Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Do we really want justice?

If we were to make a list of the most urgent problems in India, I can safely bet that ‘politicians’ would be on everyone’s list. They might even top the list. They are on my list too.

Corruption is endemic. We are defeated by it in every way imaginable. And while politicians or bureaucrats are definitely not the only ones guilty, it is actually important to focus on political leaders. Not just because India is represented by politicians, but also because they reflect our own aspirations. They are our face in the mirror — a face bloated out of all recognition but still, there’s no denying that the politician’s face represents the majority.

This is key: Representation. It is why ministers are called upon to resign when something goes very wrong. Say, a railway accident happened and the fault lay with faulty equipment or over-worked drivers. The rail minister may offer to resign, as a way of saying: ‘I am in charge and a systemic failure is my failure’. If it is clear that another group of people are responsible, they must be punished instead.

If we fail to punish politicians in a democratic way, our democracy sours. When we fail to question politicians about why they act in ways that are contrary to the electorate’s values and aspirations, we are building a society without accountability.

If we do this over several years, then there is little doubt that this is what we actually want for ourselves — we do not want to be punished for corruption; we do not want to be held accountable at our jobs; we recognise that we ourselves would divide people on the basis of caste and religion because it suits us to do. We would inflict violence upon other citizens when we think we can get away with it, and that is why we do not really cry out against politicians. Because far too many of us are guilty of the same acts of commission and omission.

This is part of the reason why I was very pleased to hear that Sajjad Kichloo, Minister of State (Home) had resigned in the wake of the violence that broke out recently in Kishtwar, Jammu and Kashmir. Kichloo may or may not have ‘felt’ responsible. After all, the army was called out in a few hours, a curfew was imposed, and hundreds of people were not killed.

Still, there were allegations that the state police did not do its job. And so, the minister shouldered his responsibility and the J&K government promptly ordered an inquiry. Therefore, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has every right to ask — what about Gujarat 2002?

There was evident mismanagement at least, if not a deliberate pogrom. One can ask the same question about Delhi, 1984. In fact, one should ask and one is asking. What about Bombay 1992? What about 1993? Who resigned? How long did it take for someone in power to take responsibility?

Surely, someone should have resigned. Surely, a good leader does not promote and reward trouble-makers? Surely, such leaders don’t deserve to be re-elected?

But if we continue to insist that this is good leadership, if we continue to elect such men and women to office, then that is a way of saying that we are electing what is us. At least, the majority of us. That the twisted face in the mirror does not just wear our face like a mask. That face is our face. That soul is our soul, and it does not crave justice.

Which leaves us with this awful question — if not justice, then what do we actually crave?

First published here


Atul said...

A good post! It is more of a reflection of how we shape the politics democratically by voting the good leaders and punishing the bad ones. This is how democracy works.

Unfortunately it doesn't work this way in our country. Classic case is of Ajit Pawar who is allegedly responsible for a Rs.70k Cr. scam. He resigned but very soon was put back in his position of Dy. CM as the Govt knows people will not punish him for misdeeds in the next election. In fact they will vote NCP again and create a mess.

Unknown said...

What do we as a nation crave ?
Freebies, right from the cradle to the grave !
Free lunches for me and my cousin and my caste
Else we sit on a dharna and unto death, fast
Every election for us is a goodies train
Free rice, saris, laptops must rain
So if you can waive my agricultural loan,
And give me my daily NREGA dole,
I will vote for you and bring you to power
Who cares if the country ends up in the sewer?
You can loot and plunder the land and its gentry
After all, bhai If I was in your place, I would do the same to the country
Our biggest problem is not the politicians or their lust
Its simply put, just us

m. said...

today i was steaming and trying to look up tenancy laws to see if it was legal to say you have to rent only to 'families' and not to 'single people'. i came across an article you'd written in 2011. and then i wondered if you still write. i'm so glad you do. i don't know if you remember me - i stopped a while (a lifetime it feels!) back. we've had some discussions on and off, so i felt like i used to know you a bit.

just dropped in to say hi, i couldn't find an email link to contact you privately, so i'm afraid i'm reaching you here.

lovely to see your fire is still alive: more power to you. :)

Unknown said...

I agree with your this post that 99% problems may solve if the politician focus on right topic.

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