jack Bauer type operatives amongst our defence forces. These brave men and women, who take the rap so that you can sleep with a clear conscience, cleverly placed it in an air conditioned room, I’m guessing because a suddenly comfortable temperature will shock it into singing like a canary. It is not allowed to receive visitors—a cruel but legal tactic that has been known to break down the most hardened criminals.

PTI reports that senior officers are being updated on the situation three times a day. I was able to get copies of sixteen such reports, which are meticulously documented; when collated they provide a pretty good slice of jailbird life. “6am: Suspect woke up and strutted around arrogantly, showing no signs of fear. 6.01am: Suspect pooped. 10am: Suspect emitted message encrypted to sound like a pigeon coo. 10.41am: Suspect pooped. 2.55pm: Suspect pecked at one-way glass as if to defy captors. 2.56pm: Suspect pooped. 7.48pm: Suspect looked around suspiciously. 10pm: Suspect pooped.”

After a stipulated detention time, the bird—which, on the basis of behavioural trend analyses, is now being viewed as more of a stool pigeon—was, according to DNA newspaper, handed over to the Wildlife Department for further studies. That’s what our vigilant forces do for us while you’re busy being incensed about Israel.

Bet you won’t find any bleeding heart lefties putting together protest marches to free the bird. Nobody has any perspective.