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An obituary for democracy

July 23, 2013 17:57 IST

Democracy has died -- and we, my friends, killed her, says Paloma Sharma.

A restaurant in Mumbai was shut down on Monday by certain persons who were offended by certain things that the owner of the restaurant had printed at the bottom of the bills.

If you’ve been following the news then you will obviously understand why the above blanks must be left unfilled. There are higher authorities in this world that none of us must dare offend, it seems. However, if you’re still scratching your head over the vague first line of this obituary for democracy, then, as Voltaire once said, “To learn who rules over you, simply learn who you cannot criticise”.

Ask yourself: can you criticise anyone? Can you ask questions? Can you be honest about your beliefs without the fear that all that you love will be taken away from you? I don’t know about you but I cannot.

Yes, I am afraid.

I fear not only the certain persons from a certain organisation mentioned above, for they are just temporary, but of their position of power that passes along from gang to gang who abuse it until it cannot even bring itself to cry over its own fate.

A great man once said that power is poison. However, this humble wordsmith would like to respectfully disagree. Power is but a tool and a tool cannot be blamed for breaking the pillar if the workmen themselves are brutal in their use of it -- and yes, the workmen have been brutal.

Brutality is a perk of the job, one would think, given how frequently it is unleashed upon lesser mortals.

Although all of us know that the fat dusty book called the Constitution of India, which lies in some old, crumbling library, allows neither the abuse of power, nor its unwarranted display, we have seen too much to believe in its promise of equal justice for all, anymore.

No, it is not the fault of the Constitution, nor that of the courts -- for they are all ultimately answerable to us. The fault, my dear fellow citizens, lies not in the higher authorities, but in ourselves that we allow them to burn, rape, loot and kill us and our children.

So when a certain restaurant is shut down by certain people, it is not because those people can do it -- it is because we allow them to do it, and get away with it.

Nobody came into our homes in the dead of the night and put a knife to democracy’s throat. We have been breeding them in broad daylight for years now. Nobody snatched away our right to freedom of speech. We swapped it willingly for the guilty pleasure of taking offence to everything that is against our most basic identities -- not as Indians, no, but as followers of different gods, as members of different castes.

We did it ourselves.

On this day, as the rain bleeds the world of its colours outside our windows, we struck the final blow. They came and they went, doing as they pleased, and we remained silent. It was the last nail in her coffin. democracy died -- and we, my friends, killed her.

Paloma Sharma