Friday, April 8, 2011

The India Against Corruption Farce

Recently I decided that the momentary rant blogposts should give way to more thoughtful analysis, and hence I should not publish anything here without sitting on it for a few weeks, rethinking, editing and rewriting. But the anger makes me feel like breaking this decision. Something has to be said.

A bunch of social activists draft the conditions of a law that appears to be impossible, autocratic and even childish(1).

Some of these activists go on hunger strike, demanding that the law be enacted by the government.

The media goes to a frenzy, like they do everyday, saying that the activists are The Right fighting against the corrupt government, The Wrong. They show a 300 people crowd and say, the protests are at the scale never seen before. Pictures of Mahatma Gandhi - who is not allowed to be a bisexual - are shown. The main activist is a Gandhian. He's also a former army man, says the campaign website but of course they will not tell the whole truth - that he was a driver in the army - because that will make his credentials appear a lot inferior for the audience: the urban middle class.

The urban middle class of the country, fresh from an ego boost and sudden synchronization of nationalism from the country's recent "World cup" victory - in a game played only by around 10 countries, with its regulator's headquarters shifted from London to Dubai, whose largest source of money easily happens to be India itself - , and yet manages to be the mass pill / safety valve for frustration, hears some slogans like "India Against Corruption", and decides to join the "movement" - mostly in Facebook. They do not read the draft law, or its conditions, but they think that is the solution for the problems in the country, and should be enacted, but the government is playing the obvious villain, so à la Rang de Basanti, à la Youth for Equality, à la candlelight vigils after 26/11 Mumbai attack, voila, let's support the Gandhian against the biggest problem: Corruption.

The media runs a live coverage of a journalist, who, while gasping for air due to the excitement, tells us that the protests are spreading.

More people see the news, join the facebook group. Many people see their friends talking about this and they too join the facebook group. Some are even going to protest. There's even a protest planned in my town - a student city in France - and their event plan says: "We are organizing this in an open public space, inviting the local media and informing the Indian Consulate in France about our reasons and efforts". Several people says this is our Tahrir square revolution. Most of them still dont know much about the law, except that it is against corruption, and must be good. Bollywood actors starts announcing their support. Some call for the cricket team - the current national heroes - to support.

Media creates a "positive feedback loop". Something great is happening. More people join.

The opposition parties also supports the protest, and says the government should give in. Just like how they normally oppose government policies even though they dont really oppose the policy itself.

The media broadcasts this too. But no one really talks about the prospective law itself. Everyone is quite sure this law is The Solution. An austere Gandhian cannot be wrong.

Finally, forced into a corner by the images of protests and the shrill voices of news anchors in 24x7 media, the government yields, and decides to implement the law.

The last step hasn't happened yet, but is that how this farce going to end?

(1): The darn salient features ZIP file (If the site is down, try this)

Update: NDTV's coverage of the protests:

As the government tries to hold its ground, Mr Hazare is being urged by lakhs of Indians across the world not to cede. Mr Hazare has long used hunger strikes as his tool of protest. But a younger audience of Indians has made his acquaintance through his India Against Corruption campaign. In colleges across the country, students are fasting in solidarity with him. In cities across the country, housewives, executives and schoolchildren are taking the time to join rallies that have a singular agenda - zero-tolerance for corruption.

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