Friday, August 29, 2014
5

India’s Outrage

NEW DELHI – Last year ended for India on a note of public outrage that has burdened the country with anger, frustration, and pessimism. The cause, as all the world knows, was the fatally brutal rape of a young woman on a moving bus, after which she and her male companion – himself beaten nearly to death – were thrown, naked, into the street on a freezing night.

The savagery and wanton cruelty of the attack shocked the country to its core. But there is more behind the spontaneous protests that have choked the great central vistas of Delhi (to such an extent that the government was forced to change the venue for meetings with visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin).

The anger that has poured onto the streets of Delhi and many other Indian cities was fueled by a great accumulated discontent – at the bestial rape and murder of that still-unnamed woman, yes, but also at pervasive public and private corruption, the absence of governance and accountability, and much more. Years of pent-up rage are now flowing out.

Of course, the government deserves – and has received – no quarter. The government failed to prevent the crime, then failed again when its unresponsive, inefficient, and crooked police force was unable to respond appropriately. A wholly moribund and sclerotic administration simply did not know where its duty lay.

When protests erupted, the government, in a fit of blind idiocy, set the police upon peaceful protesters, men and women, with long batons, water cannon, and tear gas. This heavy-handedness of course resolved nothing. Citizens’ fury deepened into grim resolve; the government’s repressive impulse was challenged and defeated.

Since then, tokenism has replaced leadership. Not one government official had the courage, skill, or decency to rise to the occasion. The opposition, too, floundered, doing no more than simply faulting the ruling establishment. 

After an unconscionably long delay of seven days, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally broke his incomprehensible silence about the rape. But his public statement offered no answers and no balm – indeed, nothing but platitudes. Then, humiliatingly, Singh inquired, sotto voce, of those surrounding him: “Was it all right?”

A torrent of electronic wrath burst forth. Protest placards could be seen all over the country: “No! Prime Minister, it is not all right.” Clearly, Machiavelli was correct: for a political leader, the people’s contempt is worse than their hatred.

Then, in another mindless act, the victim, struggling for life, was flown to a hospital in Singapore. No one would or could say why. It was there that she died – some say that she arrived already brain-dead. Her body was then hurriedly flown back to India, where it was quietly, almost surreptitiously, cremated. If the government feared her alive, it was petrified of her dead. All of India was shamed by this callous and inhuman folly.

As a result, India’s Congress-led government has irretrievably lost the public’s confidence; the establishment’s authority has evaporated. A blunt question is now being asked frequently and openly: “Is this India’s Tahrir Square?” Even if it is not, how can an internally roiled India respond adequately to its many external tests, the severity of which was underscored recently by Pakistani troops’ killing of two Indian soldiers along the Line of Control in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, as India flounders, Northeast Asia has been astir choosing new leaders, who have now been installed in China, Japan, and North and South Korea. With an assertive China, ongoing regime change in Myanmar, a troubled Bangladesh, a constitutionally stymied Nepal, and continuing ethnic tensions in Sri Lanka, India’s eastern challenges are many and mighty.

But they are even more severe to India’s west, with Pakistan heading into elections (one hopes) in the spring of 2013, and NATO troops withdrawing from Afghanistan. Indian diplomacy faces a time of trial in both countries.

Farther west, too, India’s statecraft is in question. Where does India, which remains dependent on Middle Eastern energy, stand on that region’s many crises? How will it address the nuclear issue in Iran – a country with which it has close historical, cultural, and economic ties – or the civil war in Syria, the rise of Salafism in Egypt, and the Israel-Palestine standoff?

Moreover, India no longer appears to be the vigorous economic dynamo that was the darling of global investors only five years ago. Already some say that the “I” in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) should now stand for Indonesia. India is running high current-account and fiscal deficits; food-price inflation is in the double digits; and the rupee has weakened. As for trade with China, The Economist points out that “for every dollar’s worth of exports to China [principally raw materials], India imports three.”

Can outrage turn to catharsis? Clearly, the current government is unable to bring about any of the necessary changes. A possible answer lies in an early election: a new mandate for an India that is in desperate need of renewal.

