Have your Republic Day parade, but save the republic

Days after the Delhi gangrape and beheading of Indian soldiers, for the first time, there is in the air a certain uncertainty this R-Day, a feeling of bobbing like a cork on the water, a vulnerability in the national psyche

bikram

Bikram Vohra | January 19, 2013




A nation has clearly been moved by its own hypocrisy where the rights of women are concerned. The year will be most remembered for the reckoning and the call to face the not so funny mirror and learn the cruel truth. Nothing has demanded so much action and so much reaction from the political and bureaucrat cabals that rule this land than the rape of a 23-year-old girl by six men when she boarded a bus. It epitomises a collective guilt for not having done the right thing for a long time.

Come January 26, 1.2 billion people will have to answer that singular question. Have we, as a nation, become savages stoked by our own frustrations, our ugly media priorities and the contempt in which we hold our womenfolk while extolling our virtuous pretence that the mother figure, the sister figure are the cornerstones of our culture? Time to grasp the nettle and face the truth. We are victims of our own myths.

Consequently, it is very difficult this year to come up with wisps of hope. Our courage of conviction hasn’t risen dramatically on the military front either. The unspeakably non-soldierly act by Pakistani troops on Indian soldiers in beheading them and taking the trophy home like it was Pompeii’s head has not received anything more solid than some pulpit pounding by the Indian government. It should have been more forceful and less conciliatory. The window dressing of dispatching four innocent Pakistani hockey players home was scarcely an adequate response.

Again, the arrests or police surveillance of anyone criticising Mamata Banerjee on a social media site reduces India’s highly vaunted freedom of the press to a midget. Big brother is watching in 2013 and it is not a comfortable sensation.

If, in a capsule, one was to focus on the swift shift of the Indian democratic fabric to that of a police state it can be seen in the absurd closing down of ‘life’ in the capital after 9 pm. There seems to exist in New Delhi, at least, some sort of ridiculous idea that if you put the city to bed early, the safety factor will go up exponentially. The absence of logic does not even get a look in. Suddenly, we are all suspect.

The result is a palpable fear with the police so under the cosh as a force it has become ironically less protective and more aggressive. So much for giving the public a sense of security...the public has become the target so the authorities are saving the public from itself by assaulting it. Go figure.

Yes, we will have our parade and our rulers will serve us sermons and soda water and when our icons march down that strip of Rajpath and the tricolour flies proudly we will feel the choke of high emotion and try to clutch at the good things and believe as fervently as we can that things will get better but will they?

The cost of living is into orbit, the pre-celebration week is clouded by the tension of another hike in fuel prices, the newspapers are smeared with crime reports, the system per se has become rickety and unstable, corruption has survived the mugging given by the Anna Hazares and Kejriwals and there is a sense of deep almost tangible resignation that the more things change the more they are going to stay the same.

I have never been a gloom merchant nor have I ever advocated defeatism. But, for the first time, there is in the air a certain uncertainty, a feeling of bobbing like a cork on the water, a vulnerability in the national psyche, as if someone had rudely pulled off the band aid and revealed a scar that disfigures our image as we see ourselves.

Agreed, we have immense potential in our youth, our global diaspora is inspiring, our sportsmen toil against great odds and give us slivers of sunshine, we excel in the arts and sciences, our collective intellect and our knowledge of the world is unparalleled, our armed forces still spark a flare of patriotic fervour, our entrepreneurs and captains of industry have proven their mettle, we manage to battle adversity, still largely maintain the traditions of the family unit and love our children even as we watch them grow out of hand.

That said, the feeling of discomfort, like a burr under the saddle, won’t go away. Which makes it difficult to ride victoriously into the parade.
Have your parade, but save the republic.

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