“Rohingya are illegal immigrants!” roared the Indian Home Minister from his perch in New Delhi. Most probablyan air-conditioned room or hall, and to the applause of those present!

He must have smiled seeing the effect on the crowd, but I’m sure he didn’t see something else:

He didn’t see a distraught woman, one of many, trying to clamber onto a boat with a baby on each arm, slipping in her haste and falling into the water, then again making another attempt even as the boatman held up his open palm for the fare that would wipe out all her savings!

He didn’t see men, limp with exhaustion, their hair matted with blood not just from bush and branch they had scurried through but from bullet and bayonet that had fired at their fleeing bodies, which tired and worn, now looked for something that would nourish and get some strength back.

He didn’t see children, yes boys and girls three and four years old wandering aimlessly looking for parents, who lay somewhere with lifeless eyes, not able to see those babies anymore; shot, burned or raped by soldiers who cared nothing for them.

I am sure the good home minister saw none of this as he sat in his airconditioned hall, and heard the applause from others also sitting in same comfort.

In Mumbai, there are many beggars who clamber into the suburban trains and beg. None climb into the first-class compartment, they all prefer begging in the lower, second class. Watch what happens; as the beggar goes from seat to seat, poor people, with maybe an income just above that of the poor beggar, pull out worn leather wallets, or fish in their pockets for a few notes and give it to the poor fellow.

This doesn’t ever happen in the first class compartment, where potbellied men sit with wallets crammed with high denomination notes, with eyes that would have looked with disdain at the poor fellow had he ventured into their holy, exclusive domain.

Compassion, strangely exists in the second class compartment!

I remember a poorer India, allowing millions of Bangladeshi refugees in the early seventies, as they escaped from an army that was terrorizing them. It burdened our people. It nosedivedour economy, but gritting our teeth we allowed them in.  

Today, we sit in the first-class compartment. We’ve forgotten what it is to be just one level above the man who begs. “Sir!” they shout, as they try to enter India, “We are hungry. We are persecuted. Give us compassion!”

“Get out!” we shout, “Don’t soil our seats, don’t spoil our peace, this is a first-class compartment!”

Compassion, speaks volumes, not just about the class you travel, but the effect the religion we follow has on us..!

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