Thursday, November 27, 2008

Of terror and voter cards

I read an article today, the kinds I only read these days, about a conscious citizen trying to get a voter card. The crux is that he went through the travails of getting one made, finding a different photograph on his card, going through the entire process again and getting nothing. Then he takes time to work to go to the central office, finding others like him there, the office locked, the chief not picking calls and out till three, and an irritated clerk shooing them away – if it’s not here, you didn’t give it. I think he mentioned 200 people.
To those in Delhi and who have seen all that beaming – jago – hype, with even a national hijacked attempt from a tea brand featuring the new face of the country, away from their usual self-congratulatory post-91 reality-fantasy of the country, sipping tea and looking positively “awake”.

These were people who were not asking for any benefits – a locked pension file or a land record gone missing – these were people waking up from an electoral “sloth” and hoping to participate in the system. And this is what their awakening wrought.

A strange start to an article on terror.

But do you imagine the raw appeal of the machismo with which a group of boys, within minutes, have tattered the reputation of a superpower-claimant? The minute the first bullet in Taj was fired, the terrorists succeeded. Everything that followed was a special. And we know how much they have dolloped of that.

Terrorism – or naxalism also in our context – is a war with the state.
And what is the Indian state – if you take out the hollow jingoism – but that babu shouting at 200 people that they are lying?
And what is the state than those 200 people who don’t burn that office down and tear that man’s throat out?
This happened in the heart of Delhi. And there is an India, a whole pie of it, outside the Mumbais and the Delhis.

Suddenly, after Delhi blasts, the cops who are the biggest enemies of the daily-wage earners in the streets go, are suddenly supposed to be the confidants to whom all suspicions regarding “suspicious activity” is transferred.

In Lucknow, last Sunday, meeting a school friend from Lucknow visiting from Australia, after fifteen years of spending class1 to 10 seated adjacent due to the sequence of our names, our car was towed from a parking zone coz a dignitary suddenly arrived; a parking zone where half an hour ago parking fees was being collected. After pleading in vain for half an hour to an unrepetant cop, Ahsan, the friend, he had to pay 750 to release it. I mention Ahsan's Muslim idntity to highlight that many (but not all, I agree) of the frustrations of the community are ironically secular [Ironic since the country's claim to secularism is manifested usually in the meting out of daily injustices only - the priviliges bagged by either by quota or do-you-know-who-my-uncle-is].

Injustice is the fabric on which the Indian state is wrought - right from the PSU to the babu to the politician to the hawaldaar. The separatist movements, the naxalism and terrorism are only manifestations of its various forms.

The biggest myth regarding Shivaji that the Hindu thugs, claiming to be spokesmen of the religion, propound is that it was a Hindu war for lost pride against the Muslim villains.
Wrong. Read your history assholes. Read your economic history.
It was a movement primarily fired by unjust taxations and blatant corruption of a kingdom of wasted rulers and court intrigues. Forces of frustration do not change with time – while religion might ensure a peaceful afterlife of 72 odd virgins (depending on your choice of opium) - the issue of daily bread, and if you’re slightly fed, dignity, is directed more by governance.

What India is under attack right now? The India that is under threat is an India we know is there buried beneath the miles of shit that we have let the “system” crap above it. Forget Shivraj Patil – do you really think that any politician in India in his place and things would have been different? Any party other than the Congress?

Bring on the terrorist laws (and make it all the more worse), platitudes and juloos. Today is the twang of the bow that was stretching since the past fifty years.

My fear is this: the sheer audacity of what happened today, and the Taj elitism of the hostages, would inspire a thousand of other “misdirected” youth trampled by the system who will vent their frustration against this invisible miasma of unrelenting injustice and oppression against a definite face, although anonymous and multitudinal, and the aphrodisia of an automatic in hand. These might be youths who've been running around courts for a piece of land lostin the 50s, the excesses of the local political goon or police, or one of the many things that are commonplace in an Indian middle-or-below class citizen.
There is nothing more ominous than a misdirected rage right now.

but unavoidable.

Shivaji didn’t break the stranglehold of the decadant Mughal empire in his lifetime; but the inspiring and enduring legend of his audacity, as opposed to the grovelling reality of successive kings towards the Afghan raiders, did.

To be born again, you have to die first; To raise an edifice again you have to raze first: this is the frightening reality that looms ahead unless the “system” changes from within.

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