Saturday, December 03, 2011

A slap that failed to stir the nation

The day Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar received ‘the slap’ I and Sharad Joshi were speaking at a national conference of farmers in Haridwar. A little after lunch, Swami Ramdev walked in to take his seat on the dais and expressed his apologies for being late. He said he was late because he had got busy responding to media questioning on the thappad.

The moment he gave out the news of the ‘the slap’ there was a round of applause. I think the clapping and cheering that followed was louder than the applause any one of us had received during and after our presentations. Meanwhile, the stream of messages on my mobile seemed never ending. My twitter too was flooded with congratulatory messages. I am aware that howsoever we may strongly condemn the incident, which was the politically correct thing to do, the fact remains that there was a sense of jubilation all around.

For a country reeling under an unprecedented price rise, corruption and economic policies that benefit only 1 per cent of the population, ‘the slap’ was an expression of the simmering anger and increasing frustration. While the more daring have picked up the gun (in the Maoist-affected areas) against the inequalities being continuously perpetuated with impunity, the liberal and the educated in the urban centres too are getting restless. I agree with Shobha De when she says ‘this is not about Sharad Pawar. He just happened to be the man at the receiving end of the most recent slap’.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not advocating throwing shoes to be a democratic form of dissent. But at the same time, I want you to think, and think deeply, as to why this democracy finds nothing disturbing when farmers kill themselves in order to draw the attention of powers that be to their plight. Such arrogance and indifference in a people’s democracy can’t go on for long. “The slap’ and the chappal cannot be simply dismissed as the work of a mentally unstable person. It is an expression of growing anger among the masses. Let us not wait for an Arab spring to force the Indian democracy to truly respond and represent the people. It is a question of the forgotten 99 per cent. #
Devinder Sharma in Ground Realities. Here.

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