Held to ransom

Written by Malvika Singh | Updated: Jun 1 2008, 03:40am hrs
The Gujjars are holding the government to ransom, and getting away with it as political parties play unfortunate games to win brownie points with the communities in conflict to garner votes for themselves. The evident lawlessness that has been permitted to carry on following the clumsy intervention by the Rajasthan police force on day one of the agitation, is unacceptable as it escalates, spilling across borders in complete anarchy, leaving citizens aghast and dumbfounded. Had the state government responded with urgency within the first few hours of the protest, things would have been calmer and dialogue could have ensued.

Surely such issues where the sensitivity of communities and therefore, of human beings, is being affected, need to be addressed with non-partisan compassion and with representatives of diverse political ideologies, and not merely left to a State Chief Minister and the Union Home Minister. This is one symbol amongst many, of the beginning of a fall-out created by an economy that is booming within the structure and parameters of a failed state apparatus. This is the real tragedy that a young, raring to go, energetic and ambitious, India is being compelled to deal with.

With increased prosperity comes a demand for political empowerment. It is the first, most simple lesson in governance and politics, a lesson that none of our leaders seem to have understood. They have no workable mechanisms to handle the churning and constantly changing socio-economic environment or any out-of-the-box ideas to ensure sane and appropriate delivery systems for this mobility. The ham-handed approach we see only endorses the truth of a failed state machine across India and all party lines. The intellectual lacuna is frightening to say the very least. The inability to embrace and interact with a thinking India makes the situation and the future seem even grimmer than it is today. Political leadership in denial is an all-consuming disease that is both contagious and infectious, that invades the body politic with a vengeance. It chews relentlessly at the foundations of equality and fraternity.

Divisive policies and partisan positions over the last few decades have fragmented our social fabric and as we, the public entrepreneurs, rise out of centuries of subjugation, exploitation and repression of all manner and kind, it is dangerous to find that all the institutions, imperative for the rule of law and democratic governance, are crumbling under the weight of corruption, misuse and malfunction.

To address the Gujjar demands sensibly, one needs an all-party consensus. If the UPA government, led by Manmohan Singh, steps out of stale and predictable expectations, and crafts positive and creative recommendations leading to a long term, inclusive solutions to this and other such explosive problems, it will win many more votes from the silent, disturbed majority who feel let down, their patience stretched to snapping limits. Disenchantment with corrupt and exploitative political and administrative dispensations for decades who have consciously ignored and never listened to the voices and demands of the poor and economically disabled across this land, has given birth to what is termed naxalism in nearly one third of this country.

Citizens comprehend well that when governments are in denial, they respond and react only when confronted with extreme positions and demands, usually laced with threats of dire consequences verging on brutal, militant assaults. It is for this reason that Bharat is becoming violent in its quest for equality and empowerment. The blame for social unrest and disorder, for all the urban horrors of rape, murder, loot and extortion, as well as for militant political upheavals, rests squarely at the feet of the political and administrative class, the rulers of our fledgling nation state.

The author is publisher of Seminar magazine