‘India is ripe for revolution’

B.S.RAGHAVAN, The Hindu Business Line, October 14, 2012:

The TV news channel, Headlines Today, in association with Bloomberg TV, holds an hour-long discussion every Saturday on burning issues, moderated by the iconic Tim Sebastian of BBC’s HardTalk fame, in the series titled The Outsider. It takes the form of a motion which is voted upon by a large interactive audience after being debated by eminent figures in public life.

I was clean bowled by the daring motion — India is ripe for revolution — brought before the audience on October 13, and the no-holds-barred, no-punches-pulled expression of views marking the proceedings.

The participants in the debate were the former Minister and political gadfly, Mani Shankar Iyer, the former IAS officer-turned social activist, Aruna Roy, who played a monumental role in making the Right to Information a reality, Prof Dipankar Gupta, reputed for his perceptive contributions to raising the quality of public discourse, and Jay Panda, the youthful and public-spirited MP, elected to the Lok Sabha from Kendrapara in Odisha.

Amazingly, all of them unanimously agreed that the people were seething with “searing rage” over their utter helplessness in the face of Himalayan corruption, rampant misgovernance, insufferable arrogance of politicians, the sadistic callousness of administration everywhere and the perversion and subversion of the institutions of democracy itself.

Iyer and Roy were sure that India was heading for a revolution. Iyer thought it could be staved off by the devolution of more powers to panchayati raj institutions.

Aruna Roy felt that the revolution in India might assume forms and characteristics different from what had been seen elsewhere.

‘MILLION MUTINIES’

Gupta and Panda took the position that despite all the problems India faced, things could still be managed within the Constitutional framework. Because of the self-corrective mechanisms and the ameliorative measures taken, and the undoubted progress that the country had made, conditions might not reach the level of desperation leading to a revolution.

But the motion was carried with the 58 per cent of the audience voting in favour.

I thought that, of the four participants, Aruna Roy came through forcefully as one who had her finger on the pulse of the people. She talked of a “million mutinies” already erupting on varying scales in different parts of the country in the form of rasta roko, public protests against lack of basic amenities, agitations against police brutalities and the like.

A revolution was inevitable if these coalesced into a country-wide mass uprising. And then, there would be no stopping it.

The Maoist insurgency itself was an incipient form of revolution, being the mobilisation of the people to resist the sufferings inflicted upon them by those in power.

INSOLENCE

Just as the debate was going on, the print and electronic media all over India were bursting at the seams with news of the shocking exposes regarding Robert Vadra and the Law Minister, Salman Khurshid, and his wife, the menacing of a toll attendant by Porbander (Gandhiji’s birthplace!) MP with his gun for merely asking for his identity and the alleged kidnapping of a Chief Medical Officer by a Minister in UP — all of it made worse by the utterly insulting and contemptuous attitude shown by politicians for the resentment of the people.

Some personal experiences of mine also indicate that the governing class is totally oblivious to the powder keg India is fast becoming, almost as a precursor to an Indian Spring akin to the Arab Spring (which, it must be remembered, started with a small incident of a policewoman misbehaving with a vegetable vendor in the capital of Tunisia).

At two functions of members of the younger generation I asked the boys and girls what their dreams were. At one place, a boy stood up and described the gruesome and gory things he wanted to do to politicians he named. At the other place, a girl said that since elections only led to the exchange of one set of goons and crooks for another, all the voters should, to a person, boycott the next elections and create a Constitutional crisis.

A respectable senior citizen actually told me that the Maoists should target Ministers and bureaucrats, instead of police constables and petty government servants! Are our politicians aware of the “searing rage” brimming all over the Internet and the media? One very much doubts, looking at their continuing insolence.

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