Sunday, July 17, 2011

Individuals fail, institutions collapse...

Vinay Sahasrabuddhe

Three serial blasts, and the entire public discourse seem to have shifted from Team Anna to what can be called as Team Thanana. (In colloquial Marathi, Thanana is a term often used to describe sheer emptiness or hollowness.) People seem to be becoming used to to the usual making of noises particularly from the side of those who are in power about incident like that of the last Wednesday. Popular response, as always had started from initial scare mongering to sensationalizing to a mature and the much talked about Mumbai Spirit, which; one wonders as to how has not evaporated so far.

In so far as blasts in Mumbai are concerned, since 1993, when the metropolis first witnessed a dastardly attack on its citizens, things have changed to such an extent that people have become familiarized. A newspaper, reporting on the highly satisfactory response to the newly released movie Zindagi Na Mile Dobara (ZNDB), in terms of Box Office has quoted a reaction of a movie buff. “Mumbaikar’s are now accustomed to blasts and in fact immediate post-blasts period is the most safe and secure as the police is on high alert!” says he. Also, it is said that the restraint on the part of both, the people and the government of India, acclaimed worldwide, has been construed as cowardice, not by outsiders but Mumbaikar netizans themselves. Somewhere down the line, does it look like that the City that never sleeps, is slipping in a kind of coma?

There is a quintessential state of numbness all around. One wonders whether, this very de-sensatisation masquerades as the spirit of Mumbai. If political compulsions are making particularly those in power respond in a typical manner, economic compulsions are making Mumbaikars react in a particular way. Their spirit is being applauded but that certainly cannot be a solace. By praising Mumbaikars for the so called Mumbai spirit, the establishment cannot wash of its hands and continue to test the tolerance of its people till another series of blasts takes place.

Nothing brings this all-encompassing hollowness to the fore in a more vivid manner than the stereotype handling of these blasts by the government. When it comes to governance, one wonders when exactly are we going to learn the art of handling such crises in a more mature manner. People no more believe that the government is serious enough when it talks about not allowing any such blasts taking place in the future. No body believes that those in government can and will do anything substantial and serious for preventing such blasts. From Rahul Gandhi to the Zaveri Bazar traders, all are talking about helplessness. As if, just like the issue of preventing infiltration from Bangladesh, preventing bomb blasts too is beyond our capacity. No question of “Catching the bull by horn”, spirit; not even a semblance of “We shall overcome!” attitude. A sense of having given up is all around. Tired of reassuring the people, the guilt-conscious rulers seem to have thrown both their hands in the air. Far from Ram rajya, what UPA is giving is a Ram Bharose rajya, for sure.

The statements made by the Chief Minister barely within forty-eight hours after the blasts have brought his sheer ineptitude to the fore. When people were expecting some strong action and few reassuring words, in an interview to a TV channel the CM went on record nursing his coalition woes saying that “giving Home ministry to the coalition partner NCP was a mistake”, as if a Congress minister would have had greater efficiency and prevented the blasts. Granted that what CM was saying was perhaps factual. But was this the appropriate time to discuss these issues? May be inadvertently, but has not the CM, through his statements poured salt on the wounded psyche of the Mumbaikars?

The decease of Oral Diarrhea seems to be catching up with all and sundry in the Congress establishment. Where was the need for Home Minister PChidambaram to point out that every city in India is vulnerable to terrorist attack? Everybody knows this. But when a Home Minister says the same, it smacks of a war; lost even before being fought. As if this was not enough we have Prince Rahul telling us that 1% of the terrorist attacks cannot be prevented. How does he know about the exact percentage? Does the internal security establishment concur with him? Is it not adding to further demoralization of the police? Why should heroes like Late Tukaram Ombale sacrifice their lives if 1% of such attacks are kind of permissible? Is it not an insult to the entire internal security establishment? Adding insult to the injury is our usual Diggi Raja. How can he sleep quietly without referring to the RSS and the Hindu forces? After all, a character has to say all that a playwright wants him to say. All these happenings and the utterances about them point to twin factors. They are, failed individuals and collapsing institutions.

While Mumbai continues to cry for justice, in the corridors of the apex court, the Central Government is trying to put a brave front and argue that the courts cannot take the role of the executive. The government reminded the judiciary that the courts “do not substitute their views and judgment in matters which squarely fall within the executive's domain,” alleging that the black money order completely erased the executive's role. The government has also reminded the apex court that the “function of the court is to see that lawful authority is duly exercised by the executive, but not to take over itself the tasks entrusted to the executive”.

Legally, perhaps; the argument may win the battle. But if politics is majorly about public perception, then what matters is the fundamental question as to why; other pillars of democracy are able to occupy the space that belongs to the executive? Whether it is the media, the judiciary or the civil society; if any of these are overstepping; let us not forget; it is the passive and ineffective executive that had asked for it. Like nature, democracy also never allows any vacuum. Never have people in democratic countries allowed a deficit to be carried forward too long. Some one or the other has to occupy the space.

With the issue of LOK PAL having still not satisfactorily resolved, and with people in the country witnessing a sense of having given up through the articulations of several Sate Actors, one wonders whether the civil society will be constrained to ask for LOK Police? Obviously, that is not the answer. But when established institutions continue to fail, those in power continue to be clue less, interventions of judiciary continue to be opposed, the only way people may feel left for them is asking for a parallel mechanism. People have supported the idea of LOK PAL primarily not because they have understood the thinking behind, but because they see a ray of hope even in an unclear and amorphous concept of its kind. If Mumbai continues to bleed, those in government continue to defend their lapses by way of expressing sheer helplessness, the days when sections in the newly enthused civil society coming out with a demand for LOK POLICE may not really be far away. If those in power do not want this to happen, they will have to show that they are serious in tackling the terror menace and come out with credible and effective deterrence infrastructure. What the situation demands is a POTA like act, and certainly not a highly ill conceived Communal Violence Bill. Is someone in the UPA listening?

Author's Note:- Blog writing is an expression of personal thought process. To believe that the organisations, a blogger is associated with, will also subscribe to this thinking every time is oversimplification.