This is Manto’s Anna Hazare moment. His shriek of protest against politicians he thinks are bringing the nation to ruin.
His faith in the people is as strong as that of the protesters of 2012 and his solution is also similar to that of middle-class Indians today – a strong man who is capable of reining in the state.
This piece is evidently from before independence. Though no context is provided, as best I can make out, the piece is aimed at Jinnah and the Muslim League.
Hindustan ko leaderon say bachao by Saadat Hasan Manto, translated by Aakar Patel
We’ve been hearing this for some time now – Save India from this, save it from that. The fact is that India needs to be saved from the people who say it should be saved.
They’re experts in making up this sort of thing, there’s no doubt. The last thing they are, however, is sincere.
After an evening of fiery speeches and righteous denunciation, when they return to their luxuriant bedrooms, their brains are empty of all thought of saving us.
They waste not a second on what actually ails India. Their concerns are personal, not national, and so occupied are they with this that actually there’s no space for us.
These people, who can’t run even their homes efficiently, and whose character is lowly, want to straighten the country out and lecture us on what is right.
It would be funny if it weren’t so ridiculous.
These people – “leaders” – see religion and politics as some lame, crippled man. They peddle him around to beg for money. They shoulder his corpse and appeal to those who will believe anything said from high on up. They claim they are bringing the corpse back to life with their effort.
But the fact is that religion is what it used to be and will forever remain that. The principle of religion is intact, solid. It is unalterable, the sort of mountain that waves can never erode.
When these leaders shed their tears and wail “Mazhab khatre mein hai (religion is in danger)”, it is all rubbish.
Faith isn’t the sort of thing that can come into danger in the first place. If anything is in danger, it’s these leaders who want to be saved by claiming religion is in peril.
Save India from its leaders, who are poisoning our atmosphere. You may not know this but these leaders go around with scissors. With these they snip your pocket and take all your money. Their life is a long run – towards wealth. Every time they exhale, you can smell the odour of their insincerity and of their greed.
At the head of enormous processions, weighed down by fat garlands, delivering unending speeches full of empty words, they make a path to power for themselves. A path to luxury.
They raise and make such sums of money for themselves as you have seen, but have they told you how unemployment will end?
They scream religion all the time but when did they last follow the teachings of their faith?
These fellows – who live in houses given to them, who live on the money they raise from others – how can they make us self-sufficient?
India doesn’t need many leaders, each singing a different tune from the other but with the same words sounding ultimately. We need only one, as wise as the Caliph Umar and as brave as Ataturk. Someone who will rein in the runaway horse of state. Who will lead us manfully towards independence.
Remember – the greedy will never be able to lead us in the right way. Those dressed in silk have nothing to offer those who sleep on stone. Fling such people aside.
They are bedbugs who creep inside the crevices and emerge only to suck our blood. They should be forced out with the boiling water of our despise.
They rant against the rich for no reason other than that they want to be rich themselves. They are the worst sort of person imaginable. They are the thieves among thieves. Let them know what you think of them.
What’s needed is for our young men, tattered in clothing but broad in chest, to stand up and toss them aside from the pedestals they’ve occupied without our permission.
They have no right to claim empathy with us, the poor. And remember – there’s no shame in poverty. Those who think there is are themselves shameful.
The man who fends for himself with his hands is the superior of the man who lives off the work of others.
Be the man who fends for himself. Look coldly at what is in your best interests. Once we take our fate into our hands, these leaders will have nowhere to run.