The Betrayal by Ahmed Essop
In The Betrayal by Ahmed Essop we have the theme of ego, responsibility, fear, selfishness, insecurity, corruption, control, conflict and betrayal. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Essop may be exploring the theme of ego. Dr Kamal is allowing his ego to take control of his emotions. His strong desire to quash the fledgling political group appears to be based on his own insecurities and the fact that his position as President of the Oriental Front will not be held in the same esteem should others support the new group. At all stages in the story Kamal thinks only of himself. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Kamal is acting selfishly. Despite being a scholar of Gandhi Kamal seems to be more interested in the use of violence to end any political aspirations that the new group might have. Something that some readers might find ironic for two reasons. Gandhi’s teachings were non-violent and secondly Kamal is a doctor who has a sworn duty to help people rather than to injure them. Which is what happens at the end of the story when both groups begin to fight.
Rather than seeing the possibility that both groups could exist side by side. Kamal is adamant that his position as President of the Oriental Front will not be affected by the establishment of a new group. This is his primary goal. There is also a sense that Kamal is conflicted when it comes to his actions. He knows what he is doing is wrong yet his strong desire to remain as President of the Oriental Front and to ensure they are a political force takes precedence. It is also interesting that despite all his years as a member of the Oriental Front Kamal ends up betraying them as the story progresses. At first he is full of support for the actions that are to be taken against the new group. However when he is talked down by a member of the new group. Kamal in reality becomes ineffective. It is as though everything he has believed in and the respect he has gained from others is lost. Kamal loses all confidence and leaves the building as the police try to intervene and stop the fight between both groups. Kamal’s actions may be important as they suggest that he is conscious that he has lost authority despite his long endeavours to achieve the respect of his peers and become President of the Oriental Front.
Salim Rashid’s character may also be important as he is just as enthusiastic as Kamal when it comes to breaking up the new group. In fact some critics might suggest that unlike Kamal who does not have the stomach for violence. Rashid on the other hand appears to completely forget Gandhi’s teachings and instigates the violence towards the new group. It might also be significant that Rashid just like Kamal is thinking only of himself and what is best for the Oriental Front. Rather than thinking perhaps the new group might have something to offer. If anything both Rashid and Kamal are desperate to hold onto power and the prestige that comes with power. Something which may suggest to readers that those in charge of the Oriental Front may in fact be corrupt. At no point in the story do either Rashid or Kamal take responsibility for their actions. Again their main goal is the removal of a political group that they see as rivals not only politically but personally too.
What is also interesting about the story is the respect that the members of the Youth League show to Kamal and Rashid. Despite the fact that their planned action is contrary to the teachings of Gandhi. This may be important as Essop may be highlighting the control that both men have over the younger members of the party. How on the advice of Kamal and Rashid the younger members are prepared to act violently. Without actually understanding that Kamal and Rashid’s actions are driven by fear and selfishness. There is also a sense that Kamal has not only betrayed the Oriental Front by running away but that he has also betrayed the teachings of Gandhi. Where Gandhi might have suggested or approved of a peaceful protest. Kamal no longer thinks like this. The reader again aware that Kamal is not thinking about the Oriental Front but of his own self-importance. As too is Rashid. The fact that the new group are prepared to fight the Youth League and do so with energy might also be important. As it could suggest that the new group are driven by the necessity to see change. In fact both sides are so desperate for different reasons that they are prepared to fight for what they believe in. Which in the Oriental Front’s case is to have a leader who has cast aside what he has learnt from Gandhi in order that he remain a man on some importance.