What a shame that my first column for 2013 has to be this grim....
This appeared in The Sunday Times today...
This is not an empty rant against the ruling class. It is much more – it is an expression of utter and total condemnation. It is a notice. The entire country stood as one ( a rare enough occurrence) behind Nirbhaya who passed away in Singapore on the 29th of December. Her tragic death generated deep anguish, yes. But there was also deep disgust. Citizens raised their voices across platforms and demanded that this day be permanently marked as the Day of Shame. Will that happen? More importantly, will that help? How does one shame the shameless in any case? Behind all the emotional outbursts, one thing was constant – the vociferous demand for justice.The demand for change.Not years from now. But immediately. Perhaps, this is precisely the tipping point India has been waiting for. Here was one case which touched countless hearts and pushed an important concern to centre stage in a way no other case or movement has in recent memory. It took a horrific rape to expose our politicians. Suddenly the netas of Delhi were stripped naked. And there was no place to hide. Years of strutting around pompously and grand standing during one crisis after another, provided zero protection to these people as enraged citizenry took to the streets crying out for better governance, sickened by the apathy and abuse of power . The moment of truth was finally here. And the reins got seamlessly transferred into the hands of the people of India.
Announcing a commission to examine what went so horribly wrong in the 23-year-old girl’s case, is a ruse that will no longer work. Those days of buying time and fobbing off angry citizens with empty assurances of ‘looking into the matter’ are over. This was the old way of doing things. Young India is not ready to play ball with such deception. As was amply demonstrated at India Gate ( yes, by those very dented and painted people). The arrogance that came through from those who ought to have known better ( from Sheila Dixit to P.Chidambaram), eventually backfired on them. And this is going to be the fate of any politician resorting to lofty rhetoric instead of addressing a problem head on. Had even one of these leaders bothered to meet protestors during those early days when storm clouds were rapidly gathering over the Capital, perhaps this clumsy, even callous debacle could have been better managed. The young girl would have died regardless. That was a given from the word go. But we would have been spared the farce of watching the meaningless airlift to Singapore. That was the final straw. It was the wrong decision taken for the wrong reasons, by the wrong people. It fooled nobody. If anything, it further fanned the flames of collective anger. Citizens instinctively saw through the political game that was being played out in such a brazen manner. That high minded gesture was not about saving a critically injured girl. It was about saving their own face. And faking concern. It was already too late. The time for such hypocrisy and sham is unequivocally over.
If those in positions of power refuse to recognize what this crisis is all about, it will be their tragedy. While a disenfranchised woman’s heart rending plea (“Mummy, I want to live!”) fell on deaf ears and was dismissed by deadened souls, it was left to the people of India to continue the struggle, while our leaders resolutely and foolishly refused to meet protestors. Such aloofness! Such cowardice! It is going to cost! And cost big time.
Leadership is about engagement. Real leaders do not run away from crises. But ours have specialized in burying their heads during any emergency hoping it will resolve itself and disappear on its own. This was one time they miscalculated – and how! The courageous young girl is dead. But there is an elephant in the room. An elephant that refuses to turn tail and leave. Ignoring the animal is not an option. But which of our mighty leaders is ready to take on the challenge and deal with not just the elephant, but the hungry beast that is on the prowl. It is a beast without a name. It is ferocious and cannot be tamed.The power of this beast is bigger than the State. This insatiable creature is about to gobble up Delhi. Water cannons, lathi charges… even bullets, will not stop its march.
2013 belongs to the Citizen of India. Happy New Year, readers!