Have Indians, By and Large, Failed to Nourish and Grow Their Democratic Underpinnings and Traditions?
By: Raja Mitra
The material below is largely a recompilation of my comments in SM networks reacting to posts about the gruesome gang rape and eventual death of a young girl in Delhi. While compiling I have merely tried to eliminate repetitive points and redundancies from the text. I have also included some additional links and posts which I felt were relevant. While it may still appear somewhat disjointed I hope I am able to convey my point of view reasonably clearly still.
The goof-ups, inactions and corruption levels witnessed in the UPA administration currently in power in India, have been arguably the highest ever witnessed. Despite all attempts at window-dressing, the facts are out there and I continue to maintain that history will judge the pathetic puppet Manmohan Singh as the worst PM that the country has ever had. There is no point in merely stating that India is the largest democracy in the world when the country's systems are non-functional or have broken down, when nepotism and corruption have peaked and when the quality of the politicians generally is abysmal.
Democracy doesn't mean voting once in 5 years and then forgetting all about it. A government has to be held accountable for its acts of omission & commission and the only ones who can do so are the people of India. Surprisingly, while people are angry or agitated about many issues, I still don't hear a growing chorus of voices saying, "We have had enough; you have shown repeatedly that you are just not fit to govern or to tackle the major problems of the country, so get the hell out now."
Desperation and despair can lead to vigilantism and excesses as well. Here is one instance where the rape victims, losing all hope of getting justice, took matters in their own hands and dispensed rough and ready justice.
I know all the arguments about the alternatives not being exactly great. Well, when things have reached pretty much their nadir, most alternatives might turn out to be better, even if marginally so. And if they do fail, they have to be held accountable and kicked out as well till such time that at least some minimum satisfactory levels are achieved. That may cause short-term pains and problems in certain cases but at the end of the day, there are no ideal or perfect solutions to the issue and those are about the only options possible in a democratic set-up.
In the clip below, Patrick French eloquently argues about the failure of Indian democracy, particularly in the last decade or two. I agree virtually with all his contentions.
The media of course has a major and important role to play in all this and unfortunately, like many other things, standards and integrity or rather the lack of it, has reached abysmal levels there also. To start with, maybe Indians should switch off some of these national news channels which specialize in scripted soap-operas, with a great deal of histrionics & dramatics thrown in for increased viewership. Once people stop viewing and reading the stuff that these news channels and sections of the print media churn out, they will be either forced to change and raise the bar or they will wither away and die because they are a business like anyone else.
I was just going through some statistics and in the rape-capital of India a rape is reported every 18 hours on an average. Extrapolate that across India and you will begin to see the huge dimensions of the problem. The track record of prosecuting agencies (police) and courts in doling out convictions & justice has statistically also been extremely tardy. Pratibha Patil during her tenure as President pardoned 5 death sentences which included rape-murder cases as well. Can you imagine how many lives of victims and their families have been shattered or ruined as a result? Who's worrying about them? What has the govt. done to rehabilitate them? What amounts has the govt. spend in doing so? If it is so concerned about the problem is there a nodal govt. agency which does this all over the country? Who is the minister responsible?
Without a doubt, the present instance of gang rape and gruesome violence, leading to the death finally of the unnamed young girl is tragic in the extreme. But shouldn't one feel resentful that while it got all this attention and care, it possibly all happened because the incident took place in Delhi and attracted the focus of national and international media who are camped there and because this govt. is so out-of-touch with the people that in panic Sheila Dixit pushed for the victim to be flown out of the country, mainly because she the PM, Manmohan Singh and his inner coterie, fearing protests and media glare, didn't want her to die in a hospital in Delhi? Do you then implicitly agree that a victim of physical violence, torture and rape in say Burdwan or Patna or Kolkata or anyplace else in India outside of Delhi, just can't hope for the same attention and care simply because she is not based in Delhi and also possibly because she doesn't have parents and a family which is well connected and can pull strings at the highest levels (this last bit is hearsay but I see a cross-section of posts in social media buzzing also with this 'info')
These are questions which need answering and to which answers should be demanded among other things. Symbolic protests or candlelight marches, IMHO, will do nothing to address the problem. In fact, cynical though it may seem, the present lot of politicians,impostors, hypocrites, scoundrels and carpetbaggers will be very happy to encourage such emotional outpourings and symbolic gestures, shed some crocodile tears, do some showboating for the unwashed masses and legislate some ill-thought out laws and regulations hastily and then go back to business as usual because public memory and news cycles are notoriously short and the 2014 polls are still way, way away.
Without concerted action on some of these fronts by the people, individually & collectively, all these discussions and soap-operas will be like so much hot air which finally amounts to nothing. People usually get the government they deserve and it is up to the people of India to send the message right across that they deserve much better and that they are not prepared to wait any longer.
Postscript: Glimpses of the aftermath
The return, the hurried cremation, the posturing and the criticism
The damage in terms of perception, image and credibility internationally
Also based on discussions with and inputs from +Bobby Mathoda, +krishnadas menon, +Santosh Nayak & +Abhijit Roy