Sunday, June 5, 2011
Indian Monsoon aka Let There be a Million Mutinies Now!
Congress is probably facing the worst crisis since Independence. The monster of corruption has come to haunt them and now they have backed themselves into a corner out of which there are no good exits. In the end, they had sixty years to do something about it and they have systematically erected more and more measures to protect the guilty and keep the status quo. Just as the revolution came to the Middle East via the Arab Spring, it was inevitable that the common man of India will wake up one day a give a jolt to the ruling class. Can we call this the Indian Monsoon?
Clearly our politicians of all hues have failed us miserably. We have seen the traditional opposition come to power and in some ways perform even worse than the usual suspects – the Congress. They had their chances in 1977, 1989 and again in 1999 at the central level and many times over at the state level. Every time they could not get their act together. The looting continues unabated and unabashedly. Almost every politician worth his or her salt is a millionaire if not better. Most people who get into politics do so with the sole intention of lining their pockets, ideologies being just for public posturing. What’s has really hurt India is the unholy nexus of politicians, bureaucracy, judiciary, business and the media. Each one of these is a special interest group and they have every reason to maintain the status quo while the silent majority suffers.
There are several objections to the current movement that range from reasonable to ridiculous. I will try to address one by one.
• It is an anti parliamentary movement; it will damage the very foundation of our democracy.
After six decades of democracy the time has come to question whether the system is in need of some improvement. Any system is good only as long as it serves the people. There is nothing sacrosanct about the parliamentary system. If anything, it has succeeded in protecting the guilty and those entrenched in power have made every effort to keep the status quo. None of the political parties have any incentive whatsoever to disturb the applecart. The only difference between the parties seems to be that of public posturing on social issues. The Facebook and Twitter generation expects to participate more in the political process. Perhaps the days of parliamentary democracy are coming to an end.
• Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev are wading into areas in which they have no expertise.
Writing in a Times of India blog, CP Surendran calls these leaders simpletons and declares them unworthy of our attention. He says the “cattle brigade” has made them too powerful to be ignored by the Congress government. What he fails to mention is that it is the same “cattle brigade” that elected the Congress government in the first place.
Our intellectuals have failed to either lead or applaud a leader who has taken a bold step against the corrupt system. To challenge the establishment, one needs moral courage and that is sorely lacking among our political or intellectual leaders. Hazare and Ramdev have shown moral uprightness that is a rare quantity in India. They have all the power to make people listen, and so now they are taking charge. It is just a desperate tactic on the part of the intellectuals now to wake up and challenge the anti corruption movement. The intellectuals have simply missed their chance to make a difference and have zero credibility with the society.
In case if anyone needs a reminder, we have many cozy political dynasties ruling the country. Sonia Gandhi had zero governing skills and yet got to hold the reigns of power without any accountability whatsoever. It is hypocritical to question the capabilities of the leadership of anti corruption movement. If anything, they have demonstrated a moral uprightness that’s missing even among the media persons lately.
• This movement will lead to authoritarianism
The daemon of corruption is so deep rooted and pervasive in India that there is almost no transaction that takes place without someone getting bribed one way or the other. The insidious nature of corruption is such that a large segment of the population is going without access to basic necessities such as water, electricity, education or healthcare. The loss opportunities and quality of life suffered by the silent majority is beyond measure. Such a state of affairs needs urgent and revolutionary measures. While I don’t support death penalty for the corrupt, these details can be worked out when the final bill is getting readied. The same popular anger against the injustice of corruption can also work against the movement if it turns authoritarian.
• This movement is tainted because of the support of RSS and the likes of Sadhvi Rithambara
So what? Since when did it become illegitimate for RSS to support a worthy cause? Any and every support must be welcome for an anti corruption movement. It is not a fault of leaders that these organizations and people have decided to support the movement.
• A lot of intellectuals are opposed to it
This is just a self serving argument by the intelligentsia. They were caught flatfooted by this phenomenon. Now that it is showing signs of turning into something really big, they want to discredit it, disown it, halt it so that a genuine people’s movement in which they had no part to play does not render them completely irrelevant. Corruption, which affects everyone is not a sexy issue for them. If you notice, none of the leading lights against corruption can be described as armchair philosophers: Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, T N Sheshan, Baba Ramdev or Arvind Kejriwal. They have all been in the trenches and actually done something good.
Why this movement is important?
If you were to ask Indians about corruption, you will probably find that there is an almost a universal agreement that they oppose it. And yet, a big majority of the same people would go ahead and pay a bribe at the drop of a hat. How does one explain this dichotomy? I believe it is a feeling of helplessness that strangles us all when faced with a corrupt babu (government employee). There is also a culture of respecting the authority even if they don’t deserve it. Even though both I and my neighbor oppose corruption, we will not help each other when faced with it. The oppressors have taken advantage of this disunity of the victims and the righteous. They use laws, musclemen or plain harassment by not providing a legitimate service to browbeat the common man. The lay person had no means of communicating his or her grievance and follow up on it to its conclusion.
Well, not any more. The Facebook and Twitter have given a voice to the silent majority. People can now organize in the cyberspace and put into action in real world. People of the world have decided to take matters in their own hands and it is about time!
No one likes to be victimized. However, we need a role model and encouragement to stand up for what is right. Once such an environment is created, it will have a snowball effect on the entire society. There is a rebel in each of us who just needs a little coaxing to come out and fight the wholesale injustice by the establishments. Let there be a million mutinies now!