Saturday, August 20, 2011

Where were you when...? (Letters to Parth - 10)

Dear Hardyk, my alphabet, my soaring eagle,

You are five! Happy Birthday! This is a very special time of your life, and you should never for a moment doubt that the universe intends you to become all that you are capable of becoming. Know that you are loved, longed for, and prayed over, no matter what your environment may lead you to feel.

The will of the universe has stood in the way of our being together at this point in time, but I, like a carp leaping through the dragon gate, am unshaken in my faith that this will change soon. Your Dadu and Thammi are in Hyderabad dealing with some strange things, and I am doing all I can to bail them out, and they are very sad that they will not be able to be with you on your fifth birthday.  I too am dealing with some strange things, and am amazed at all the new things that life is teaching me. A lot of what we understand as deprivation and misfortune are the very reasons for our becoming stronger and better human beings. It is as true for you and me, as it is for anybody else.

A common way of remembering history of our times is by asking and answering, where were you when..., or what were you doing when...? The question that will be asked for years to come is where were you when the Indian civil society's fight against corruption was taking place. You and I are blessed to be celebrating your birthday at this time of great importance, a time that will go down in history as pivotal to determine whether we will have a future to hold our heads high in to or nothing to be proud of. You must already be seeing his picture on TV, and perhaps you have even been part of the protests in Hyderabad in his support, but as you grow up, you will learn more about Anna Hazare and his fight against corruption.

He is an old man who is leading the popular protest against the practice of abusing public office by government officials, a simple, often naive and childlike, man (childlike is not a good word for grown up men is what I am told, but then I am told many things which are totally untrue) who has become the symbol of public anger and frustration with an unfair system. Many people consider him to be crazy, stubborn, and even worse than just crazy and stubborn. Thank God for the crazy and stubborn people of this world, though, since they are the only ones who are willing to fight for what is right.

His movement started by demanding that the government (of India) introduce the Lokpal Bill, which would set up an independent body that the common man can take his complaints of corruption to, which could then investigate and redress. He and four other social activists started a protest fast in April this year, which forced the government to invite them to be part of a Drafting Committee for the Bill. We do not know for fact what happened during the drafting process, since both the government representatives and the civil society representatives have their own version. But the media focus on the people concerned and the government's response to it made it very clear to the people that they were not willing to allow an effective solution to corruption at all levels in governance to emerge.

The subsequent months saw the government use the police to crack down on similar protests in a brutal manner, and to go public with its views that it had been very nice in the past, and it was not necessary for the people to poke their nose into how the nation should be run. All of its arrogance only made the common man more and more furious, and people from all walks of life began to speak up against the politicians.

The media attention given to both parties helped the public at large to see the people as they really were, and make their own conclusions. The simplicity, determination and earnestness of the civil society team stood in stark contrast to the arrogance and defiance, if not hypocrisy, of those in governance. But public anger had reached a point where they were able to respond to this defiance with an equally strong defiance. Anna's logic was simple, we will protest, all you can do is put us in jail, we will continue to protest, you continue to put us in jail, we will continue till you run out of jail space. For the first time, the common man had a benchmark in these crusaders that they could measure their elected representatives against.

At the end of it, they refused to present the views of the civil society for discussion by the Parliament. On 16th of August, 2011, after all attempts to get the people's version of the bill to be placed for discussion failed, Anna and his team launched their protest fast again, but this time, the government was in no mood to listen any more to the people who had elected them to power. It arrested the leaders of the movement and put them in jail. For the supporters, who were in thousands, the police turned a public stadium into a makeshift jail and kept putting busloads of people away. When this news came through, people all over the country and even abroad were shocked! They came out to protest across the nation, and the government was forced to release Anna and his team to continue with their protest.

What happened after that is most interesting. The movement, which began as a way to get the government to pass a law that had been proposed more than forty years back, evolved into a citizen's movement against all that is wrong in the system. People began to come out of their home and out into the streets to stand up and be counted as angry with the injustices around them.  As discussion and dialog evolve, it is becoming  more and more clear that while the issue we, the people, are addressing are much more than corruption in governance, being able to see proof that wrongdoing can be redressed in a system as powerful as governance will be a first step towards freeing our selves from all that is hurtling us towards destruction.

You might be bored by now. Do enjoy your birthday. Know that all of us are determined to achieve total victory, one that sets us free to fulfill our destinies, one in which there is truth and dignity, and one in which there are no losers. Pride is a good thing, as long as it does not blind you to the truth. Be proud that you can see things as they are.

Till we meet,


1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday Hardyk... one day we shall meet! Till then be good and strong! Lots of love and hugs, Tipu, Mim and Mia!



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