For everyone who is exercised enough to give vent by joining the demonstrations at Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Ground, there are a few thousands who remain quiet. This is where the strength of the corrupt is. This is what pre-empts a Jasmine Revolution and why India will not have a Tahrir Square, says Mahesh Vijapurkar.
India's Jasmine Revolution moment is yet to arrive and take a long time to happen. Its Tahrir Square is nowhere in sight despite the long-duration demonstration by Anna Hazare at Delhi's Jantar Mantar and Baba Ramdev's show at Ramlila Grounds. And this is a matter for worry for a nation that despite 64 years of Independence is yet to get its act together and become citizen-centric, the very intent of seeking Independence.
There are reasons why the inflection point has not yet arrived, and sticking my neck out, hazard that it may not arrive at all. As a people, we seem to be far more tolerant of ills than is good for us, and fatalistic about everything; if anything happens for the good, it is because the dice rolled that way.
More among us would wait for benefits to accrue by letting someone else take up the battles for us. We are a passive people whether it concerns our rights but privileges are to be got by hook or crook.
On the other hand, we have people at the helm, for whom good governance is not a duty but an option that could be safely sidestepped with only a minor and transient ripple easily quelled. Because, they prefer to rule than govern, intent being to secure gains for themselves, not the people. People are a pretext. And since the time Anna Hazare came to the forefront, some increasingly worrisome features have come to the fore which we would be ignoring at our peril.
The power elite are intolerant of any interference in their way of working. They don't like to be told that they are going wrong because that is their chosen route and who are others to question them? This is costing the people a lot more than can be imagined. If they take to the streets, voice their grievances through the civil society route, it is made clear that any opposition to them would be crushed.
Union minister Kapil Sibal saying, after ousting Baba Ramdev from his demonstration in a ham-handed midnight operation that "this is a lesson for others" speaks volumes on how the government intends to handle the feeble attempts of the country at a Jasmine Revolution. This is dangerous whose portends have not been understood enough.
If that were to be a lesson, then it is patent that after a generational gap of 36 years, the country has forgotten the excesses of the infamous Emergency. You do anything beyond the nominal, the powers that be seem to be saying, and they shall crush you and then deal with you using every institutional weapon fashioned into a dirty tricks department, much worse than what even rabid dictatorial regimes have and use. In the Arab world, the despots seem to quake in fear, here they are getting brazen.
And why should they quiver in fear when Baba Ramdev, minutes after announcing "I am here and will remain" just slinks away from the battleground disguised as a woman? Good leaders don't do that, only rats desert a ship. Having said that, one has to ask the government fair and square: if there have been gross irregularities like evasion of Rs 58 lakh stamp duties in land deals and his second-in-command has dubious passports and claims to Indian nationality, why did the government wait to pounce only after it the yoga instructor started his demonstration? These irregularities were noted in reports and requests atleast three years earlier.
Was it because the government allows anything only as long as it does not upset the applecart of the political-bureaucratic-corporate power alliance which feeds on corruption?
While Sibal's lesson-for-others posturing is dangerous in itself, and sufficient reason for any democracy loving prime minister to show him the door, if required with less violence than what was seen at Ramlila Maidan that midnight, the increasingly abusive linguistics is emerging from the motor-mouths of the establishment.
One of them is Digvijay Singh who seems to be programmed to say the most outrageous because the media loves it. Baba Ramdev may be a tax-evader, a dirty dealer, a hoarder of wealth, much like the politicians are but to call him a "thug' in public does not elevate levels of public discourse.
Why are the cases being dug out now? To show the centre of a stir that has the potential to slowly evolve into a storm is not a sterling person to merit public respect. If he had routinely and promptly been exposed earlier, it would have been the hallmark of a civilised, law-abiding government. But to use it as a weapon to bring down a stir for a genuine cause is to take governance to its nadir.
What else to expect when the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thinks such dangerous operation which could well have triggered a stampede and potentially led to several deaths "unfortunate" but "necessary"? He is so conscious of corruption that he merely "reminds" his ministers they need to declare their assets!
Letting Sadhvi Ritambhara share the dais with him was Ramdev's error, says the Congress. She is an accused in the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya and had said communally charged things before and after December 6, 1992. She is therefore bad company for anyone who means to do well by the country so Ramdev take notice. She is in the same category as Narendra Modi, to be ostracised and pilloried. Why, because the legal system is unable to bring them to justice for over a decade? Rhetoric is more powerful than the systems which we built by law.
If Ritambhara is bad medicine, then the entire Congress party which thrives and survives on the Indira-Rajiv legacy, not the liberal Nehru thought, mind you, is also culpable in the three-day massacre of Sikhs soon after Indira was killed and Rajiv came to power. None of them have been brought to book, none in the Congress even wants to revisit the past and a wimpish apology in Lok Sabha is supposed to wipe out that memory which parallels the post-Godhra images. Only difference is when the Sikhs were killed, television cameras were few and far between. Anything to sidestep the issue and divert attention.
But then, one does not expect the corrupt to yield their territory and give up on future earnings easily and every ruse would be used to resist inroads by the well-meaning citizens. In this, they have allies, which in this case, is the citizen himself. For everyone who is exercised enough to give vent by joining the demonstrations at Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Ground, there are a few thousands who remain quiet, as if they are on a different planet.
This is where the strength of the corrupt is. This is what pre-empts a Jasmine Revolution and India would not have a Tahrir Square. This is what makes people their own enemy.
Mahesh Vijapurkar is a Thane-based commentator on public affairs.