Following the mosque massacre, she lost no time in banning the manufacture and sale of lethal weapons.
“They are us”. These three words spoken by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, immediately after the murder of 50 Muslim New Zealanders praying in a Christchurch mosque, resonated round the globe. I cannot think of any current head of state or government who would have resisted the temptation to make a bombastic, utterly insincere, long winded utterance.
“They are us” will appear in every anthology of quotations throughout the civilised world. These three words reminded me of the two-minute-long immortal speech Abraham Lincoln made at Gettysburg in 1863.
The New Zealand Prime Minister has lost no time in banning the manufacture and sale of lethal weapons (similar to the one used by the murderer last week). She has done something else. She has refused to take the name of the man who killed the people while they were at prayer. All of New Zealand has followed her salutary example.
The Imam of the Christchurch mosque has also risen to the occasion. He addressed his fellow Muslims as a New Zealander. He did not advocate revenge, he did not curse the murderer. “Nothing can divide us,” he preached.
I have been to New Zealand once, almost 30 years ago. I carried a letter from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, David Lange, in connection with the forthcoming Summit of Commonwealth Heads of State and Government. I called on David Lange in his office. No gun-toting policemen were to be seen. To my astonishment, there was no security bandobast. David Lange was friendly, informal, witty. After a few minutes we were on first names. I was a little taken aback when he suggested that we go to have tea in a nearby restaurant. We came down the lift, walked into the street. No personal detective with the PM. He waved. The passersby waved, addressed him by his first name. We entered the tea house. It was full. The owner said, “Prime Minister, I have a few tables outside the side door. Come along with me.” We followed. Tea was brought to the table, which was placed in an open and narrow pavement, skirting the street. No security. I was both appalled and curious. “Where are your security people?” I asked. “There are none. I don’t need them.” The only other “no security” head of state or government I met was in Iceland. There was not even a wall surrounding the Presidents’ house. One just walked in.
These are exceptional exceptions. We live in a horridly dangerous world. No security can be perfect. John F. Kennedy offers a good example.
Prime Minister David Lange died young. He was undoubtedly the wittiest man I have ever met. Rajiv Gandhi and he soon became fast friends. At one of their meetings, I was present: “Rajiv, I am appointing Ed Hillary as our High Commissioner to New Delhi.” I was bowled over. What an imaginative and inspiring choice. I got to know Sir Edmond Hillary well during his spell as High Commissioner in New Delhi. I asked him the banal question, “Who reached the top Everest first, you or Tenzing?” “Both”, replied the High Commissioner. The great mountaineer was not cut out to be a diplomat. He left soon after David lost the next election. Hillary gave me on autographed copy of his book on Everest.
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Islamophobia is now a part of the international vocabulary. The utterly misleading propaganda is that all terrorists are Muslims. They are not. Some may be. Their targets are so often fellow Muslims. Observe what the ISIS is doing in Syria or the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Alas! Some Muslim countries do export terrorists. What was Osama bin Laden up to? His aim was to rid the world of non-Muslims. I have here a point with which some readers might disagree. The Islamic world is a divided house: Khojas, Shias and Sunnis, Kurds and Turks. In Pakistan, the Ahmadiyas are considered non-Muslims. Their exclusion is more on account of politics, than anything else. Indonesia is 96% Muslim. I have not so far heard of Indonesian terrorists. As far as I know, no Indian Muslim has joined the ISIS. If I am wrong, it is open to correction.
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The world of cricket will become hyperactive with the IPL round the corner. I am an incorrigible cricket buff. I shall watch as many matches as I can. Coming as I do from Rajasthan, I shall back the Rajasthan Royals. I have another link with cricket. I am writing this piece in the residence of Captain Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab. My wife is his elder sister.
Indian cricket owes much to the House of Patiala. Amarinder Singh’s great grandfather, Maharaja Rajendra Singh had several ADCs. One of them was Ranjitsinhji (of Newanagar). Bad times had fallen on him. He sought refuge in Patiala. Amarinder Singh’s grandfather, Maharaja Bhupindra Singh took the first India cricket team to England in 1911 at his own expense. He also donated the Ranji Trophy bearing in mind the traditional relations between Patiala and Newanagar.
Lala Amarnath was ADC to Maharaja Bhupindra Singh. Till his death he used to say, “Without Maharaja Bhupindra Singh there would have been no Amarnath”.