Of India’s Own Bermuda Triangle

The ‘Baroda Triangle’ is now a secret cemetery of facts and history, moneys and criminals, people and promises

Illustration: Amit Singh/ National Herald
Illustration: Amit Singh/ National Herald

Avay Shukla

The Bermuda Triangle is an area over the north-western part of the Atlantic Ocean where there have been persistent reports of ships and planes simply disappearing without a trace. The phenomenon has baffled oceanographers and scientists for decades and no plausible explanation has been offered so far by science. Answers range from a magnetic black hole, vagaries of the Gulf Stream current, sudden storms, aliens and ‘oceanic flatulence’ caused by methane gas rising from the sea bed.

There are reasons now to believe that the Bermuda Triangle may have shifted its location and is now lying over the Indian subcontinent; it may soon be christened the Baroda Triangle. The reason for this is the fact that similar disappearances have now started taking place in the Indian landmass—not of ships and planes, however, but of ideas, history and facts.

It started with the disappearance of a university degree of a certain individual: nobody knows if it even exists. Strenuous efforts have been made to recover it, but all evidence of it has been atomised, and we can only speculate where it lies, like the MH 370 aeroplane.

It is also dangerous to look for it.

Next were public funds. Tens of thousands of crores of public money simply disappeared (and continue to disappear). It is believed that they may have been teleported to other parts of the Atlantic, like the Cayman Islands and Saint Kitts, but no one can be sure because no one has actually seen this moolah. The people who had taken this money have also disappeared and cannot be located. More moneys have simply vanished in funds like the electoral bonds and the PM CARES Fund, or what are called NPAs (non-performing assets), and no one has a clue about what happened to them.

All information about them has also gone into a black hole called the RTI (Right to Information) Act, from which light stopped emerging a few years back. It’s the same with another collapsed star, the ECI (Election Commission of India), which has also stopped emitting any light and prefers to cloak itself in total darkness, like a dwarf star.

Criminals and mass murderers also seem to be disappearing into thin air, along with the concept of justice, which in any case was tenuous at the best of times. The Hashimpura massacre of 79 Muslims in Meerut in 1987 by the PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary) is a case in point. After 36 years and 900 hearings, all 39 accused have been acquitted earlier this month.

In another mysterious disappearance of criminals, all 68 accused in the murder of 11 Muslims in Gujarat’s Naroda Patiya in February 2002 were acquitted by a judge on the 20th of this month. So who killed them: aliens? flatulence? magnetism? We’ll never know, because the Baroda Triangle doesn’t give up its secrets easily.

More than 1.2 million HNIs (high networth individuals) have disappeared from India in the last few years, taking their wealth with them, without any explanation by the government.

Some 650,000 hectares of forest land have dematerialised in the last five years.

Thousands of voters regularly vanish from voters’ lists, presumably because they might have voted against the powers that be in the previous election.

Whatever little information used to emerge from the stygian portals of power about the environmental impacts of big projects has also now disappeared: the central government last week ordered that the web portal PARIVESH, which used to post such information, shall no longer do so. Reason? This is confidential data and can now be accessed only through RTI applications, which, as we know by now, are thrown into dustbins as fast as they are filed.

The latest to disappear into the ether are huge slices of Indian history and science. The Mughals have suddenly vanished from the face of the earth, as have documented facts relating to the antipathy of the right-wing to Mahatma Gandhi, the banning of the RSS, the 2002 carnage in Gujarat, the Industrial Revolution, the Emergency, the Naxalite movement, popular struggles and movements, references to the caste system and untouchables.

Science has not been spared by these mysterious forces either—Darwin’s Theory of Evolution has been sucked into oblivion, as have issues of the environment, including global warming. Will Newton and Einstein be the next to go, or will it be Orwell and Huxley, or Shakespeare and Steinbeck, or Omar Khayyam and Khalil Gibran?

It’s the same with the many promises the BJP had made to come to power in 2014: 20 million new jobs every year; Rs 15 lakh in every bank account; a $5 trillion economy by 2024; doubling of farmers’ income by 2022; cooperative federalism; a Congress-mukt Bharat. These too have all evaporated into thin air, and even though millions of voters are scurrying around looking for them, all they have found so far is a big jumla. Of the real thing, there is no sign.

The Orient has always been a mysterious place, after all.

Postscript. The BJP may be a lot of bad things, but it is not stupid. He who controls the present controls the past, and he who controls the past controls the future. This at least is one part of the ‘entire political science’ Mr. Modi has learnt well, whether or not he has a degree.

AVAY SHUKLA is a retired IAS officer. Views are personal

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