Friday, August 19, 2011

Turning a deaf ear to public opinion can awfully backfire

The 74yr old cheerful and optimistic Gandhian, Anna Hazare, has surely set a precedent not only for the people and governing institutions of India, but also for democratic nations across the globe, testifying that, if you have a will, and that will is lead with honestly and perseverance, no power play can really stop you from driving oneself and the masses towards realizing that noble cause. More importantly, who says that it is impossible to adopt non violent means of protest to exercise freedom of expression? Looking at the peaceful means adopted by Anna and his team, we certainly can conclude that the Gandhian method of Satyagraha works wonders even in this 21st century of modernization and capitalism.

Anna Hazare defied the government’s toothless Lokpal bill which was hastily tabled in the Parliament without considering the anti-corruption workable draft by the civil society group lead by Anna. This was not the first time that the civil society warned the government about the namesake bill. The tug-of-war between the government and civil society has been on for over six months now with the government not relenting an inch to even listen to what the civil society has proposed. This was the first goof up that the government committed.

This lead from one error to another leading to the biggest blunders of almost mysteriously kidnapping the anti-corruption crusader, whose only fault was that he wanted to protest against rampant corruption that was rotting our system and dwarfing growth of its people. Sadly, the government didn’t foresee what was coming with Anna Hazare’s detention in Tihar prison. In a democracy, the government simply can’t stifle opinions of people using arrogance of power. No matter how big or small, you just can’t ignore public outcry.

And this is what democracy is all about. International media has wrongly likened India’s anti-corruption movement with the Arab uprising and the jasmine revolution. When in reality, the anti-corruption protest in India only reinforces the power of our democracy. What Anna and the people are able to do today, is only because we are the world’s biggest democracies. The people of a totalitarian regime can’t even think of adopting these means of protest.

With the domino of errors that the government has committed, it missed out on the opportunity to engage in some intellectual debate on civil society’s version of the bill. No doubt Anna Hazare is a leader of the masses, but the bill drafted by his team certainly is not error proof. Even the Anna team has never said that their version of the bill needs to be tabled in the Parliament. All they requested was for a healthy discussion, a debate, and most importantly a referendum on the anti-corruption bill. Agree that the Constitution does not have a provision for a referendum and it would be unconstitutional to have one. But in the same breath, the Constitution is a living document and it can be amended.

As I am writing my opinion piece, Annaji who is on an indefinite fasting protest is making his way from Tihar prison towards the Ramlila grounds surrounded by huge people frenzy who can’t stop raving about the Anna metaphor. The government must be shamed right now looking at the mounting followers of Anna Hazare…but unfortunately they got themselves there by making those many ungrammatical errors. Had our respected Prime Minister used his wisdom to anticipate the upshot of his acts, he would have a face to show. Sadly our PM rather listened to his ill advising coterie who left him faceless.

A strong anti-corruption bill will certainly not bring an end to corruption in days or a few years from now. It is indeed a sustainable process which should not only monitor and punish the bribe taker but also the bribe giver, who is equally accountable. As stated by PM, we agree that, there certainly is no magic wand to eradicate corruption. But had Mr. Manmohan Singh whirled his anti corruption wand 3-4yrs back, the problem would not be as big as it is today.

The magnanimous India Against Corruption (IAC) movement spanned out by Anna (our hero) gives a message to each one of us to stop stomaching discrimination and exploitation, but rather exercise our right of freedom of expression. More importantly the movement also scribbles the fact that the right to freedom does not give anyone the right to riot. The peaceful and Gandhian methods of protest used before our independence is pretty much promising even today.

Looking at what this 74year crusader has done, it certainly is time for all our retired friends to stop living a withdrawn life... rather gather themselves to awaken the masses to fight evil the Anna Hazare way. The youth are too busy in their hectic day-to-day lives and it is only our retired folks who can motivate the youth to pause and act against the evils ingesting our system.

Post script
Folks, did you catch visuals of Anna Hazare’s marathon run to protect himself from the crowds? After seeing those visuals, I have ditched Milind Soman as my Marathon mentor. I’m now going to follow Annaji all the way to Marathon 2012. He surely can give anyone a run for his money :-) Even more Anna lost 3kgs in 3days of fasting and am planning to take this as my dieting tip. Anna Sir, way to go!

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Friday, August 5, 2011

The Armageddon of Terrorism

Two successive terrorist attacks traumatized the people of the world recently. The financial capital of India, Mumbai, was blown apart in a matter of 10mins by bouts of serial bomb blasts on 13th Jul 2011, and so was the capital city of Norway, Oslo on 22nd July 2011. The attacks left the people of Mumbai shaken and stirred, arousing anger against the governing authorities demanding their right to security. While the people of Norway although were initially shocked by these attacks, remained calm and resilient.

