Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Could our Jantar Mantar become our Tahrir Square?

Those of our political leaders who have paid attention to the protests in Tahrir Square must be spending sleepless nights. Not because a floodgate of public rage is about to burst open in Delhi or Mumbai but because the reasons for the rage are so familiar to us who live in the proudly democratic republic of India. Allow me to list a few similarities. Open loot of public money. Political leaders who become fabulously rich while ordinary people remain horribly poor. Dynastic succession. In our case this idea has roots so deep and wide that there is almost not a single political party that is not a family business. Then, as in most despotic Arab countries, we have followed economic policies that have created a small super-rich elite while the majority of our people live on less than $2 a day. And, just like Egypt we have a huge population of young people most of whom will move to cities and towns in the next twenty years. 

From Tavleen Singh's article in Indian Express. More Here.

Could it happen here? The leaderless revolution in Egypt has caused some anxiety locally over whether the wretched of our earth could come out to challenge their rulers. Conventional and unconventional wisdom has it that the answer is an emphatic no. We have a vibrant democracy, regular elections, a free media, an alert judiciary—all these checks and balances, it is fondly assumed, provide a safety valve through which the above-mentioned wretched can ventilate their frustrations. It is a cosy and comforting thesis but it needs to be tested. Not just to shake us out of complacency, but to force us to ask some hard questions.
One could in fact argue that it is already happening here. The injustices the protesters at Tahrir Square are raging about—corruption, no jobs, rising prices, appalling governance—are rampant in our blessed land. The tribal population of India, over three times the size of Egypt’s total population, lives daily with hardships ten times worse than those faced by the aam aadmi in Cairo. The per capita income in Egypt is four times the per capita income of adivasis in Dantewada. Moreover, under the influence of the Maoists, our destitute have taken up arms in a do-or-die struggle against the Indian state. Altogether, we are confronted with a situation infinitely more dangerous than the one prevailing in Egypt. Indeed, in contrast to the carnival and celebratory atmosphere in Tahrir Square, our deprived and desolate are waging a grim and violent battle. India is already at war with its own people. If you asked a bow-and-arrow-wielding woman to throw down her weapon because she possessed a wonderful thing called “democracy”, I shudder to think what her response would be.
Shining India, fortunately, does not have to watch pitched clashes outside the street on which it lives. However, unless we wake up, that prospect is fast approaching. Supposing, 2,00,000 of our citizens march into Jantar Mantar demanding regime change or immediate redressal of their grievances, how will the Indian state respond?

Vinod Mehta in Outlook. More Here.


V K Abdul Malik said...

Our Janter Manter could never become Tahrir Square. First of all India is not Egypt.
Second, we have a functioning democracy here. It may have its own shortcomings. Vested interests may have manipulated it to their gain. More than 75 percent of the elected MPs are crorpatis. Agreed. Still we have democracy here.
Next, our people do not have that killer instinct. Yahan to sab chalta hai! We take everything for granted!

Anonymous said...

India is not represented at Delhi's Jantar Mantar - it is too big and pockets of resistance are too widely spread out across the country. From the jungles of Mizoram to the Mysore forests, from Rameshwaram coasts to Pir Panjal Mountains and from the Barmer border areas to Poorniya tarais in Bihar, it is all isolated enough not to precipitate into a revolution like Egypt. The state is better orgainized than any insurgent group to be able to suppress the different pockets of revolt. The only organised power today besides the state is the conglomeration of corporates and business houses who, due to their very nature, would not risk their business for any social cause. So, the only way is to test the 'force' of the state in the big cities through peaceful civil non-obedience - small protest groups routinely testing out the limits of the state when force would be used by police even against perfectly peaceful and non-violent protests. Check out on what agendas of protest causes the state to use force rather quickly...this woudl give a fair idea.


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