August 19, 2011

Which Side Are You On?

We are witnessing a remarkable period in the history of the world’s largest democracy. In just a few months, we’ve seen the Prime Minister’s Office censured by the Supreme Court (a first), a Union Cabinet Minister sent to jail (a first) for alleged involvement in the largest scam in our history, and now the spontaneous eruption of public support for Anna Hazare and the movement against corruption

There are polarized viewpoints on Anna’s agitation. There are those who worry if this is anarchy at its finest. They fret over an un-elected, self appointed ‘civil rights society’ holding an elected government hostage. And there are those who feel that enough is enough, and the time has come for voices to be heard and action to be had – in the crusade against corruption. They are coming out in the streets, on Facebook and in the media, anxious to press forward with the momentum and the spring to the step that Anna has brought to it. In effect, they have transplanted their trust (which should have been ideally with their elected representatives) to Anna and friends.

Is this the beginning of the end of an organized way of governing the nation? Or, is it the beginning of the end of old and corrupt ways of doing business? One hopes it is the latter. But, time will tell.

If Anna and friends deserve our support, it has to be for the sole reason that they are our best bets in a nation, in which unstained reputations and selfless leaders are scarcer than tickets for a Rajnikanth blockbuster on opening day. Their methods may not always appear reasonable, and not all of their points of view acceptable verbatim. Change has always been wrought by unreasonable men. Let’s hope they succeed at least in part.

No matter which side we are on, we have to celebrate the fact that we are witnessing a public dialogue of this magnitude in India for the first time. Dialogue is a life force of democracy. The day you take away a person’s right to free speech, you drive a dagger through its heart and mortally wound it.

As Voltaire once said famously “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”

No matter which side we are on, we have the responsibility to defend the life forces of democracy. Any government that fails to honor these forces deserves our firmest opposition, and to be shown the door.

No matter which side we are on, we have to agree that there is only one side. The side that wants to rid this country of the cancer that is surely consuming it. We have an obligation to take the time to find those we trust and give them our support. Whoever they may be. And discard the rest.

India is the world’s largest democracy.  It’s about time we proved it.

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