Like my billion plus countrymen, I watched with horror the massacre of
innocents taking place in Mumbai at the hands of psychopaths. My insides were
roiled with a nauseating mix of fear, anger, helplessness and frustration that
someone could take advantage of our open society and wreak such mayhem. It felt
like one of my loved ones was being raped and I couldn’t do much other than
Soon fear and frustration turn to anger and I looked for someone to blame. Police and politicians were the obvious targets, and all you had to do was open your eyes to find people everywhere baying for their blood. I joined the chorus line… only to find my fingers pointing back at me.
How am I to blame for what happened in Mumbai, you ask?
Because I allowed it. Because I didn’t demand more from my leaders. Because I’m too afraid to protest and too complacent to care. This isn’t the first time Mumbai has been attacked and – I hope I’m wrong – this probably won’t be the last. And I know what’s going to happen: after the initial few days of outrage, we’ll go back to living our lives, hurrying to catch local trains, reading about the latest affairs of the film stars, shaking our heads that the Indian cricket team hasn’t performed well and wondering why the price of onions has doubled. Such is life in a metro.
Don’t smirk, you are in on it too.
You protest … but you forget. You get angry… but you forgive. You are so gullible that year after year after year you will continue to vote your caste in place of casting your vote. You will vote for people who pledge ‘Marathi Pride’ as their sole mantra and renaming ‘Bombay’ ‘Mumbai’ their sole achievement. You will forget that they’ve done nothing for the city’s security other than round up impoverished Bangladeshis from shantytowns and packed them on trains bound for the border. You will tolerate the current government that is so emasculated that it cannot control local rabble-rousers let alone diffuse the machinations of a foreign terrorist group. You tolerate the fact that these public ‘servants’ have –at our expense– the protection of five commandos with sub-machine guns for themselves and their families, while, to protect a thousand you and me there is one policeman standing with a bamboo stick.
Don’t, please don’t! Please, demand from your leaders the withdrawal of their personal protection unless they can assure us of the same. Demand that they cannot zoom through traffic by putting on sirens and have police clearing a path while we sit and sweat in jams. Demand that they cannot go on trips to Mayo Clinic in the US while we are left to die in the rotting public hospitals. Demand that they cannot get uninterrupted power supply while millions of our children read under flickering kerosene lamps. Demand that they cannot hold offices for which they don’t have the minimal qualifications demanded at entry-level positions. Demand that when we are footing the bill for their expenses, we get to say no, and if they don’t agree, they have to go.
Don’t fall into the myth that they need more security than you or I do. Politicians are not any more irreplaceable than a doctor, or a lawyer, a clerk or a business owner or any other Indian. But an essential part of a politician’s job description is that if they want to steer this ship called India, they have to be like the ship’s captain… the last one off the boat when there is trouble.
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