Vikram climbed the tree and brought the corpse down. He carried the Vetal on his shoulder and started walking. Vetal said,” Hey King Vikaramaditya, I will tell you a story. At the end of it I will ask you a few questions. If you do not know the answer, I will remain your captive. On the other hand if you know the answer but keep quiet, your head will burst into pieces.
Vikram had handled this situation many times in the past. Being an intelligent King, he always knew the answer and the Vetal always escaped.
Veta started the story. “Long, long ago there were communal riots in a State. Around 1200 died during the riots. Surendar was the Chief Minister of the State at that time. This story happens 10 years after the riots.”
“Sir…today is the 10th anniversary of the communal riots in the State when 1200 people were cruelly massacred under your Chief Ministership….Do you have any sense of remorse?” Pradeep was interviewing the Chief Minister at his residence.
Pradeep looked satisfied with his last and the most direct question. Audience will be obviously thrilled. He had been asking one tough question after another and
Surendar, instead of his usual contemptuous style had been giving quite conciliatory replies. This episode of ‘Face the Mass’, his prime time news program is going to be a TRP topper. The wrinkles in Surendar’s forehead convinced him that Surendar did not have any answer and that he was going to fumble.
Surendar looked straight into Pradeep’s eyes. He remembered that Pradeep was a young reporter with India 365 Channel at that time. He was giving a minute-by-minute blow up of the riots. Standing in the riot affected areas, he was raising tough questions for the Chief Minister and the administration.
Surendar was just 6 months into the office and was too inexperienced to control the riots. Pradeep asked for Surendar’s interview. Surendar did not have answers to any of Pradeep’s or anyone else’s questions. He declined Pradeep’s request.
CNN and BBC picked up Pradeep’s footages and relayed. Overnight Surendar became a villain and Pradeep a hero.
Violence continued unabated for 3 days at the end of which 1200 people were dead.
Surendar contemplated for weeks on the core cause of the riots- Momentary anger could have triggered the violence. But how did it continue for 3 days? There should be something deeper. One community felt that the other is privileged economically while the other perceived that the former controlled the poll outcomes and thereby held political clout. He concluded that the long term solution would be to improve the economy and make politics more transparent.
Pradeer accused him of complicity in the riots. Several NGOs picked up the same and filed cases against the Chief Minister and his government in the Court.
Surendar commenced a massive program to provide electricity to all the villages in the State.
Media encouraged police officers of the State to speak against Surendar. One or two of them promptly obliged and shot into limelight.
Surendar provided drinking water to all the villages.
An NGO took up the case of a girl whose family was killed in the riots. The alleged victim told the court that the NGO tutored her to give false evidence. Supreme Court indicted the NGO. Media alleged that Surendar Government had terrorized the victim to change her story.
Next Assembly elections were announced. Surendar started campaigning.
Pradeep conducted an opinion poll and concluded a total rout of Surendar’s Party. His opinion poll was well received by the viewers.
Surendar won the elections with 2/3rd majority. Statistics revealed that both the communities voted for him. He then set about cementing the roads in all the villages of the State.
When the High Court of the State dismissed many of the cases against Surendar, Pradeep and the rest of the media alleged bias on the part of the Court and asked for transfer of cases to another State.
Surendar converted the State Highways into four lane highways.
Supreme Court appointed an Investigation Team to look into the complicity of Surendar in the riots. The Team found him innocent. Pradeep and the media questioned the credentials of the members of the Investigation Team.
Surendar invited business houses across the country and globe to invest in the State which they did in lakhs of crores of rupees.
Based on media reports, several foreign governments denied visa to Surendar. He could not travel to developed countries to solicit investments.
Surendar simplified the procedures for investment in the State. Land allotments for projects were made in record speed. A big business house which found it difficult to invest in a distant State shifted its project to Surendar’s State.
Forced to accept the fact that the State was growing fast, Pradeep and the rest of the media argued that economic development would not wash way the sin.
Surendar undertook reconciliation fasts in various parts of the State aimed at bringing both the communities further closer.
Pradeep promptly called it a publicity stunt aimed at gaining sympathy.
Surendar ensured that there was no communal riot in the State afterwards. His formula had worked- since the economic condition of almost all the communities improved, since corruption was weeded out, since politics became more transparent, both the communities did not indulge in violence. One of the countries which had denied visa to Surendar appreciated his governance!
Surendar was shaken out of his flashback by Pradeep’s reminder. “Sir….I am waiting for your response. Do you have any sense of remorse?”
“Pradeep…Let me tell you a short story. Once, a saint and his disciple were about to cross a river which was overflowing. There was a beautiful girl on the river bank waiting to cross the river. Since the river was deep, she requested the saint to carry her on his back. The saint obliged. The girl got down from his back on the other side of the river and the saint-disciple duo continued their journey. The disciple was quite disturbed. He could not digest that saint carried a girl on his back! Seeing his concern the saint enquired him as to what was bothering him. The disciple voiced his concern. The saint smiled and replied “I dropped her on the river bank but you are still carrying her in your heart.” Pradeep… do you get my….”
“So Mr Surendar….just as the saint carried her on his back….though for a short time….you agree you encouraged the mob….”
Surendar heaved a sigh.
“That’s the final nail, viewers….Chief Minister Surendar accepting his complicity in the massacre of 1200 people…..” Pradeep faced the camera and shouted at the top of his voice.
“Pradeep….,” called Surendar.
Pradeep turned back and was shocked to see a pistol in Surendar’s hand. “Oh…no…”
Having concluded the story Vetal asked the inconvenient questions. “Oh King Vikramaditya….If Surendar worked on a long term solution and succeeded in ensuring that there was no communal riot, why did Pradeep not appreciate? Who was biased- Surendar against a particular community or Pradeep against Surendar? Was Surendar right in finally …….”
Vikram, being an intelligent and compassionate king, gave the right answers. Vetal climbed the tree.
PS: You are most welcome to differ from me, disagree with my views, call me biased, question my facts or dismiss this post as too simplistic, motivated. Of course you always have the pleasant option of concurring with me.