The Indian government has got really tough with the sole surviving Mumbai-attack terrorist it has in its custody. In a ruthless move designed to hurt, they have put him on an all-vegetarian diet. That’ll teach the bastard!

While they’re at it, how about learning something from Guantanamo Bay? To really show all those wannabe terrorists out there that India means business – and that they’ll suffer beyond their wildest imagination if they ever dare target India again – why don’t we subject Kasab to some music? Specifically, a strict regimen of Himess Bhai, Bappida and Altaf Raja, coupled with vegetarian food, should not only break the prisoner completely, but would be the most powerful deterrent India has against terrorism.

Sometimes I can be so evil, I scare myself.

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Life seems to be getting back to normal. Almost. The blogging-Twittering-texting frenzy has reduced. Excitable news anchors desperately seek their next fix of sensationalism. The talking heads have all but disappeared. The bereaved are trying to get on with their lives. And after yesterday’s rally in Mumbai, it seems that as citizens, we are done with venting.

Sure, there is a lot of energy and anger out there. The question is, can it be harnessed? I am quite certain that politicians would have heaved a sigh of relief last night, after the Mumbai rally. They wouldn’t be very wrong in thinking that now that the rally was over, the collective anger would dissipate, and over time, the slivers of individual anger would subside. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to anticipate that when we go to the polls, it would still be business as usual. In other words, we would still vote on the basis of language, caste and religion. And please take my word for it, that is exactly what will happen.

Unless this momentum is maintained. And not only maintained, but harnessed and channelised. In the past week, we have seen unprecedented outpourings of anger, our legendary apathy momentarily set aside for a show of solidarity and some long overdue politician-bashing. All of which culminated in yesterday’s rally. It warms the cockles of my heart and all that but does little to change my cynicism. Tell me, is there a single actionable point after all this sloganeering?

There have been various suggestions made. Someone has talked about 49-0 and our duty to vote. Others have talked about amending the constitution. Some have talked about not paying taxes. Others have talked about scaling down the security cover that politicians enjoy. Some have called for war with Pakistan and others have called for more stringent laws. But in all of this, is there one thing that an ordinary citizen can take as a starting point and say “yes….this is what I can do…this is how I can contribute…this is how I can make a difference”?

There is. The only thing that matters and that can make a difference is your vote. Go and register yourselves. If you are already a voter, make bloody sure you vote. And make sure that everyone you know also votes. And please, please, please – for once in your life, try not to vote as a Maratha or as a Kappu or as a Malyalee or as a Dalit or as a Muslim – vote as a citizen of this entire country. Vote as a stakeholder. Vote as if your life depended on it.

Because it does.

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PS:

1. For assistance in voter registration, please visit www.jaagore.com, or for those in Maharashtra, www.ceo.maharashtra.gov.in (Hat Tip: Indianhomemaker)

2. 49-O is not applicable because the government has not amended the Representation of the People Act to include that option. Since the political class will not like to see this through – it would be like axing one’s own foot – we need to do something. Please visit www.adrindia.org for this.

3. 60% of the NSG cadre provides security to politicians. This needs to stop immediately. Such security should be limited to the President, the PM and the Cabinet. That’s it. And even that’s a lot. This is part of a larger problem, where politicians live in an India different from the one we live in. For the more legally-inclined readers out there, can there be a PIL filed on this issue?

So there’s been yet another terrorist attack, and this one has clearly upped the ante.

My condolences to the families and friends of the people dead, and sympathies to those injured, as well as to the hostages and their families. Yet again, we have been attacked. Yet again, we shall pick ourselves up, gather the tattered remains of our lives together and move on. C’est la vie, unfortunately.

Two very disturbing takeaways from this attack. The first is the renewed parroting for more draconian laws like POTA – as one commentator on Indian Homemaker’s blog demanded. The other is the sight of crowds milling about the Taj and the Oberoi, as if there was a circus in progress. Why add to the madness? I am mystified – surely these people know that they aren’t helping any by being there – in fact, they’re only adding to the chaos and confusion. Why are they there?

The easiest reaction in a situation like this is to call for tougher laws, all of which aim to circumvent the adherence to due process. Due process anyway gets short shrift here in India, and do we really want to legitimise that? This is an issue I had touched upon in this post of mine. Shouldn’t better investigation, more co-ordination and better training be looked at first, instead of giving the police arbitrary powers to harass citizens? I am no expert on these things, and would welcome your views. I am just terrified by the knowledge that by bringing in such laws, we have pretty much capitulated to terrorism – their objective of destroying the civil and democratic fabric of India will have been achieved. And contrary to what people feel, these won’t be effective deterrents. Simply because, in my mind, they do not address the root of the problems plaguing our law-enforcement esablishments.