Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Common Man's Wednesday

Wednesday of the “aam aadmi, bina gutli wala”

“Wednesday” was a movie devoid of “stars” and made on a modest scale by UTV Movies. It did phenomenal business. A “common man” fed up of the constant bomb blasts in the name of religion, decided to strike back. He chose “Wednesday” since most of the attacks on innocent common men were on Fridays, Tuesdays etal! He chose to retaliate, because, he probably felt that the ‘greatest triumph for evil is for good men to do nothing by it ‘! The establishment was doing nothing and instead, seemed to unwittingly abet terrorism, if not aid it, by its impotence and/or incompetence.

Sometimes, real life imitates the reel life, instead of vice-versa. The attack this Wednesday, in Mumbai, is not exactly a replica of the movie. It is different in many ways. For starters, the bad guys are not the ones who get killed. Many law enforcement officers with impeccable and untarnished records, have lost their lives. Salaskar who could put the fear of God into known “Don’s”, and/or “Daddy’s” was shot dead. Hemant Karkare another highly respected officer and head of the ATS, was shot in the chest (in spite of a bullet proof vest?) and lost his life. There are plenty of civilians, whose only fault, is that they choose to travel by rail on Wednesday night from VST, or chose to walk by Leopold, or even Flora Fountain. Never mind, which religion they followed, what their linguistic orientation, they were all “common men and women’, who were in Mumbai that night.

The Government for the “aam admi” or the “common man” seems to resemble an government of the “aam admi” alright, but of the “bina gutliwala” variety, the one that paradoxically, a soft drink company was promoting as being the juiciest! The common man is certainly a juicy proposition for the dispensation. He is open to exploitation without resistance and he is without a voice, or even a soul. ”Bina gutliwala” to be exact!

Tata Tea in its commercial, requests us to wake up and have a cup of tea. Jago re! says an obnoxious little youngster with a “Mr. Know All” air about him, as he goes around smugly exhorting anyone he sees, to cast their vote. In an earlier commercial, they suggested interviewing the local candidate(MLA/MP) and checking his credentials! Knowing the history of political suffrage in this country, one would be tempted to ask the team on Tata Tea, to wake up and smell the coffee!. But one should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. At least there is a recognition that something is wrong, and that it needs to be corrected. After all, ‘the mile long journey has to begin with the first step’! ‘Jago re’ sounds very much like the clarion call of Vivekananda, “awake arise and stop not till the goal is reached”. However ,the solution is NOT simply in VOTING , but finding the right people to STAND FOR ELECTIONS and ensuring that the ones WHO STAND FOR ELECTIONS DO WHAT IS RIGHT. It’s not so much about checking credentials, but using the system to one’s advantage and organizing groups which can be effective in the system. It is about uniting for a common cause and standing by people who need help and raising your voice and might for what is right. Corporate denizens do this in dead earnest, when it comes to petty office politics and gossip, but somehow loose the plot, when it comes to the large canvas!!

There are however, some exceptions. Silver linings, even as the clouds of despair and darkness, seem to be overhead. The agitation against the destruction of the “silent valley” in the 90’s in Kerala, the legislation to introduce “RTI” in recent times, have all been gains for the common man, as also the legal vigilante protests in Jessica Lal and other cases. Terrorism can be rooted out if there is political will and if we ensure that whoever is guilty of it, irrespective of whether he is a film star, or a ganglord, or a celebrity, gets the maximum punishment possible. Importantly, the punishment should be sufficient deterrent for prospective terrorists. I believe this is where we loose out. Public memory is short and we have “human rights activists”, who seem to be unable to define what a “human being” is and how to provide justice to the aggrieved “human beings” , who have lost their innocent kith and kin, who were also “human beings”, till their lives were snatched away!

Our legal system is too slow and very often, even the convicted get reprieves due to red tape. I see no reason for government money being spent, to keep these “creatures” alive. We have seen innocent hostages being taken by terrorists, to secure the release of their convicted colleagues, as in the Air India Kandahar case, when the BJP was in power.

An eye for an eye, does not make the world blind, it ensures that you have at least one eye left! I think Mahatma Gandhi got his arithmetic wrong! If my will goes, it should be both eyes for an eye for strategic reasons and a kneecap for the road!


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