The Sad State of our Democracy
When we were little kids in school, Civics used to be one of the drab subjects. Drab but important, because it taught us a lot about our society, law, democratic principles, governance etc. There was the cool sounding, ‘democracy is government by the people, from the people, for the people.’ There were concepts such as – ‘the cabinet sinks and swims together.’ Moral responsibility used to be stressed upon.
That was all obviously a lie. Most of our current leaders neither seem to have any sense of moral uprightness, nor are any scams big enough for them to take ownership of their mistakes and step down, as if stuck to their seats by Fevicol. The moral high ground is clearly fenced with double barbed wire and out of bounds for them.
While Indian politics have broken all records of pettiness in the recent few years, this past week has been a new low. While our political parties were falling over each other in passing the new reservation bill for promotions, a girl in Delhi got brutally raped. The incident was so shocking and so horrifying that one shudders just reading the details. The case sparked off a massive outrage across India, culminating in a few thousand people gathering around India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhavan in protest. What did they want? Some answers. Justice for the poor girl battling for her life in hospital. A reassurance that steps will be taken to improve the law and order situation from here.
What did the government do to calm down the disgruntled people who wanted to see the perpetrators brought to justice and steps being taken to improve the law and order situation in the country?
Allegedly, even rubber bullets.
Precisely the way a democratic government in a country that gave the world Satyagraha should treat its citizens. Not.
Here we have a government that has leaders who will go on TV, shed a tear, and go back to their NSG commandos, while the common man goes about sruggling to stay safe. They gloat about the police doing an excellent job of nabbing the culprits in two days, but somehow avoid asking themselves how such a ghastly crime happened in the first place. If this is what happens to a woman who was traveling in the capital, escorted by a male friend, in what was ostensibly public transport, is anyone safe anymore?
Crying on TV is not enough. Shahrukh Khan does it in every movie. It’s time we got something more than tears and false assurances. Here’s an example. While the government has promised setting up fast track courts for rape cases, there are news of the same government shutting down 1700 odd such courts last year, for lack of resources. From where would these new courts be setup then? Why do we even need fast track courts? Why should the other cases languish for decades? Why should going to court be something of a minor torture for the so called common man?
How long will our leaders rely on the people’s short-term memory to keep them safe? Soon we will start remembering, and that will be a difficult day. By the way, I still remember Bofors, CWG, 2G, Coal gate, and the various other scams that are still awaiting closure.
There’s a good chance that once the immediate outrage dies down, we will hear the same excuses. She must have done something. Why was she out at night? She must have been wearing western clothes. She probably smokes. She must have been drinking. She must have shown some skin, which is like an invitation card for amorous men on our streets. Please, for god’s sake, don’t. There are no excuses this time.
This case is just one instance. There have been sexual crimes against 3 year old girls, pregnant women, senior citizens; it’s like no one is out of bounds anymore. While we were promised an India that moves into the 21st century as a developed nation, we’re now closer to a lawless, Banana republic, while the Parliament spends most of its time in an adjourned state. This wasn’t the democratic process our NCERT Civics books taught us. Maybe even that syllabus needs to be updated, along with all the hitherto harmless cartoons that are being removed from our textbooks.
In a democratic institution, we expect some accountability from our leaders, not silence. We want to be heard, to be acknowledged, to be reassured that our leaders actually care for the nation’s people. We want our leaders to talk to us, tell us what they are planning to do to correct the state of affairs, tell us we are not just votes, to be approached before an election and wooed by promises that may or may not be fulfilled. Like a protesting girl spoke on TV from India Gate today, ‘we don’t want reservation. We want to be safe.’ We want to live healthy lives. We want our children to be safe.
Is that too much to ask for?
Things seem to have reached a tipping point now. The people are upset, and getting increasingly vocal about it. If our leaders continue to ignore them, things can only get worse from here. Everyone fantasises about a revolution, but that will not be pleasant. Anarchy will be even worse than what we have right now, for everybody involved.
Can our real rulers please stand up and show us that we didn’t make a mistake by getting them to power? Or just change those civics books so we understand the concept of democracy better.