Yesterday, November 24, 2023, an extraordinary scene unfolded in front of a martyr’s house in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra. Late Captain Shubham Gupta’s mother was made to stand in front of cameras while Yogendra Upadhyay (a minister in the Uttar Pradesh government) posed with her with a cheque.
Captain Gupta’s mother kept pleading ‘Mere liye pradarshani mat lagao’ (don’t make an exhibition of me) but that left the gathering unmoved and the cameras kept taking pictures. The clip has gone viral drawing flak for the insensitivity of the photo-op.
Captain Gupta made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty during an encounter in Rajouri a few days ago. His mother was inconsolable and beside herself with grief. All this, however, did not figure anywhere on minister Upadhyay’s mind. He can be seen nonchalantly holding a cheque in his hands, looking towards the camera one moment and at Captain Gupta’s grieving mother the next. All through, his focus seems to be to make the most of the ‘photo opportunity’, with no mind to the suffering and heartache of the bereaved family.
What does this tell us about our leaders, our society and our moral compass?
At the risk of stating the obvious, even repeating it, this shows incredible callousness on the part of our political leaders. They appear to be concerned only about their own interests at a time of such deep anguish for a martyr’s family. The distraught mother can barely hold herself up and is dishevelled and inconsolable. But this barely makes a dent in the motivations of the opportunist minister. He stands there, shamelessly, holding a cheque worth a few lakh rupees, determined to extract the full benefit from such an inopportune moment in time.
Shockingly, people around him make no attempt to dissuade him from showing to the whole world just how self-serving he is. Stone-faced, with narry a tear in their eyes or a hint of sorrow on their visage, they keep following the lead of minister Upadhyay and embarrass the entire country with their actions. If anything, their expression seems to convey “let’s get this over and done with” and “what a good opportunity this is, why the commotion by this woman?”
The entire incident has sent shockwaves through the country. People are rightly hitting out at Upadhyay and questioning the stony silence of his cronies and hangers-on.
This incident provides a handy, readymade opportunity for our nation’s detractors to criticise and condemn us and paint themselves in a better light. It would be such a godsend for critics to seize upon this chance to show our leaders as ruthless beyond belief and lacking a moral compass.
What about lack of empathy? Well, that too. I wonder if they even know the meaning of that word.
In this context, what Aam Aadmi Party’s Raghav Chadha said on the situation is worth repeating, even as we hang our heads in shame. Posting on his ‘X’ account, Chadha said, “Captain Shubham Gupta made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty during an encounter in the Rajouri sector. His mother is grieving and eagerly awaiting her son’s mortal remains. In the midst of her inconsolable sorrow, UP government’s BJP Minister Yogendra Upadhyay shamelessly persists on having a photograph taken for his PR – this, despite the mother’s plea to refrain from turning her grief into a spectacle. Shame.”
Shame. Yes, that’s the right word. In fact, it’s beyond shameful. It is obnoxious. One can only hope that our political leaders and their cronies will try to find out and understand the meaning and import of these words and never behave in a manner that warrants the use of such adjectives while describing their actions and motivations in future.