So, why that difference in reaction to almost similar catastrophes? Mumbai which houses a population of approximately 20.4 million people accounting for about 20% of India’s population alone, has been struck by terrorism not once, not twice or three times...but this city that I love so much, has been brutally hit umpteen numbers of times. While on the other hand, for the people of Norway, which houses about 20% of Mumbai’s population of approximately 4 million people, it was a first and hopefully (and surely) the last kind of brutal attack after World War II.

No doubt that the whole wide world is being terrorized and neither you nor I really know about what’s in store for us tomorrow or even the very next minute. But then, in between uncertainty and cruelty like this, there is 'hope' and 'faith'. ‘Hope’, that similar attacks like these will not repeat itself, and ‘faith’, that the internal system will be strengthened and would be intolerant toward such ruinous mishaps from repeating itself.

The people of the United States of America may criticize the debt crisis and the rising figures of unemployment in the US...but I don't think a single American has or will ever complain about the feeling of insecurity after the 9/11 twin attacks in New York city. The twin attacks certainly jolted the people of the nation, but it surely didn't shake their faith in the government. The people are assured that henceforth, anyone trying to plan such attacks again on American soil will have to be a superhero with supernatural powers. So much is their faith in the security system of the nation! Each global citizen anywhere in the world wants to have that same feeling of security.

Instead of assuring people of better methods for curbing such attacks from revisiting us, a man who supposedly has inherited the right to become the future PM of India says that the centre can prevent 99% of terrorism but the remaining 1% of it is bound to happen. Now how would anyone react to the arithmetic justification of this situation…that to, when it is coming from a government representative? Did this supposed PM-prospect mean that the 13/7 attacks in Mumbai, which took 25 innocent lives and left so many limping (for life), belonged to the 'inevitable' category of attacks. Shameful justification! When you don’t know what to say or do in a hysterical situation, it is better to simply shut-up!

Why do these cruel bloody attacks happen in the first place? Why would any sane individual or cluster want to take innocent lives of people they have never met nor have anything to do with? Even if we suspect insanity to be the reason behind these attacks, how can such illogical people make flawless plans and execute them with sheer precision then?

Bridging inequality in society
Don’t we need to first stop pointing a finger towards a particular section of society as soon as a terrorist attack strikes anywhere in the world. Why are Muslims being stereotyped? Is it really fair? When the Oslo twin bombing happened, speculators all around the world tried to scrutinize Islamist group influence/ involvement in the attacks. When in reality, the lone terrorist who bombed this beautiful city was an anti-Muslim extremist and a contrarian to the local immigration policies. The more we pigeonhole our Muslim brethren, the more we isolate them from the rest of the world, and the more divide we create. Someone’s religion is certainly not an indicator to judge whether he/she is a terrorist. It is the circle that a person lives in and the way he is programmed to think and behave that makes a person do crazy things. Isolation and discrimination are also the two deadliest evils.

Ask the lone terrorist who took Mumbai to ransom on 26/11 - Ajmal Kasab - why he aimlessly shot down so many innocent people, and he spontaneously replies saying that he fought for ‘jihad’. Interrogators did ask him what is the meaning of jihad and he said, "It is about killing and getting killed and becoming famous". Muslim clergies rubbished this, saying that, anybody who says that jihad is a ‘holy war’ needs a life. Jihad instead broadly means, striving hard by putting in your best efforts to achieve a goal by overcoming one's own weakness.

Terror surely is growing not only in India but around the world and it is time that each nation comes together carrying a single agenda to fight terrorism right from its roots. It is easier to celebrate martyrdom than to fix responsibility or make changes, so that more people don't get martyred. We need to act now!

Increasing security and a joint global anti-terrorism plan is the way forward. No nation can fight terrorism alone. It has to be fought in consultation with each other. Fighting terrorism is not only the business of the nation that has become victim to frequent attacks, but should be a concerted effort across nation pan-world. Just like we aim to become a world with zero nuclear weapons and also aim to reduce global carbon footprints to zero, shouldn’t we also aim for ‘zero- terrorism’ as well?

God Bless our world!

Post script:
I have been to Norway once and the first and the last thing I remember of it is the sight of the landscape 30mins before touching landing strip. Just one word to describe it…“Heaven”. Besides that, Norway is the only nation in the whole wide world which has been uncontroversial with peace and equality being her topmost priority. Truly a country which not only bestows humanitarians with the Nobel Peace prize award for their outstanding contributions in Peace, but also a nation that walks the talk.

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