OF Horse Trading, Poaching, Trolling And Walls!

OF Horse Trading, Poaching, Trolling And Walls!

Prof. T K Thomas

Prof. T K Thomas

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

[Albert Einstein]

Old timers often think that the old days were better than today. Whether we like it or not, change is the only thing that is not static but dynamic. Change according to our ancient scriptures is the law of the universe. It is like the water of a swift flowing river, constantly changing. Similarly, haven’t the language, style and choice of words of the media also changed? A lot of what was considered taboo, un-parliamentary or sacrilegious have passed the test of time and are considered acceptable. Here is a look at some such terms and phrases.

For example the word “stable”, half a century back meant only an enclosure where domesticated animals were kept. Today when it comes to government formations, whenever a party or an alliance has a wafer thin majority to form a government the ruling party or coalition leaders would claim that their government is “stable”. No wonder if there are stables, there will be horses and they will be traded. The expression “horse trading” when it dealt with those beautiful four legged animals was legitimate and did not mean any illegal or undesirable deed. But doesn’t the horse trading that we see today in usurping political power remind us of the days of yore when slaves were bought and sold? The hard bargaining and murky dealings behind sale and purchase of elected representatives to gain or capture power give the poor horses a bad name!

The situation that emerged in Karnataka last week continues to be conducive to horse trading. Elected members ‘disappearing’, ‘missing’ or ‘kidnapped’ and are herded to luxury resorts have given birth to another term which too has an animal connection-“poaching”. The dictionary meaning of the term which we learned half a century or more back was, ”the illegal hunting or capturing of wild animals, usually associated with land use rights.” The term poaching became popular after the illegal killing of wild animals like tiger and the one horned Indian rhinoceros by poachers who killed these animals. The poachers kill them for their skin and nails [of tigers] and horns [of the rhinoceros] as great curing properties are attributed to these animal parts in traditional Chinese system of medicine. One of the main reasons for the dwindling numbers of rhinoceros in the Kaziranga National Park in Assam or tigers elsewhere is poaching.

Political poaching that is the focus here is the act of the worst form of unfair politics much in vogue in India. Rival political parties try and lure susceptible elected representatives to make or break a government without sufficient number of members to sustain. Much media coverage was seen last week when party leaders took their elected representatives in their protective care. To ward off alleged poaching of their members the Janata Dal [Secular] – Congress alliance MLAs in Karnataka, by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and vice versa, a new kind of tourism has been introduced. There was reenactment of what was known as Resort Politics when the government of H D Kumaraswamy cobbled up numbers and formed government last year with the Congress. Last week, MLAs were shifted en bloc by the rival parties to expensive resorts near Bangalore and Gurugram.

Unlike poaching of animals where the hapless animals have no role to play and are victims, those subjected to political poaching are active players in the sordid game, involved in horse trading. Power comes with a price and who cares about such illegal, unfair and most unethical form of politics? Unfortunately both horse trading and poaching are here to stay as politics has become the last resort of the scoundrel![courtesy: George Bernard Shaw, who improvised Dr. Samuel Johnson who said “Nationalism is the last refuge for a scoundrel”.] No wonder all of them are herded into expensive Resorts not to be exposed to poaching!

Another term which we come across in internet, social media and now in the mainstream print and electronic media is ‘troll’ or ‘trolling’. Obviously the term is of recent origin or something made popular by the social media. As students of literature we knew that ‘fish with a rod, and line by pulling bait through the water behind a boat’ was called a ‘troll’. We also knew that in Scandinavian myths there are evil giants or mischievous but friendly dwarfs, called troll. But troll or trolling probably has links to fishing where the person pulling a bait in the water from behind a boat expects to catch fish. An internet user asks an inconvenient question or enter into an argument with the purpose of irritating, emotionally upsetting someone or stir up some unseemly controversy. In that sense he or she probably also acts like the Scandinavian mythical supernatural character of an evil giant or a friendly or mischievous dwarf. In either sense the intentions of someone who trolls are not exactly innocent. Psychologists attribute many reasons for people trolling others by posting uncalled for awful things about others. They think that their identities are not known to others and hence can get away with anything. They feel happy when others ‘like’ what they write.

Today trolling on the internet is ubiquitous and generally celebrities are the prime objects of trolling. It hurts and infuriates the victim. People from the entertainment world or politicians are the worst affected. Trolling is done intentionally and under achievers or non achievers, it is said, derive vicarious pleasure out of trolling.

On New Year day this month the state government and the ruling alliance in Kerala formed a “Human Wall ” or Vanitha Mathil” of lakhs [reportedly 35 lakh] of women holding hands from Kasargod in the north to Thiruvananthapuram in the south- six hundred and twenty kilometers, the entire length of the narrow strip of land which is “God’s own country”. The objective of this ‘Wall’ was to score a political or ideological point “to protect values of what was claimed to be a reformation movement and support the government stand on Sabarimala”. Human chains have earlier been used as a mark of protest against certain actions of the government. This ‘Wall’ may probably enter the record books and unlike other walls, this wall may remain in pictures only for the posterity!

At least two walls in history have been symbols of political pride and national defense or political isolation or dividing a nation. One is still there to see as one of the wonders of the world and the other has been razed. The Great Wall of China, a UNESCO heritage was built by successive Chinese dynasties from 7th century BC to 16th century AD onwards by various ruling dynasties. Most of the existing walls according to Wikipedia is from the Ming Dynasty [1368-1644] The walls were built to protect trade and their borders from external invasion. Some parts of the Great Wall of China became ruins but most of it remains as testimony to the Chinese genius.

The Berlin wall built in August 1961 by the erstwhile Soviet Union supported German Democratic Republic or East Germany to ensure that they had nothing to do with what they considered the fascist West Germans. They thought a wall would divide a nation on the basis of political ideology. The wall did survive dividing the people but ultimately the Berlin wall was brought down on 9 November,1989. Thousands of East Germans crossed the barrier and were met on the other side by large crowds greeting them with flowers and champagne.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union did end the Cold War. But Walls continue to balkanize the world. Presently American President Donald Trump is building a Wall across the Mexican border to prevent illegal migrants from Mexico entering the United States. Initially he wanted Mexico to foot the bill but now he plans to build it by the US. As the Mexicans march towards the US border, on Sunday [January 20] President Trump proposed a temporary protections for 700,000young immigrants or dreamers in the country as “an offer to the Democrats without authorization in exchange for 5.7 billion US dollars in funding to add 370 kilometers of steel barrier along the southern border”. For Trump, faced with the problem of a partial government shutdown, the Mexican Wall is not exactly an easy one to scale!

Walls built for the good of people like the Great Wall of China, considered the nation’s pride even under a new government is visited by large number of tourists from all over the word and is maintained for the posterity. The Berlin Wall a symbol of hatred and division of the German people is now a footnote in history. The Kerala human wall turned out to be an event and no one knows the fate of Trump’s wall!


“I do not want my house to be walled on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

[Mahatma Gandhi]