THAT despicable khoon ki dalali comment has acquired fresh resonance — from an unexpected, in-house quarter. The political “deal” struck by a gutless chief minister of Maharashtra (Devendra Fadnavis) with a bunch of goons, with more nuisance value than legislature support, to “permit” trouble-free screening of Karan Johar’s film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil turns on its head the classical contention that no money-value can be placed on a life — least of all that of a military martyr. In brokering an arrangement by which a “penance” of five-crore rupees will be paid into a welfare fund for war widows, etc., Devendra Fadnavis and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have done the armed forces signal dishonour and disservice.

They are not alone in that unprecedented brand of shamelessness — Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, indeed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ought to have immediately debunked the move. In this age of instant communication there can be no excuse that they were unaware of what was happening — and the outspoken condemnation from the retired military community ought to have cleared any possible doubts.

Nor can there be any validity to the oblique contention that the money would be put to good use — is this nation so poor and so tasteless as to believe that tainted money can bring solace to a martyr’s kin? And is five-crore rupees such a massive amount that it has to be raised in this obscene fashion? The silence of Mr Modi and Mr Parrikar exposes the politicians’ lack of sincerity to the uniformed community — nothing they might do hereafter can compensate for the failure to condemn the move at the very outset.

The sinfulness of silence can also be extended to the chiefs of staff — an immediate, formal rejection/protest would have been in keeping with the apolitical nature of the forces, a matter of sustained pride. Even if they were reluctant to create an impression of “confronting” the elected government, they were duty-bound to stand up for the dignity of the personnel they lead: they would have done well to register their displeasure with their Supreme Commander. Some might even go to extremes and question President Pranab Mukherjee for not taking suo motu action. Mr Mukherjee has blotted his copybook — by a failure to uphold the sanctity of the uniform. This is one of the occasions when the hackneyed contention that “silence is consent” actually kicks-in.

The “deal” struck in Maharashtra is, unfortunately, not entirely out of context in these politically-supercharged times. The prime minister’s advice against “chest-thumping” has had less than token effect. The silly attempt to draw political advantage from the cross-border strikes has backfired. Hence extorting money in the guise of “patriotism” is only another episode in a sick tragedy of national degeneration.