Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dunces of democracy.

The last lap of the prelude to the 'Dance of Democracy'(the real moves begin on the 16th) ended yesterday and courtesy this last phase, the voting percentages might just about match those of 2004. So that's it then! We live in a happy and fulfilling democracy! Hurrah and three cheers.

Once our hangover subsides, we may also choose to remember that it's been exactly 2 years since Dr. Binayak Sen was imprisoned by the sate of Chattisgarh on the flimsiest of grounds. Over the past two years, the case has crumbled bit by steady bit. And yet, the government or for that matter the judiciary have not only refused to withdraw the case but have even denied a sick man the right to medical treatment of his choice. Nobel laureates and British MPs(a bit rich considering Binyam Mohamed) have appealed for his release. There has been a decent amount of publicity and a lot of protest over the issue(including the now-inescapable facebook group). Despite all this, Dr.Sen is still in jail.

I am not one who would argue that publicity and news outrage should influence the way the government or the judiciary proceeds. However, considering the notoriety the case has earned, doesn't it seem sort of obvious that the government or the judges hearing the case would move in a slightly different manner, like say, with a bit more speed? If the establishment(the only word i can think of now) can allow a sore like this to persist so openly, don't all those words we have been repeating about accountability and the power of the press and other such things ring so hollow? And if this is the case with such a well-known figure, the fate of common-er citizens is well...

I like to believe I am not that naive about the way things happen in India. But I also believe that often, in the midst of the fairly comfortable existence many of us lead, we tend to believe and swallow the lessons we have been taught. We tend to believe it's a free country, a beacon of democracy amidst failed states and that with a lot of effort, anybody can make it good. These beliefs are not articles of faith for us. No one can be that dumb! But sometimes, grudgingly, with a lot of qualifications, we tend to sit back, look at ourselves and think..'You know what? This place isn't that bad after all'.

Perhaps, being 'political' implies taking off the goop that gathers around your eye while you are asleep!

A better way of phrasing it is the way Devina Mehta said it. Devina Mehta, who along with her husband was persecuted only because they were the financiers of Tehelka which had just, then conducted 'Operation West End'. Devina Mehta, who said:

"Now you realize that anybody out there is only there because nobody wants you inside. Any time somebody wants you inside [jail], you can be inside."

A couple of days ago, Iran, as repressive a state as any, released US-Iraninan journalist Roxanna Saberi after she was convicted in a spying case. It could have been due to US pressure or a 100 other reasons. The fact is if Iran can do it, is it really that hard for the Supreme Court of India?? Or do we need a letter from Barack Obama for this as well?

Ps Do read the story of Shankar and Devina Mehta from the excerpts of Madhu Trehan's book 'PRISM ME A LIE TELL ME A TRUTH: TEHELKA AS METAPHOR'. It's one of the most tragic instances of the point I have been trying to make.

Ps 2. Also check out, a website which is faithfully chronicling the case of Dr. Sen besides emerging as a rallying point for protests and public initiatives in his support.

Ps 3. The previous post I wrote on this issue(in the interests of context)

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