A harbinger of hope

Three close friends of mine and I caught up with each other this week after what seemed to be ages. There is something inherently priceless about old school friends, a kind of camaraderie that is almost irreplaceable. We talked about many things, from our lofty high school misadventures to how scattered we were from each other in geography and in what we opted to study after high school. I felt nostalgic, finding it almost impossible to stomach the fact that I was in high school ten years ago. The year 2001 seems, by no stretch of imagination, not too far removed from now. We talked about our beloved Bangalore and how drastically it has changed since the time we were in school. Blessed by a strategic geographic location and gorgeous weather, it has become a thriving, expanding metropolis and the high-tech nerve center of the country’s rapidly burgeoning foray into technology. But with the almost gargantuan increase in universities and start-ups, the city has also faced demographics and infrastructural challenges. We talked about how the city was not built for the current size of its population, and what a golden opportunity that was for urban planners to choreograph a ecologically sustainable city. The fault, we discussed was something more fundamental than the hapless politicians who run the state of Karnataka, a sense that the first bottleneck that is more serious than the useless politicians is that of apathy of the general public. We then talked about the Anna Hazare movement, and how galvanized the techies in the city seem to have become because of it. How could these arm-chair, slightly asperger afflicted techies, whose penchant for skepticism and disdain for politics so suddenly have found their voices in favor of the Anna Hazare movement that has captured the imagination of so many across the country? This is an important reference point during our lives.

An abomination

I’ve always had nothing but absolute contempt and disdain for politics as a whole. Yes, there are good politicians and those that are in it to genuinely serve a higher cause, but taken as a whole, it is hard not feel a sense of rigid disenchantment towards it. The Congress party, which dominated Indian politics with successive federal government for almost fifty years after Independence, has always used a clever two-pronged strategy to stay in power. First, it has always curried favors with the super-rich and the super privileged, building a license-raj monster that has created a black economy of biblical proportions. It is shocking that more Indians have stashed black money in secretive Swiss Banks than any other nation, with a whopping 1.4 trillion dollars that is almost the size of the Indian GDP. Because this could not have only happened during the last fifteen years, and because the Congress party has been in power for most of independent India, I am inclined to believe that the Congress party is waist-deep in this almost surreal sham of our times. Second, the Congress party has been successful in finding ploys and gimmicks to pander to the India's most vulnerable and poor near the vicinity of elections, making lofty promises and spending a vast chest of campaign money to return to power, often presenting the Gandhi dynasty as its face for this purpose. It is the educated middle and upper class that has always been neglected by the party, sending them into political wildness with backpacks filled with overwhelming apathy and disdain.  <a href="http://ecngx318.inmotionhosting.com/~thinkp21/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/anna_hazare.jpg"><img class="alignright size-medium wp-image-322" title="Anna_hazare" src="http://ecngx318.inmotionhosting.com/~thinkp21/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/anna_hazare.jpg?w=221" alt="" width="221" height="300" /></a>But as has been said, you cannot fool all the people all the time. A rapidly expanding and maturing middle and upper class in India seems to be shaking off it's apathetic stupor and demanding that they be recognized. Anna Hazare, the 74 year-old man who is leading what I think is one of the most significant mass movements in all of human history since the time of Gandhi, seems to have awoken the 400 odd million middle and upper middle class to flex their political muscles. My father told me recently of how even people in the rural areas of Mysore seemed to joining in the Anna movement. This tells me that there is hope. When you have people on the higher end of the asperger, so-called genius genetics, namely influential techies in Bangalore and farmers in Mandya join hands for a single movement, you recognize that it is legitimately a movement.  When Anna Hazare announced his intentions to go on a hunger-strike-till death, the Congress government at the center unleashed the Delhi police on him due to so called 'public order' concerns, sending him to Tihar jail. What is ironic is that a former minister of under the Manmohan Singh government and at least a dozen other bigwigs from other parties to company executives, are in the same notorious prison because of their alleged looting of the national exchequer of almost44 billion, a scandal of almost monumental proportions. This act of the Congress should tell anyone with a right mind that the Congress has many shocking skeletons in the closet which risks getting outed if Anna Hazare’s demands are met and an independent corruption watchdog with a constitutional mandate is set up. After arresting and imprisoning him. the  spontaneous mass protests that erupted from Kashmir to Kanyakumari scared the Manmohan Singh government, releasing him on the same day and pleading with him to call off his agitation. India is not Egypt, neither is it a Syria. The right to protest is a constitutional right, and the government was cornered to the wall and spoke in a cacophony of  absurd voices (from calling Anna Hazare corrupt, to putting the blame on Delhi police, to then calling him a hero). The present government at the center is not only steeped in corruption, it also suffers from arrogance and the complete lack of any signs of intelligence.

A harbinger of things to come

Today’s unanimous resolution of Parliament to take up the three demands made by the Anna movement augurs well for our democracy. One man has inspired a mass movement that has forced Parliament to bend over backwards and accept his calls for a strong and effective corruption watchdog. The Congress led government at the center is wobbling on its last legs, waiting for the next scandal to send it packing. When and if that happens, one hopes that the work of establishing the Lokpal (corruption watchdog) is completed. One hopes that the new government would be under a different party, with a single-minded focus on boosting the economy for 10% GDP growth a year. with a rapt attention on infrastructure and next-generation technology investments. One also hopes that any inkling towards stupid and mindless communal politics does not make a comeback, for those days are gone in India. Communal politics has been repudiated by the Indian people and it always should be. Electing a non-Congress government at the center would mean an end to the Gandhi family control of politics in India. They ruled India for almost 50 years, and we didn’t develop in inch when we were under them. They had their time.

Of the many uprisings in the world, starting from the Middle East, to riots in Greece, Spain, France and England, the middle classes and the neglected are standing up against the culture of organized corruption at the behest of the super-super-rich, a culture of corruption that has brought the world economy to its knees. But as a very famous Indian political scientist recently said, a fear and anxiety about the future almost always comes with hope, and it is this ray of light that is so encouraging. From the the Ramlia grounds in Delhi, a feeble, 74 year old man, through his peaceful hunger protest, has captured the hearts of millions and brought a corrupt, sinful government to its knees and awoken the apathetic and the neglected for action.

There is always hope.

2 Comments

  1. Wonderful post Karthik! It has been so inspiring reading and watching this movement sweep across India. I hope the American middle class takes notice and takes action. The governments of the world have a responsibility, not to the top 1 and 2 percent of their respective populations, but to everyone. While protests have turned violent in London, Greece, and elsewhere, it has been inspirational to see an entire country come together in such a non-violent manner. The future of India belongs to the people of India. Just as the future of Egypt belongs to the people of Egypt, and the future of the United States belongs to the people of the United States (Or its corporations, we are still waiting to see how it plays out :-/ ). I hope everyone can learn from what is happening in India. Always remember that there is power in numbers and when a government acts inappropriately, it is the job of the people to find its voice and use it. Excellent entry!

  2. Amazing post Karthik. Btw, I am Karthik Raghavan, pursuing Masters in Electrical Engg. at Georgia Tech. I am basically from Mysore, Karnataka. Let us also join the movement as far as we can in the making of a developed and improved India. I liked your post exceedingly. Let me know if you have some ideas for development and I would be willing to contribute very much towards it.

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