Saturday, November 21, 2009

Black Day for Indian Democracy

It was a black day for Indian democracy, yet once again. Armed with sticks, lathis, and such weapons, the goons of Shiv Sena- one of Maharashtra's political parties- barged into the offices of TV channel IBN Lokmat and not only destroyed office property but also physically and brutally assaulted journalists. Read the reports here and here and see the pictures here. My sympathies to the IBN team and Nikhil Wagle, IBN Lokmat's editor-in-chief and kudos to the staff for nabbing some of the goons and handing them over to the police. This is not the first time that Shiv Sena goons have targeted journalists or innocent civilians. One wonders whether it'll be the last time especially considering the fact that the State Government has so far been unable to tame them and bring them to book. Though I have hope from the present chief minister. I could be wrong but I saw sincerity in his eyes yesterday when the editor-in-chief of IBN Rajdeep Sardesai interviewed him on national TV and the minister reassured that the culprits- not just the foot soldiers, but also the ringleaders- would be brought to book. Let's hope that the Chief Minister stands by his promise.

For a moment though I would like to ponder on the irony as to why such trouble-makers have always thought that such violence would get them to the top. The worst part is that they have been right and proved right time and again. Massive communal riots in1992-93 in Bombay and later in Gujarat in 2002 (both targeted Muslims) catapulted right-wing leaders to the pinnacle of the state machineries. The Gujarat riots were documented as probably one of the worst genocide the history of Indian democracy. Lives were  uprooted, innocent civilians lost their lives, and the fabric of society changed forever. Still, people who openly and brazenly encouraged such violence, got voted and came to power.

Which begs the question: Why does the electorate vote for such people who encourage violence? Why does anyone think that these very people who perpetuate violence, are the ones who can offer a better life, a bettre government? Isn't violence the opposite of governance? Hatred is the core of any riot; it smacks of violence and complete break-down of law and order. Aren't there enough members of the civilised or the thinking society to get up and vote to keep the thugs and goons out of the Parliament? Or it's just that there are enough voters who have the power in the fingers but that they just do not care.

Why is it that in developed countries, any political party that perpetuates violence to gain publicity and power, gets shooed away, does not get elected at all, and infact goes behind bars? Why does it happen in India that the notorious political parties think that such massive tod-phod and strong-arm street tactics would get the voters to vote for them? Why is there such a belief? Is there something wrong with them or with us who vote for them? Perhaps the low voter turnout could throw some light. The anger and agitation that came out in Mumbai post 26-11- largely seen amongst the thinking citizens- fizzled out soon; poor turnouts during the Assembly elections and central government elections.

I wish I could say the cliche:  the time has come to stop them and bring the culprits to book, time has come to disown them and time has come to act. Unfortunately, that time came and went away long ago. What do we do now?

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