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Laiq: Able, willing and writing!

Not quite an alien to lovers of good words, veteran journalist Jawid Laiq has just penned down his maiden book, "The Maverick Republic". SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY speaks to the man who believes "everything is permissible" here... .

IF YOU'VE ever wondered why newspaper baron Ram Nath Goenka was not taken into custody during Emergency when many others had met the fate for protesting the totalitarian rule, journalist-author Jawid Laiq has an "interesting explanation". Finding his former employer in "a relaxed and expansive mood" one day after Emergency was revoked, Laiq asked Goenka about "the unresolved riddle" and stumbled upon a "personal reason".

"Both Indira Gandhi and her husband Feroz regarded Goenka as a father figure. So, when they were going through a difficult marital patch, both wrote a bunch of letters to him accusing each other of personal misdemeanours. Goenka had filed away these intensely personal letters, and Mrs Gandhi, according to Goenka, had convinced herself that if she had arrested him, the letters would have been published worldwide," says Laiq.

If this is convincing enough, then this London University alumnus has one or two more such titbits for you in his recently published maiden endeavour, "The Maverick Republic", a collection of his published journalistic articles since 1970.

In one of the pieces, he claims Sonia Gandhi's father Stefano Maino as telling him in a one-to-one that he is "all for compulsory sterilisation of Italians". Interesting if Sanjay Gandhi's sterilisation programme just happens to fleet through your mind then. However, do not confuse this book as yet another documentation of the Nehru-Gandhi family but as Laiq puts it, it is to tell the world, through his articles, about "a country where there are no standards or rules to carry out even the simplest social transaction, where everything is permissible, where anything goes."

Explains this former India correspondent of KUNA: "Interspersed between reporting on societal and political events for over 30 years, I have for long periods sought to reflect and to comment on those events and have noticed the emergence of an alarming paradox. The ominous paradox is that despite all the valiant attempts of the humble voter to seek a semblance of national progress, those with money, power and influence have relentlessly pushed this country into a wildly individualistic quagmire of greed, self-indulgence and cruelty where all rules are thrown out of the window." Laiq's observation about this pervading amoralism is well on target.

Banking all his faith on the moral goodness of the common Indian people, the former research fellow at Delhi's Centre for Policy Research is downright sceptical about the educated class. "See it in any slice of day-to-day life, it is the educated lot who are mostly seen lacking even in minimum social behaviour. But, I've immense faith in the country's faceless common man," he says.

The author succeeds in giving his readers enjoyable descriptive reportage but lacks in perceptive insights into the problem challenging the world's largest democracy. He does not offer any solution to save his beloved common Indians from this quagmire. "Honestly, I do not have any solution to this," admits this former research officer of Amnesty International.

Whether such a situation is the cause or effect of democracy, whether Laiq's "people" have any role to play in the country's deterioration or are mere silent sufferers, is left without any explanation.

Laiq's book has pen-downs about major Indian news events since 1970, including the Emergency, the Janata rule, Indira Gandhi's assassination, many a crucial election, Sikh riots and even a mention of the September 11 attack on the U.S., laced with interesting pieces on sparkling diamonds of Panna, falcon hunt in Rajasthan, a miraculous dentist in Amarkantak, his nostalgic words about the teleprinter age, etc.

However, after reading his description of the Sikh riots, you feel the absence of any word about the shameful Gujarat riots, even in the book's introduction. After all, Gujarat is a relatively new incident that has attracted even international opprobrium. However, this veteran journalist sees things from another perspective.

Says Laiq: "I do not want to see things from a communal angle. But, yes, I would say, the present Government has done more damage in four years than what the Congress had done in 40 years."

Though he does not elaborate his few words carry enough punch to convey the message in a no-nonsense manner.

We take him at his word, leave him to ponder over "The Maverick Republic" and move on.

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