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WRITING ON THE WALL

It is difficult to understand why individuals who are merely organizing an event can be arrested because a guest at that event said something provocative. It is absurd. It is also disturbing that jurisprudence is so loose and arbitrary in this nation. Having witnessed the drama that developed around what Ashis Nandy said at the Jaipur Literature Festival newspapers and television channels have also been commenting rather regularly on the issue it is becoming increasingly clear that India needs its political class to engage forcefully on matters that assault the individual and collective freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.

That political leaders misuse such controversies to woo vote banks at the cost of morality and integrity in a functioning democracy is far more dangerous than the controversial comment made. The context in this case was crucial in understanding what was said. It has become easy to attack free speech and expression; first information reports are lodged with unusual speed when the ruling class forces the action. However, when an FIR needs to be filed against political entities, against men and women who wield local, regional and national power, endless delays at police stations occur. Worse, when men who assault women have to be arrested, the authorities desperately look for excuses to look the other way.

India is being allowed to slide down a very destructive slope, encouraged by fringe political groups and individuals, aided and abetted by an administration that is lazy and only serves its immediate bosses. These bosses, in their own way, have insulated themselves from engagement with India. This virus of political and administrative exploitation is unwarranted and untenable.

Gross failure

All these bits and pieces that appear each day to plague and torment honest, thinking Indians who strive to move on in all disciplines with their creative minds and souls, are falling into a jigsaw pattern that will lead to anarchy. The selfish political class, incapable of clean, honest governance and unable to generate new ideas through intellectual probing, have compelled all discourse in India to get submerged in a quagmire of ignorance. A right to learning, rather than to education, is the need of these times. Leaders seem to be stuck in parochial positions of conservatism where good ideas that are incomprehensible to them are denounced for their own short term political gains. This is at the cost of democracy. There has been a gross failure at keeping the Indian Constitution alive and vibrant with discussion, consensus and the freedom to agree to disagree.

It is shameful and hugely embarrassing to have combative individuals on national television speaking with extreme fervour about the contents of a film that they have clearly not watched. There should be equal punishment for these kinds of outbursts. Why are the leaders and their administration allowed to go scot free when caught breaking the laws of the land? Why have ordinary income tax officers who live off bribes not been arrested? Why has the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, not asked for the resignations of those in his team who have been caught in scams, before the courts have ordered them out? I wonder why arrest warrants are only issued for intellectuals, thinkers, writers, filmmakers, painters and other law abiding citizens. The government should be ashamed of all this.

A life of ideas and debate is far more fulfilling and substantive than one that is driven by greed for power at all costs. This country does not deserve to be treated and handled in this manner, and it will erupt in protest when the time comes. One wonders why the ruling class does not see the writing on the wall.