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'Wednesdays will be our days of national shame'

Prem Panicker | December 03, 2008 12:57 IST
Last Updated: December 03, 2008 13:38 IST


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The outpouring of anger in the wake of 26/11 appears to be finding focus, and direction. And purpose: namely, a nationwide movement of civil disobedience, that borrows from the techniques of India's freedom struggle.

As Mumbai prepares a massive protest at the Gateway of India this evening, a similar one is being organised in New Delhi [Images], at India Gate, 6 pm on Wednesday.

We have had enough, it is time to do something, say organisers of the Delhi protest. Their draft manifesto, a copy of which is with Rediff.com, elaborates on what they mean when they say they are fed up:

"We the people of India have had enough.

"Enough of terrorist attacks that threaten our lives and that of our loved ones and rip apart the fabric of our cities and our society;

"Enough of politicians of all parties who fiddle while terrorists burn, then seek to appease our anger with platitudes and pointless 'resignations';

"Enough of excuses from prime ministers and accusations from wannabe prime ministers;

"Enough of the empty rhetoric of governments that promise action but give us only inquiry commissions;

"Enough of the callous unconcern of the political class that has resulted in this country we love being subjected to constant attacks from external forces.

"We have left this country in your hands for all these years, hoping that you will do what we elected you to do. You have failed us -- miserably, and on every front.

We have had enough. And we are, from this moment on, taking the country back into our own hands."

How? Supreme Court advocate Rahul Mehra, one of the organisers, told Rediff.com: "We intend today's rally to be the start of a national movement. We will link up with the organisers in Mumbai; together, we will tap into like-minded people in all metropolitan cities and across the country. We will rally every single Wednesday, and the rallies will spread around the country, until our demands are met."

The New Delhi group has prepared a draft document that lists some nine immediate action points that they demand action on. These include concrete ideas to strengthen the security apparatus, to better protect borders and coastlines, to delink the police and security personnel from the political apparatus and have them be made answerable to the law alone, and such.

The key demand, however, relates to the political sphere where, say Rahul Mehra and other organisers, nothing has happened other than finger pointing, knee jerk statements and tokenism.

"We demand that all political parties in India at the state and central level abandon their narrow concerns and come together immediately to formulate, and announce, a consensual national policy on the subject of internal security; we demand further that all parties pledge to uphold this national policy irrespective of who is in power," says the manifesto.

If not, what? "We the people of this country have two very powerful weapons: money, and votes. We will, at the rally this evening, outline ways in which we will be able to use those two weapons to increase pressure on the political apparatus," Mehra says.

The first, money, is translating into a move to ask people to refuse to pay taxes; to, instead, pay it into an escrow account where it will be held, pending action.

The other, votes, relates to a little known provision in the Conduct of Election Rules (1961) that permits voters to go to the polling booth, register his presence, and then refuse to vote, as an indication of his dissatisfaction with all contestants and their parties..

"Essentially, if the number of voters who go to the booth, register their presence and refuse to vote outnumber the number of votes for the winning candidate, the election is declared null and void, and has to be redone. Moreover, the abstentions are seen as an indication of the electorate's lack of confidence in that particular candidate, and hence those candidates cannot contest in the re-poll," says one of the organisers.

There is some doubt on whether this is in fact valid in law, or just one of the recommendations made in 2004 by then Chief Election Commissioner T S Krishnamurthy. But that, say organisers, is not the point:

"The vote is a powerful weapon, and we will explore various means to use it to send a message to the political class that depends on us to vote once in every five years and ignores us for the rest of the time and lets us die," says Rahul Mehra.

The organisers, both in New Delhi and in Mumbai, say they intend for this to be a movement for change that will not ease off � "Ease off? It will snowball," says a Mumbai-based organiser � until real, quantifiable change has been effected.

"In the past, we have expressed our anger, and then moved on," says former Rediff.com staffer turned filmmaker Suparn Varma, one of the organisers of the rally in Mumbai. "Not this time.

"This time, we will use every tool at our disposal � social networking sites like Facebook and Orkut and many more, the media, every tool that can be harnessed, to make sure the momentum grows, not ebbs. We will be there at the Gateway every Wednesday till we see action, and in the weeks to come, it won't be just New Delhi and Mumbai -- we will roll this out to every city across the country.

"We will mark Wednesdays as our days of national shame, grief and rage, from now until we are satisfied that our lives will be secured, that our grief and rage has been heard and acted upon. We will keep up this pressure, we will build on it, until concrete action is taken," says Varma.






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