Revolutionary change – even when it is entirely democratic and bloodless – cannot be comfortable, painless and pretty. By its very nature, it is painful, chaotic and ugly. The AAP movement – it is still not a political party in the conventional sense – is hoping to strike at the very roots of corruption and poor delivery of services in Delhi. It is running up against gigantic and deeply rooted vested interests. Among these are government agencies like the police force that are heavily compromised and function almost in medieval fashion. As such, if the vested interests do not achieve an early victory, there will hopefully be many more striking confrontations of the kind that took place outside Rail Bhavan in Delhi between the state’s lawfully elected Chief Minister and the police.
The media response to events can be often faulted but it tends to self-correct and evolve as it flows with the course of a story. On the other hand, the self-appointed defenders of human and women’s rights, as well as those who defend tradition, culture, political correctness and religion, are accountable to no one except their own conscience, source of livelihood, ideology and level of understanding. They have taken to hunting like packs of wolves, attacking the weakest among their prey, avoiding those that are powerful and can hit back.
So, in the case of a particular woman who was found dead of poisoning either forcibly or self-administered, and whose body carried signs of beatings, nobody has demanded that the husband be arrested and immediately prosecuted for instigation to suicide, or even suspected murder – as is usually the case. There have been no candle-light processions nor protest demonstrations, no calls for resignation. Instead, support is extended to the man by visits from the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi, and a promotion to the rank of Congress party spokesperson.
In another case, a judge leverages the rule book to obtain an injunction from the Supreme Court to shroud allegations against him in a cloud of secrecy. This is a privilege not made available to thousands of others in similar position, including Asaram Bapu and Tarun Tejpal. The upholders of women’s rights quietly slink away and nobody is willing to stick his or her neck out, because the ‘comfort zone’ of ‘five-star, foreign-funded activism’ would be exceeded. The nation’s media could not unite to say that it would ‘publish and be damned’ – the Supreme Court was welcome to stuff the jails with all the editors and reporters.
It was easy, however, to pick on Delhi’s Law Minister for trampling on women’s rights and implicit racism (despite the presence of the police) without any clear evidence in this regard. Because, it is so easy to allege racism and abuse. The circumstances of the minister’s protest were ignored altogether because, after all, these had to do with the commonplace demand of common people to live in a social environment conducive to their physical well-being. Programmed to uphold the power equations of an established elite, the ‘rights’ brigade reveals itself as merely a better groomed, English speaking version of the ‘moral’ brigade it likes to so often condemn.
A truly liberal society needs independent institutions. The circumstances for this are building up in India through the AAP type of phenomenon. Even deeper than its anti-corruption plank is an inherent demand for the citizen’s self-respect. Parties that find themselves unexpectedly in competition with this force must recognise this sentiment and be careful not to hurt it in the attempt to defeat the political party. The Congress seems to have recognised this truth, but the BJP remains clueless.