I never thought this would be possible, but over the past few weeks, my cynicism has hit new highs! I have been observing the circus around us, and all I have to show for it is an increasing sense of dismay and dread.
For starters, here’s another brilliant example of Indian lawmaking: under-trials in India can’t vote. But what utterly confounds me is the fact that while an under-trial can’t vote, he sure as hell can contest elections and even become a minister. Go figure.
What about the fact that all candidates, across all parties, seem to be millionaires and billionaires? Some inherited their wealth. Some are self-made businesspersons and professionals. And then there is the vast majority whose net worth runs into many hundreds of millions, and no one has a clue about where this money came from. It’s such a cliché, this “impoverished-nation-rich-politicians” bit, but it seems to be the hallmark of Indian politics today. There can only be two explanations. Either only the rich become politicians, or all politicians become rich. Neither answer bodes well for the sham we’ve got going.
Then there’re these amazing news-blackouts that happen. Varun Gandhi is hauled over the coals, but Srinivas and Laloo’s peccadilloes are looked upon way more indulgently. The amount of coverage given to Modi in connection with the Gujarat riots is phenomenal. We are united in condemning, over and over, his acts of villainy and the many acts of commission and omission that followed. But when it comes to news reports that Teesta Setalvad coached, tutored and made witnesses lie in the Gujarat riots case, cooking up macabre incidents and concocting crimes that apparently never happened, the sense of national outrage is missing. The talking heads on TV maintain a studied silence, as do the pundits of print. And I fail to see any outpourings of rage in the many blogs that are so quick to judge, condemn and crucify otherwise. (Update: The CJP has questioned the veracity of the report, the TOI journalist stands by his story, and the SIT chief refuses to comment on whether the ‘leaked’ reports were true or not. We’re still no closer to the truth.)
Comparisons may be odious. But one can’t help recall how the US navy’s snipers kicked Somalian butt and rescued the Merchant Navy Captain held hostage. Would we ever have had the courage to do something like that? Will we ever be respected as a nation, forget feared?
When Harbhajan and Dhoni skipped the Padma Shri awards, our Impartial-Election-Commissioner-turned-Sports-Minister started foaming at the mouth. But some idiot has actually filed a lawsuit against the duo, alleging hurt and defamation. Hundreds of other issues to choose from, but this moron was offended because two cricketers found the opportunity cost of attending an award ceremony too high. Clearly, unemployment is a serious problem.
The first phase of polling saw a voter turnout of 54%. That’s it. Just 54%. Good going, India. And most of them would, predictably, have voted based on caste, language and religion. Everyone forgot the famines, the hunger, the suicides, the malnutrition, the desperate and unhealthy squalor that so many of our fellow citizens live in. Development, the criminalisation of politics, security and safety weren’t concerns. All that mattered was the surname and caste-certificate of the candidate. Was he one of us, or an outsider? Well done, people! That should see us change. That should ensure we prosper. Go India Go!
Did I forget to mention that I find it funny that most political parties in India are run like fiefdoms? They are autocratic – either autocratic-dynastic (most of the parties – Congress, DMK, NCP, NC, SP, SS etc), or first-generation autocratic (BSP, AIADMK). There is no such thing as intra-party democracy. Tell me, how can we trust any of these people to safeguard the country’s democratic institutions and systems when they clearly don’t believe in democracy in the first place?
To sum up, is there anything to smile about? There are criminals and law-breakers who will represent us and make laws. The increasing evidence of the unaccountable and immense wealth of candidates points to a rotten and hollow political system. Laws are modified and conventions broken to ensure politicians, as a class, proper and survive at our expense. With each passing session, individual freedoms and liberties are curtailed. The law and the police seem to have become instruments of oppression, used to subjugate the citizen. We naively join the happy chorus of the “we-are-a-democracy-and-an-emerging-superpower” song, forgetting that while the political parties themselves don’t practise democracy, when we deign to vote, we do so based on issues of caste, language and religion. We deserve each other.
A few years ago, I had taken a guided tour of the Louvre. The guide stopped in front of Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People”. As she explained the significance of the painting to us, one sentence really hit home. Pointing to the dead bodies Liberty was marching on, she said “Delacroix painted those to remind us that liberty does not come free. You have to fight to obtain freedom, and fight to preserve it. And perhaps die for it”.
Are we taking too much for granted? Is that why we, the people, are systematically squandering the most valuable thing we have as a nation – constitutional democracy? Is that what will finally hasten our transition into a failed state?
All we Indians have achieved as a nation is to prove to the world, that yes, you can fool all of the people, all of the time.