Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Last week India saw something unprecedented in more ways than one . A 72 year old man rode a TV-induced media frenzy to shake an already beleaguered government into a pretence of an action. A hunger strike, straight out of Gandhi's book, a set of demands as revolutionary as Bhagat Singh's and the power of social media, together they added a new twist to the India story. Is this a harbinger of fortune or an aberration? Or worse still, is this a continuation of the same old ennui in a more sinister guise?

It indeed is a change. A perceptible change from the usual apathy general public shows to what the government does. For the first time, there was palpable support and anger amongst the majority, especially the youth. It was not a handful of NGOs and few good old men doing the slogan shouting this time. They were there no doubt, but with them were a lot of others from the sections of society that were believed to have given up on the nation and its system.

Yet, Jan Lokpal Bill movement was not India's Tahir square. To hell with what the media is telling us.

For starters, people in Egypt went beyond the show of support on facebook and twitter. They stopped their routine to squat till the government budged. We,well most of us, on the contrary, were quite smug and proud of "supporting" Anna with a share here and a like there. Egypt came to a grinding halt as the people demanded a change in the way their nation was run. Agreed, we aren't under a dictatorship, but the corruption we are facing today is no less a danger. Will India stop going around its business till the government cleans up its act?Did the past few weeks rid us of the general apathy we seem to have for the state of the nation? Definitely not. Is the fast and a promise of a bill/law against corruption enough to stem this cancer?

Egypt rose tall, not behind an individual, but as a single entity. It was the entire citizenry that was fed up and chose to do something about it. Back home, on the other hand, we seem quite content with rallying behind a leader. At times, to the point of getting happy that one crusader is cleaning up the dirt for us while we get back to movies cricket IPL and other such "national" exigencies. Someone else is on a fast for us, just like our moms used to be when we were kids, so say a thank you on Fb post and move on!

On the other side of the spectrum are fringe drifters forever in search of a hook that would get them into the political space. Anna is their messiah, usurping his intention is their mission. Idolize him, he is the answer to all our ills. Appreciating Anna and his guts is one thing, putting him on a pedestal and making him one more in the long list of "celebs" we adore is another! A week into the protest and it already is a trivialized piece of page3 filler, on the highroad to ebcoming a politically motivated stunt.

Most importantly though, at Tahir square, people were hungry for democracy. While we here were rallying behind a proposed vigilante bill that subsumes and undermines the principles of democracy. We are seeking to replace a demon with another, least bothered about what consequences it can have on us as a citizenry.

Jantar Mantar, Anna Hazare and Jan Lokpal Bill, all have been a mere exaggerated tokenism. Not much has come out of any "notifications" by the government earlier. What would come out of this one now? My guess is as good as yours! Will this stop corruption? No. Not even in the slightest.

What this hunger strike has shown us, even if for a brief time, is that we still have the power to demand what is justly ours without bloodshed. I am an eternal optimist when it comes to India and her story. Hopefully, this new twist would lead us to a better tomorrow.