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Monday, April 18, 2011

(Published in on 15 April, 2011, retrieved from

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There’s been a record turnout of voters in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The urban young and uber rich have gone to booths in shiny bikes and swanky cars and cast their ballot. 

The government has bowed down to most of the demands of Anna Hazare after the scene at Jantar Mantar was replicated across the country.

RTI activists are making bolder demands everyday, and the judiciary rules in their favour most of the time.

A woman in jeans startles the attendees of a UN conference when she tells them she is the sarpanch of a village.

Is India changing, finally? Have we been successful in hacking at the roots of corruption? One is so tempted to scream ‘YES!’ But we can’t, not yet. If only the newspapers could beam positivity beyond the front page.

However, amidst the reports of serpentine queues at the polling booths, are complaints that people who tried to exercise 49(O) – the no-vote option – were intimidated, threatened, and even roughed up, till they could be coerced into voting for ‘someone’.

Turn a few more pages, and there are updates on Arunima Sinha, the sportswoman who lost a leg after being thrown out of a train by robbers. 

One then remembers the Centre’s contention that elected politicians and ministers could not be answerable to a retired judge. One recalls Kapil Sibal’s ridiculous statement that there was no loss to the exchequer through the 2G spectrum allocation. One thinks of former Karnataka Chief Minister  H D Kumaraswamy’s remark that one can’t enter politics without corruption. And one wonders, ‘can my country actually change?’

One wonders whether, if the fast at Jantar Mantar had not been spearheaded by an ageing, famous social activist and supported by such high-profile people as retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi, it could have been successful in moving the government to act. If the demonstration had been started by students and professionals, would it have ended peacefully, without a lathi charge to disperse the gathering?

But, strangely enough, I find myself believing things can change.

Perhaps I was motivated by Arunima Sinha's press interaction, during which she told reporters that she was grateful for the job she had been given by the Indian Railways, but that she would continue to fight for justice. Unwilling to accept the police's argument that it wasn't easy to identify the culprits as it was a general compartment, she insisted that it couldn't be hard, since the brutes were most likely to be short-distance daily commuters.

Her determination is inspiring, because a while ago, someone who had undergone such trauma would have had to wait for years for any kind of compensation, by which time he or she would probably be too exhausted to pursue the “war against injustice”, as she puts it. She isn’t.

A while ago, the angry young voters who were denied the right to opt 49 (O) may have screamed out to the press, but chosen to remain anonymous. They didn’t.

We may not be a nation that is free of corruption. But we are a people willing to fight it. The students who form political parties may not have the knowledge and experience to succeed right now, but one day, they’ll get there, and hopefully, they’ll remember what they fought for, and what they fought against.

The last months of 2010, and the first few of 2011 have been shockers for the Indian public, as we realised our hard-earned tax money was disappearing into mystery coffers in unprecedented amounts. We were still reeling from the Commonwealth Games mess when the 2G scam slapped us with all of its thirteen digits.

But over the last few weeks, even the most cynical of us have felt surges of optimism. The war may not have been won, but the battle lines have been drawn.

As the New Year is celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Orissa, Bengal and Assam, we have reason to hope it will be a good one – that the voices that have been muffled all this while will persist till they are heard.


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