Alice in Puristan
One summer day a little girl called Alice was dozing in a meadow when she saw a white rabbit in a blue coat running on two legs, exclaiming ” I am late ” while looking at his pocket watch. The rabbit jumped into a hole, and following it Alice too ran and jumped into the hole.
She went down and down, until she fell on a huge pile of horse manure, which saved her from being hurt. Brushing aside the manure, she got up, and looking around saw countless more heaps of horse manure everywhere.
Some people who were moving around told her, on her enquiry, that this country was called ‘ Puristan ‘, i.e. the land of the pure, where everyone was supposed to be ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Amin’ i.e. pure and incorruptible.
Puristan had an elected monarchy, and the King of Puristan was one who had come to power on the slogan of fighting corruption. Of course, he had to make some slight compromises, as is inevitable in politics, by giving tickets to many dubious ‘electables’ in the elections and courting religious bigots, but otherwise, he was totally incorruptible, as he had repeatedly asserted, and he had launched a powerful crusade against corruption in the country.
Alice asked some of the people there why there were so many heaps of horse manure, to which they replied that it was because the people of Puristan were fond of horse-trading, so naturally many horses were required, which resulted in lots of horse manure.
An election for the Senate of Puristan had been held the previous day, and the Finance Minister of Puristan was defeated because many of his party’s voters voted for the opposition candidate. When Alice asked whether this was because such
voters had been purchased, the people were shocked out of their wits. ” This is Puristan ” they said, ” the land of the pure. No human being can be purchased here. But of course there is no bar on purchasing or trading horses “.
“But in this election human beings appear to have been purchased ” protested Alice ” Surely a human being cannot be a horse ? “.
” Why not ? ” said the people of Puristan.” When we use a word it means just what our King wants it to mean. So a horse and a human can mean the same “.
“The question is” said Alice “whether you can make a word have so many meanings ?”
“The question is who is the master, that’s all ” the people replied.
Alice then proceeded forward, and came across a gathering of Urdu poets. Instead of reciting their poetry they were asking nonsensical riddles like “What is common between the price rise in Puristan and filmstars” or “Why is a cricket ball like Kashmiri demand for freedom from India ?” etc etc.
Fed up with this crazy talk, Alice moved forward and saw a Court building. She went inside and saw some persons accused of siphoning off huge amounts of money abroad. The judge was the King of Puristan, and even before the trial could commence he said ” Off with their heads “.
The defence lawyers protested that the accused had not even been heard, but the King said ” Off with their heads first, trial will be later “, and the accused were promptly guillotined.
The King said he had called for a motion of confidence in himself the next day, but before he could speak any further Alice suddenly woke up and realised she had been dreaming.
(Justice Markandey Katju is former Chairman, Press Council of India and former Judge, Supreme Court of India.)