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Why citizens have a right to be angry

Last updated on: July 20, 2011 15:45 IST

Why citizens have a right to be angry

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Hemanth Kumar G

It is time Indians woke up. We must keep this simmering anger and new found muscular mood alive. We must demand that the government investigate, prosecute and render speedy justice. And not just for this round of bomb blasts but for every bomb blast and communal riot that has happened in recent memory, says Hemanth Kumar G

Helplessness, Fear, Sadness, Anger. These were some of the sentiments expressed by many of my friends and many of them chose to express it in their tweets and status updates too.

As time passed after the bomb blasts, the predominant mood had turned to anger -- not the seething kind but the simmering kind.

Gone were the Mumbaikars' famous genteel resilience and reconciling spirit. This too shall not pass for them. The media seemed to have picked up the mood correctly as they reported it.

Is this a new generation for whom platitudes are not enough? It seems so going by what ordinary citizens have said on TV. They are fed up and they want results.

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Going by the recent turn of events, they are okay with even near totalitarian or somewhat baked results (like the Jan Lokpal). The consequences be damned.

Our politicians have not cottoned on. They don't know this new Indian mood.

Last time around, after 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, the government sacked a home minister and got in a Harvard-educated tough talker.

They sacked an unimaginative chief minister too in Mumbai. And this seemed to suffice. The population may not have been happy but they were satisfied.

To his credit, the then new Home Minister did many things like setting up National Security Guard centres in all metros, a spanking new National Investigation Agency and spoke about developing the police force capabilities.

He said and did all the right things.



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And suddenly the Indian bureaucracy too developed a spine. Our home secretary almost spoilt ongoing talks with Pakistan with some plain talk.

Now the government seems lost. This time around, they cannot afford to sack the Home Ministry and the Chief Minister.

These guys were performers and were supposed to have fixed the problem. But the same problem has repeated and these gents are clueless (by their own admission). And the Jan Lokpal movement inspired population is not willing to take this. They want results -- here and now.

But is this muscular mood of the population wrong? Or is this the best thing that could have happened?



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For the first time, I am hearing the population asking for action and justice. They have not started asking yet for retribution and closure (More about that later).

But gone seems the blase nature that was wrongly hailed as the Mumbaikar spirit of endurance. Reactions in the past did not come from the general population.

They chose to keep their mouths shut and minded their business.

The government did not have to do much except to appoint commissions of inquiry under a retired judge who would deliver a report after 48 extensions and 17 years.

No need to make arrests and prosecute offenders. Why bother with all that when no one was asking for it? But didn't reactions happen?

Of course they did.



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It was plotted and executed by aggrieved parties or their sympathisers. SIMI, IM were examples of such groups.

And there were even blasts supposedly done by Hindu radicals in Ajmer and in the Samjhauta Express. But these were the minor ones.

The major reactions were communal riots. As each communal riot happened in reaction to a real or a perceived aggrievement they triggered bigger future ones.

And why did these series of communal riots happen? Because the population did not seek action and justice from the then governments.

They willingly allowed themselves to be fooled by inquiry commissions, job offers, solatiums to the riot affected people and families.


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If the government will not take action and render justice, fringe groups will work towards retribution and that starts an unending cycle of communal riots and vigilantism.

However, even justice is not enough. What we need is closure followed by reconciliation.

The only time I have seen true reconciliation happen in India was during the much maligned Rajiv Gandhi's government.

Genuine attempts were made to solve long standing problems in Punjab and Assam and enduring peace was delivered.

Once reconciliation was achieved, the local populations did not have problems with the punishment of perpetrators of terrorist acts even though they had sympathised with them before the reconciliation.

However, sadly though, even the same Rajiv Gandhi did not do much to prosecute and convict perpetrators of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.


Image: Former PM Rajiv Gandhi

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What is happening ever since? We have people rioting or killing with impunity.

They pull down disputed structures, burn cars with sleeping children inside, engineer bomb blasts, burn a train or execute retaliatory massacres. With either a helpless or a tacit authority watching.

The perpetrators get away without as much as a fig leaf of justice being rendered.

And even in cases where there have been convictions, the government will not execute the sentences.

Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru will outlive us probably. Nor will we even get to know the true perpetrators of the Godhra and post-Godhra riots.


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It is time Indians woke up. We must keep this simmering anger and new found muscular mood alive.

We must demand that the government investigate, prosecute and render speedy justice. And not just for this round of bomb blasts but for every bomb blast and communal riot that has happened in recent memory.

Then we must start an exercise on reconciliation. The communal fault lines engineered by the British and exacerbated by Partition must be bridged forever.

Unless this happens, we are not going to escape this endless stream of bomb blasts and communal riots. At the coffee table and Facebook discussions, let us stop the moral equivalence of 1984 riots with the 2002 riots.

All perpetrators irrespective of their religious hue and howsoever high they may be in the political hierarchy must be prosecuted and convicted. Till then we will lose citizens. This time we or our near ones escaped death. Next time around it could be you or me.

Hemanth Kumar G is an IIMA alumnus and heading operations of a telecom company in Chennai.


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