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  1. CommentedSusie Mehta

    Please read Naomi's Wolf's article, this one and the recent amendments to the bill to "protect" women. Patriarchy and male cossetting drives discrimination. Society needs to raise boys and men to control their desires and respect those of girls and women. That education has to happen at home. We women don't want protection we want gender neutral rights - human rights to a life free of violence and one with respect and dignity.

  2. Commentedsk khalid ali

    Mr j Singh..rape-mass murder is very common in india&take part at news on regular basis..while some politician take part to make this type of crime..to prevent rape &murder..punishment for curlpit..hijab for women..punishment of political provocator needed to make socially clean india..as well as tight censor on film certification needed ..political change will do full fill the dream of politician not of aam admi

  3. CommentedPrafful Agarwal

    Sir the police in this particular case has acted swiftly in catching the culprits. Moreover the policemen only took the victim and her friend to the hospital. so there is no point in using the same age old theory of police lethargy here.

  4. Commentedprashanth kamath

    As a result, India’s Congress-led government has irretrievably lost the public’s confidence

    - No point in being partisan Mr. Singh. People have no faith in the whole of India's political class in general. True, I feel this should exclude you, but you are in an insignificant minority among politicians of India. Governance in India has deteriorated to such an extent that politicians rule through goons instead of the legitimate machinery of the state. The legitimate machinery of the state is used only to obstruct justice, not in strengthening it.
    By hitting on Congress don't make me present my case against your BJP government in Karnataka state. It has been the most corrupt government in the History of Karnataka state.
    It is time that you stopped blaming Congress and started thinking of changing the system.

  5. CommentedElizabeth Pula

    Your comments are so valid, and so sad:

    "Clearly, the current government is unable to bring about any of the necessary changes.

    The anger that has poured onto the streets of Delhi and many other Indian cities was fueled by a great accumulated discontent ... yes, but also at pervasive public and private corruption, the absence of governance and accountability, and much more. Years of pent-up rage are now flowing out.

    A wholly moribund and sclerotic administration simply did not know where its duty lay.

    Not one government official had the courage, skill, or decency to rise to the occasion.

    Clearly, Machiavelli was correct: for a political leader, the people’s contempt is worse than their hatred."

    What's even worse is the fact that all of your comments can be general comments today about any nation's leadership and populace regardless of any specifically, significant publicized incident.

    And your comment: " Clearly, Machiavelli was correct: for a political leader, the people’s contempt is worse than their hatred." hits the nail with the real hammer.

    Acts of contempt by the public may be those acts that are perceived as real worldwide shattering events. This one rape, distinguished publicly from other acts of rape, is a more real destructive social event than disconnected financial events publicized as bubbles popping somewhere. That one act of rape reveals more than the destruction of one human being. This one lower level public social action mirrors final negative motivations and results of upper level deeply rooted and entwined political nastiness.

    The outrage is not only in India, but worldwide.Public contempt manifests in many different ways. Don't contemptuous acts reveal social futility,by destroying any level of justice? By responding against fundamentally bad public actions, mass anger and public demonstration actually fight contempt from further encroaching and enveloping public society. The mass actions are public cries to cause positive change, so society and justice are not totally destroyed.

    Hopefully, India's, and other world leaders will acknowledge the peoples' cries before the contempt gets worse.

      CommentedEdward Ponderer

      Indeed the the comments are valid and sad. But the saddest fact is not the inability to bring about the necessary changes -- it the fact that no government could. Such changes are only the second half of the solution, and nothing can bring that about till after the first half. And that first half, as always, is clearing defining the problem.

      Another "Tahrir Square?" It is already becoming quite clear that the best hopes would have been that Tahrir Square itself would only be "the new Argentina" of Juan and Eva Peron, but its more likely something between Lenin's "new Russia," and Hitler's "new Germany," probably closer to the latter -- but only time will tell.

      The general degradation of all of us into ego naturally will continue to evermore provide leadership concerned primarily, if not only with themselves. Such will always look to say what the people think they want to hear, of do (in the most self-protecting manner possible) what actions the people think they want done.

