The aerial distance between New Delhi and Bengaluru is 1,740 km, around 500 km more than the distance between the National Capital and Hyderabad.
Perhaps that explains why Rahul Gandhi has not been able to pay a visit to Bengaluru still, more than 24 hours since reports first came in of a racist attack on a Tanzanian student who was beaten up and strip-shamed on the streets of Bengaluru for a crime she did not even commit.
It is quite possible that the Indian National Congress is passing through a financial crunch and the vice-president simply doesn’t have enough money to book a flight to the Karnataka capital. The party’s coffers must be really empty while fighting the National Herald case.
That would, at least, be a logical explanation.
Nothing else explains the remarkable silence so far from the Gandhi scion, who wasted little time in booking the first flight out of New Delhi and was among the first politicians to descend from the sky into the premises of Hyderabad Central University where Rohith Vemula committed suicide.
Flights may no doubt be costly. But it isn’t known if Twitter charges a ‘convenience’ fee when politicians post tweets.
Till the time of writing of this report, the Congress vice-president has failed to post even one tweet on the racist attack on the Bengaluru student that threatens to sour India’s relationship with African nations. Reports indicate that the High Commission of Tanzania has sent a ‘Note Verbale’ to India’s external affairs ministry, requesting it to take necessary legal action.
Contrast that with Rahul’s hyper-active mode since Vemula’s death. Not only did he rush to gain political capital out of an incident which could be directly or indirectly laid at BJP’s door, through his tweets he instigated the students to create a non-stop stir.
My message to every single student of this country is- when you let what happened to Rohith happen, it will happen to you one day
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) January 30, 2016
In total, the Congress vice-president posted around 30 tweets on Vemula’s death, expressing at various times, his solidarity and outrage. While it is commendable that he took it upon himself to highlight one of India’s abhorrent social ills, casteism, one expects him to show the same alacrity in tackling racism.
Yet 24 hours since a violent mob attacked, beat up, stripped naked and paraded the 21-year-old Tanzanian girl, thrashed her friends, snatched away mobile phones and burnt down their car resulting in the loss of their passports, ATM cards and cash, Rahul Gandhi maintains a studied silence.
The students had nothing to do with an accident that took place 30 minutes earlier on the same spot. Their only fault, presumably, was that they belonged to the same race as that of the Sudanese national who was involved in the collision that resulted in a death.
It will be difficult for even the most hard-boiled scriptwriter in either Hollywood or Bollywood to come up with a sketch that captures the absolute horror.
What was stopping Congress’s second-in-command from flying to Karnataka, assess the situation first-hand, take necessary steps and reach out to the African community? The students are now mortally scared of even stepping out of their rooms, leave alone continuing with studies.
Isn’t it what is expected of someone who aspires to be a national leader and is quick to take up any cause, be it Dalit stir following Vemula’s suicide or Delhi cops’ attack on protesting students.
Why, then, in this case, has Rahul limited himself to being a pen-pushing babu and “ask for a report instead”? He did not ask for any 'reports' from anybody before he descended on Hyderabad University campus, did he? Truth, facts and verification of the same did not seem to have any importance in launching a political broadside against Prime Minister Narendra Modi then.
It is possible that Rahul reckons that racism and race-related attacks on foreign students are less serious because they do not come with a ready vote bank.
Or does he reckon that governments controlled by his party are islands of Utopia in India?
The worst response that we can come up with when confronted with racism is denial. And that is exactly what the Karnataka government is in, denial. Its home minister has launched a damage control exercise by claiming that girl was not stripped. That's an open issue, fine, but he also said the attack wasn’t a racist either.
So we can guess what kind of a 'report' he will send for Rahul's consideration. The kind that says, 'no baba, no need to come'. This issue has very little tourism potential and absolutely no electoral prospects.