Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Bal Bal se Bachao

Image courtsey instablogs

Every time we as a country seem to be taking two steps toward future, our past rears its head and pulls us a step back. Case in point: an octogenarian led extremist political party that wants to put a regional identity above the country. That too for a city like Mumbai that has always been the face of free, progressive and united India. Even though in principal the city is part of the Maharashtra state, there is absolutely nothing Marathi about it. Its a melting pot of everything India and people from every corner of the country have lent their blood and sweat to make it what it is today. Even though Mumbai (formerly Bombay, the name change is another sad story on similar lines) is the city of Bollywood which boasts of more movie releases than Hollywood per year, this post is about a different movie playing about in the city in real life.
The villain is an ailing religious-political party leader who arrived late at the bus stop and couldn't join the rest of the country in its trip of progress. He still lives in last century and strangely is able to pull enough strings to control the lives of most of the people in the city. The power comes from poverty. As long as he can keep people in slums and control the electricity and food, he can use them to any end. So, the party leaders go to the poor person and justify his poverty based on the fact that aliens have invaded the city and are taking all the lucrative jobs and all the money that belongs to the poor people. The poor, in turn, are ready to do anything the leaders say because the rationale makes sense. Now, our leaders use this new found manpower as leverage to make the businesses in the city operate according to their wishes. They control what movies get made, who gets jobs, which businesses get permits and when the election time comes, who gets to vote. There is no happy ending to this story, at least not yet, but we are in recent times observing an unwillingness from the more well known parts of the society to bow down to this pressure. There still are many who are fearful for their investments but at least we are seeing a start.

Its amazing to see that things like these happen in a country that is speeding toward modernization at an unprecedented pace. People like Thackeray's have an inherent motive to keep the locals uneducated and poor as these are the only bargaining chips they hold. They will never underline the development that non-Maharashtriasn have been responsible for in Bombay (yes, that's the name I like and am going to use for the rest of the post). When reminded that it was a combination of north and south Indian troops that responded to a recent crisis in the city, the great leader responded "So what, our people also are posted all over India". Isn't that the whole point? It is one SINGLE country. India made Bombay and Shiv Sena came in to feast on the treats there.

The more one thinks about it, the more clear it becomes that people with means, brains and an identity need to come forward and take a very active role in country's politics. Progress has been delinked to politics in India mainly because politics has never been about results and anyone who wants to make something out of him/herself would rather stay away from a system that operates on old ideas and seldom favours radical and revolutionary thinking. But the side effect of this process has been slow poisoning of the whole political system. Uneducated masses control the results of elections and they are easily swayed by class based politics. Once people like Bal Thackeray stand on shoulders of dissatisfied people, the instantly transform to leaders from terrorists. They use violence and terror to get their way, break up the society and the country in process. The poor and uneducated, meanwhile, stay where they are because that's where they can serve their roles to perfection.

I wonder, if its time for all of us to wake up and put a dent in the vote bank politics that has made the country break up into more and more states since independence. We need to take a more active role in deciding who we let dictate our lives and anyone taking the path of violence and intimidation needs to be run through our Judicial system, not the Political system.

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