      In terms of the present system, and what you will never see arise again -- guaranteed! -- is leadership whose prime concern is what the people actually need done, that without knowing the complexities involved, the people are basically clueless. However, in present terms, all governments will evermore be like corrupt foster parents concerned with maximizing their pay and longevity, and taking advantage of their charges naivete by saying the kind of "cool things" they like, and getting them the cheapest sugary foods and drinks possible.

      The solution isn't protests, revolution, new government, or anything else that will only send the washing machine spinning into full entropy cycle. Don't expect cleaner close, only more cleverly hidden color fade, wrinkles, tears, and missing buttons. So if you want to just give a turn for government officials to be the new rapists, and the rapist to be the new government officials, go right ahead -- I'm sure they'll each make their predecessors proud.

      The real solution is integral education, and a ground roots, self-imposed improvement of the people itself. In not so different a style from Alcoholics Anonymous, promoting a new environment/culture of mutual concern and responsibility, India and the rest of the world can turn themselves around. [All countries are the same this way, just in different stages and manners of degeneration depending upon particular history and starting values.]

      The final stage will be the whole world drawing together in this approach, so that instead of us seeing the naturally evolving globalization bringing on an implosion of death, we'll see it as a flow into a higher, more holistic, better form of life for us all.

      CommentedZsolt Hermann

      Individually and nationally we all have a romantic image of ourselves.
      What turns out that up to this point all of these romantic images have been built on bubbles, illusions, as with everything else humanity has been building.
      Since the end of the cold war, the end of communism, and the fast development of the previously "developing" or third world countries even those claims, that all national or individual misfortunes were the result of others, oppression, foreign influence started evaporating.
      This general awakening, maturity is sweeping the whole globe, there is no country today where the previous perfect, romantic, or "victimized" notion of ourselves remain.
      Especially the public starts to understand that there are no great sages, leaders, wise politicians, that can solve life's problems.
      People are ready to start taking their fate into their own hands.
      But as we saw with the Arab Spring, this fundamental force, desire is not enough if there is no method, or template that could be used when change is forced.
      The "freedom and democracy" western nations especially the US tries to export is highly flawed and corrupt, basically only serving the interest of a very small minority even within the "exporting" nations.
      A new era started that will change humanity through its core there is no doubt about it.
      The only question is if this change will be unpredictable, blind and violent, or it will be a guided, conscious and gradual transition into a new age.
      The time has come to fully change the present prevalent system of relationships people are connecting to each other with.
      If we want to do it through the wise path we need a global, integral education program helping people all over the world understand the global, interconnected and interdependent natural system we exist in so we can adapt with full awareness.

      CommentedZsolt Hermann

      Individually and nationally we all have a romantic image of ourselves.
      What turns out that up to this point all of these romantic images have been built on bubbles, illusions, as with everything else humanity has been building.
      Since the end of the cold war, the end of communism, and the fast development of the previously "developing" or third world countries even those claims, that all national or individual misfortunes were the result of others, oppression, foreign influence started evaporating.
      This general awakening, maturity is sweeping the whole globe, there is no country today where the previous perfect, romantic, or "victimized" notion of ourselves remain.
      Especially the public starts to understand that there are no great sages, leaders, wise politicians, that can solve life's problems.
      People are ready to start taking their fate into their own hands.
      But as we saw with the Arab Spring, this fundamental force, desire is not enough if there is no method, or template that could be used when change is forced.
      The "freedom and democracy" western nations especially the US tries to export is highly flawed and corrupt, basically only serving the interest of a very small minority even within the "exporting" nations.
      A new era started that will change humanity through its core there is no doubt about it.
      The only question is if this change will be unpredictable, blind and violent, or it will be a guided, conscious and gradual transition into a new age.
      The time has come to fully change the present prevalent system of relationships people are connecting to each other with.
      If we want to do it through the wise path we need a global, integral education program helping people all over the world understand the global, interconnected and interdependent natural system we exist in so we can adapt with full awareness.

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