With over 50 cases registered against individuals for spreading rumours, discussing or commenting on social platforms about the state of health of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, fear is certainly the key that shuts the lock on the public’s lips.

Retribution is swift and arbitrary. Even water cooler conversations are open to police action and you could possibly get even with an adversary by just calling up the cops anonymously and giving them a name. That is how skittish the state is over this issue and it is just not defensible that New Delhi has not stepped in. This is not North Korea, this is democratic India and Jayalalithaa is the chief minister of one of the states, so her health is a matter of public concern.

The tangled web being woven in the utterly absurd bulletins and the obvious deception entailed in them, feeds rumours and speculation and is harmful to everyone.

Representational Image. ReutersRepresentational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

What need is there for such a major operation in obfuscating the details? Fine, we do not want to know the intimate blow by blow account, but surely the updates can have some factual information and not babble on about ‘progressing gradually and ‘interacting and taking time off respiratory support’.

You don’t need to be an Einstein to figure out that this cover up is flimsy and silly and insulting to not just her followers and fans, but to public intelligence as well.

If the Governor (and why is he the spokesman) were to tell it like it is, what could possibly be the adverse effect? What about the Cabinet, why are they keeping it a secret?

What is inconceivable is that between ward boys, nurses, doctors, lab assistants, cleaners, specialists, their families, their friends, their colleagues and the whole Apollo hospital hierarchy, there must be at least a thousand people in the loop and nothing has leaked out. In a nation where secrecy and privacy are impossible, it clearly indicates that the need-to-know basis is being severely restricted, and there must be a major effort to prevent access to patient or the patient’s papers.

Not only has the state’s business of the day come to a halt, but no one is prepared to take charge and stand in for the indisposed leader in case it is misunderstood by her when she returns.

This closed door policy is now not only bordering on the absurd, but it is also the fuel for a hundred disturbing rumours and half-truths based on leaps of imagination and the presence of specific kinds of medical specialists.

If one is brutally honest, by bending over backwards in what they seem to be doing to earn her gratitude these political luminaries are actually doing their boss a disfavour.

Bu all means penalise people who send out malicious reports or use social platforms to generate incitement and outrage but stop being so claustrophobic about her medical condition.

The public of Tamil Nadu, especially, and the country at large have a democratic right to know what exactly the situation is and that the treatment being given is the best possible one. If they do not know how unwell she is, how can they be comforted that all care is being taken and there have been no errors in judgement. What if it is to deflect from just that?

What possible advantage is there in keeping all this under covers? It is just baffling. And one cannot think of any precedent even close to this.

Respect of privacy is acceptable. Adulation for a publicly elected leader bordering on paranoia is not.

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Jayalalithaa’s health: Respect of privacy is justified, adulation bordering on paranoia is not