Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Revolution is in the Air

There is soul stirring stuff going on in the world at this moment. History is being made, nations are being awakened, people have come forward to show what democracy really means! This is a heady time for people studying history...I hope the revolutions in Egypt and Lybia, the curious order in chaos in Belgium and the ferment in several other countries are being discussed with heated passion in every History class. I was in college during the Mandal Commission unrest and we also were witness to the Babri Masjid demolition during our college days. This is much larger than that. I remember the heated exchanges in class on the Babri Masjid demolition...we tried to grapple with our different identities, as followers of a religion, as citizens of a country, as a minority or a majority group, there was excitement and passion. Now although the unrest is happening elsewhere, I feel it pertains to us in a more significant manner, for we are the world's greatest democracy but do we have it in us to question our so called leaders, whom we have ourselves put on pedestals and allowed to loot and destroy us??
I remember a few years back a colleague and I had gone to participate in a talk show on Doordarshan, it was a programme on the 'Young Leaders' of our times and a young MP from Orissa was being interviewed on his vision of a new India. The show began with a small video clipping of the MP and his family, they were a family of politicians, the clip showed his parents, wife and his home and his hangers on. Then the clip shifted to his constituency and the first thing that struck one was the drastic change. Now there were emaciated men and women gazing vacantly at the camera in front of tumbledown houses...'..tribal population..', 'backward...', '..poor..' were the terms being heard. Then came the portion about what the MP had done for this wretched population and a few shots of a project or two was highlighted. But one never got over the stark contrast of the well oiled and plump politician and his chubby family and the sickly tribals who were at their mercy for God knows how many generations. The audieance was made up of a few students and a group of studio employeees who were placed at strategic points a few teachers and us ( my colleague Siddhartha and I, who were the faculty of a law institute). After a few questions by the presenter the session was thrown open for audience questioning. At first there were some general questions on his vision and what he does with the MP fund etc ( to which he replied that the 2crores of MP funds per year largely remains unspent for fear that it might be misused! at which our eyes almost came popping out). Anyhow, by this time Siddhartha had had enough, and he in no uncertain terms expressed is displeasure on the corruption rampant in politics and demanded to know what this new generation politician was doing about it. This made the man evasive and uncomfortable and Siddhartha's loud and aggressive protest was subdued by the presenter and I am afraid to say, by me too, by a fair bit of nudgeing and shushing. When my turn came I was careful to couch my question in niceties. I had expected more zeal and more conviction from a 'new age leader' whereas Mr MP is very studied and diplomatic, why is that so, asked I. The fellow was at ease with is ...politicians have to be so ....( I may be young but to be a politician I have to be diplomatic, is what he meant, I guess). At the end of the show we came away disappointed...the words 'young leadership' had stirred us, but what we found was the same decadance in a new packaging. Where politics has become different from service to ones country and nation. Where politics is administration not socio-economic welfare...I saw no hope for the poor tribals of his constituentcy who, I bet my bottom dollar, are still living in abject poverty as they had done in the video clipping. The MP did say, after the shooting, that 'sister'(meaning I) had caught him out...'I am diplomatic' he admitted bashfully...its a professional hazard, he implied...I later wondered, had we done wrong in suppressing the spontaneous revolt of my young colleague, should we have ignored decorum and allowed the MP to lose his diplomacy and come out in the open? Should I have asked simply..." why are you so well fed and oily while your people are malnourished?" "How many lakhs did daddy spend on your wedding?" " where are your chidren studying?"...we'll never know, that was another rebellion supressed...and our democracy lives on...

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