Friday, June 10, 2011

Best and Worst of Times

These are the best of times. These are the worst of times. Dickens might have been thinking of French revolution but I cannot but help draw a parallel with the state of affairs in my own country.

Normally, I am pretty clued in about what is happening around me. I keep abreast of all the happenings, without spending hours watching the news channels show the same clippings and analysing them to death.

This last week has been the same. Only I am not too sure as to what has been happening. Who is right? And who is wrong? Forget black and white. The shades of grey are so numerous and similar that it is well nigh impossible to even guess where one ends and other begins.

There have been scams galore – from 2G spectrum to Commonwealth Games. Surely we all knew – even Kanimozhi and Kalmadi, the alleged perpetrators of the two biggest scams in Indian history – that things will come to a head. In a country where there are millions who toil so hard for daily bread that they would be hard-pressed to tell you how many zeroes there are in ten thousand, millions of billions worth rupees goes unaccounted for in the pockets of a few. Obviously, the acceptance of corruption as the integral part of our business and political fabric was bound to be renounced someday. Someone would have belled the cat and started a revolution.

Anna Hazare addressing his supporters
So, when Anna Hazare sat for his fast-unto-death for the formulation of Lokpal Bill which would bring all grafters to speedy justice, the entire nation supported him, including yours truly. But since then so much water has flown under the bridge. I am no longer sure as to what is happening. Cracks appeared within the civil society vigilantes who Anna leads. Mysterious CDs appeared undermining the credibility of our Light Brigade. Some claimed it was a conspiracy to raise doubts by a government beleaguered by the charges of corruption. Others felt that there is no smoke without fire.

Kanimozhi after arrest
While all this drama is playing out on one stage, a red bastion is overthrown and Bastille stormed. Political heirs are arrested on corruption charges and even Kalmadi, months after first rumours of large scale irregularities appeared in CWG organisation, is booked by authorities. Commoners like myself rejoice. Finally, things are looking up. Justice will prevail. Anna and his merry men would ensure that no more Rajas, Kanimozhis and Kalmadis are allowed to strut around un-accosted for so long.

But then nothing much happens. The government and vigilantes reach a dead-end. Another dramatis personae emerges – this time a saffron robed, self-proclaimed saint followed by thousands. Ramdev decides to join the fray and declares a manifesto against corruption. He wants all the issues solved almost overnight, Rajinikanth style, if you please. He threatens to fast-unto-death in Delhi until his demands are met. The government panics. Sends senior ministers to receive him at the airport and to strike a deal with him. God only knows what happened in that meeting but Ramdev starts his fast surrounded by thousands of his followers until the government decides to arrest him in the dead of the night. Baba tries to run in the disguise of a woman, is actively seen to cohort women into following a protective circle around him but is finally caught and deported back to his ashram.

I am still grappling with what this accomplished. Do we need so many vigilantes? And what was the crackdown all about? The government spokesperson called the baba a thug. Is that so? Maybe. Then why did the nation’s Finance minister set about to bargain with him and welcome him to the capital? Ramdev maybe just a showman under the saffron garb of a revolutionary but I think the government might just end up turning him into a hero as he nears a week of fasting.

What is a very serious issue has been turned into very crass and political melodrama. There is absolutely nobody in this entire fracas who will come out smelling of roses and it only reaffirms my contempt of politicos. Decorum has been shunned by everyone who can grab a news channel’s microphone. And the heart of the matter is lost somewhere in the game of one-upmanship.

In fact, for me one of the sanest voice of reasons came from Salman Khan! When asked about all this fasting going around, he advised the junta  to stop aiding corruption. That is how we start. More in the style of Tata Tea Jaago Re  campaigns. The revolution begins with me and a ‘no’ to grease the palm of the traffic policeman.

I agree, we also need quicker, more efficient laws. However, the entire process is complex and will take some time.  Regardless it has to be transparent; ideally it should be televised live to all and sundry as and when it happens. So that there is no hidden agenda being enacted behind the closed doors. Perhaps I am being very naive when I suggest all this but surely there is a better way than what is being practised now.

The upshot of it all is that perhaps now scams will not just come and go, to be swept under the carpet of burgeoning news stories. In a sense all that has happened has been for good. Yet until and unless, this protest is galvanized into practical action, everything is meaningless.

And while such cacophony holds centre-stage, India’s Picasso walks lonely into the London night, away from the country he loved.

Isn’t it sad that M F Husain was denied the chance to breathe his last in India while those who plunder and loot the country can roam around scot-free, unabashed? There cannot be a harsher judgment than this on our country. None whatsoever.

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  1. Crass just about sums the entire situation. Everyone seems to have a hidden agenda.. shameful really.. when one of the most sought after Indian painters has died a death abroad exiled.

  2. @ moonshine: I think somewhere we have lost sense of our priorities. We make mountains out of mole hills and the real issue is held hostage by a handful of fame-mongers like Ramdev and Digvijay Singh. Really, who needs them at all!