Friday, January 14, 2011

Rising anger, growing warnings

Manmohan Singh's popularity is marginally down and Sonia Gandhi's steeply down, according to a new opinion poll (India Today). Yet, the Congress is considered better than other parties in handling the country's problems. Generally optimism prevails, especially among the young. APJ Abdul Kalam is their role model and their faith in India's growing economic strength is abiding.

(Not that opinion polls are definitive. This one for example ranks Rahul Gandhi as best qualified to be Prime Minister. Best “qualified”? Even Kanimozhi does not believe that M.K. Stalin is best qualified to be the next Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. Nevertheless, two-thirds of Lok Sabha MPs below 40 are “qualified” by heredity. In politics these days DNA is the best qualification).

Of course a vibrant, young population is India's best guarantee for the future. In the short-term, however, they are at the mercy of the crooked old population of political manipulators. So the question is: How long will be the short term? Indications are not encouraging because none of the manipulators in power today show any sign of giving up their deceitful, foxy ways.

No One Killed Jessica is an apt message of our times. If anybody missed the message, there is a stronger one to wake them up: No One Killed Aarushi. An MLA in Uttar Pradesh raped a girl – and promptly the girl was put in jail. Public outrage finally forced the authorities to arrest the MLA. Perhaps he will now be put in the same cell as the girl. Eventually the police may prove that it was the girl who raped the MLA. And UP is ruled by a woman Chief Minister.

People are in no position to react immediately to such perversions by the ruling class. But people get angry. There is a great deal of public anger in India today. The Kalmadis, the Sharad Pawars, the Quattrochis, the Yeddyurappas, the A. Rajas are adding fuel to the fire of this anger. Someone should pause to think what would happen if the collective anger of a people is allowed to build up to bursting point.

In fact, many are already flashing warning signals. Ashok Mitra, West Bengal's veteran Marxist, recently wrote: “Discontent is going up as disparity between rich and poor gets pronounced. Sooner or later this will get mobilised... and we will have an incendiary situation”.

Even if we say that the Marxist in Ashok Mitra is exaggerating, what about Devadutt Pattanayak who is a vedic scholar and mythologist? As he sees it: “India's growth is dangerously unequal..... It is only a question of time before this leads to violent confrontations”.

Other voices, widely recognised as intellectual, competent and sober, tend to think along the same lines. Writing in Outlook recently, author Sunil Khilnani referred to “the ambiguities of coalition politics, a volatile Hindu nationalism and intense caste politics” to conclude that “there will be more crises and surprises ahead”. Editor R. Jagannathan cautioned that if politics are not made “consciously right,” then we will have to “face the consequences of social conflict”. Filmmaker Sudhir Misra warned: “The system will have to change its values or else the whole fabric will be rent”.

Foreign voices are strident. For all the admiration India has won from Western investors, the public criticism in Western media is unsparing. In a popular prime-time television discussion in Germany, a panelist quoted from a blog: “If all the scams of the last five years are added up, they are likely to exceed the British colonial loot of India of about a trillion dollars”.

A German business daily editorialised that “India is becoming a Banana Republic instead of an economic superpower”. A French newspaper article mentioned the name of Hassan Ali of Pune and his wife as operating a one-billion-dollar illegal Swiss account with “sanction of the Indian regime”.

How harmful can a country's reputation get. How dangerous can a country's internal contradictions get. Must India collapse in order to rise again?