Manjunath Shanmugham (27) , an IIM-L alumni and IOL employee, was killed by the owners of a petrol pump he had recommended be shut down for adulterating oil.
At the time of writing, only one mainstream newspaper has carried the story.
Some bloggers have pointed out the callousness and total loss of focus on part of the mainstream media for not carrying the story of a man who died for his honesty. I am not going to do that.
On the other hand, I would like to thank the mainstream media from shielding us from this piece of disturbing news.
Because I want to be entertained. Because I want to tell my next generation:” Always speak the truth. Always be honest. Remember truth always wins. ” without the gnawing feeling at the back of my mind ” Will this advice, if taken to heart, kill the kid?”
That’s why I don’t need to know.
But I do. Because of an incident that took place a long time ago. I was 14 then and my parents and I were returning from our uncle’s place on a local train. At some point, some rice smugglers got onto the train (who seemingly avoid octroi by routing their supply through non-conventional channels eg a passenger compartment), obviously without tickets and literally took over the compartment asking people to leave their seats and harassing passengers. Before you could say “CPM assholes”, the compartment was full of gunny bags and more ruffians than you could shake a finger at.
Some of the passengers protested, my father among them.
Then as the train reached the station, Railway Police men entered the compartment. My father went upto them complaining about these rice smugglers. By this time, the more worldy-wise passengers (except my dad that is) had slipped away as they knew something my dad did not—the Railway Police are the fighting unit of the rice smugglers. Yes sirree bob welcome to Jyoti Basu’s Ramrajya sorry Marxrajya.
Soon it was my father against a dozen RPF “people” who were openly threatening him with physical harm. The rice smugglers had, in the melee, made their quiet getaway. They then took my father to the RPF outpost where they were going to “take action” against him for obstructing them in performing their duties. What irony !
I remember being petrified at the prospect of these men hurting my father as my mother and I went and sat in that thana as my father was surrounded by more of these guardians of the law. Fortunately, their OC “pacified” his rank and file and that too after seeing Baba’s visiting card which had Professor, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta on it and thus being able to reason that assaulting my father may (may being the operative word here) raise a media stink—a fact that the goombahs below him had not realized.
So he escorted the 3 of us outside the station and I remember him apologizing privately to my father saying that he knew exactly what was going on, but so well-connected are the smugglers and the cops with the powers-that-be that he was helpless to do anything.
As I mentioned, I was 14 then. I had learnt my lesson—look the other way. Cowardly. Sure. I prefer being a coward than having a broken nose or being dead. And I am sure I am not the only one who feels so.
And thats why these stories deserve to be suppressed because they can only convince more 14 year olds that honesty does not pay. Now, we dont want them to lose their idealism, do we?
Am I being cynical here? I think not. A few blogs will be written on Manjunath’s death, a few readers will say “chuk-chuk look what India has come to”, a few of us will burn with righteous indignation before we bury ourselves in the sordid Abu Salem trial. He shall be forgotten, by most of us, in a day or two.
But his family wont forget him. They will always live with the feeling that their son died for being honest—-something he could have avoided without much ado. If he only had taken the money, he would have been still breathing. Like the rest of us.
What a waste of a fine human being.
So here’s my advice to everyone. Idolize Manjunath. Shed a tear for him. Discuss his honesty and the petrol-pump-allotment policies of the government over a cup of coffee.
Promise not to steal office supplies for a week. Err make it two days.
But do not under any circumstance try to follow him.
Remember that “Satyameva Jayate” is nothing more than a crappy Vinod Khanna movie.
And stay alive.