Mallika Writes: Just Speaking

Anna and after

So Anna has come and gone. He heard and met more people than we expected. He was heard by many times more people than we hoped and many in the State feared. He said what he felt, and he talked of what corruption does to our society – how corruption of one kind seeps into corrupting the soul. He spoke of why he was not afraid, how he considered it God’s gift that he could claim a blotless life.

Why did I call him, I am asked. Was it to defame Gujarat?  Was it to disprove claims of our development? The answer is a definite NO.

Corruption has indeed reached frightening proportions.  So has the increasingly shrinking space for dialogue and discussion, for varied viewpoints, in Gujarat. One needs to be aired and its dangers need to be understood from a societal point of view. The other needs to be enlarged so that we do not become a totalitarian State, where only one voice is right.

At the river front, amidst the debris of broken lives, the anguish was palpable. Anna was seen as the one person who would listen, tell the truth  and be heard by the nation. At the presentation of peoples’ movements from across the State, with the anguish there was anger, anger at remaining unheard, uncared for, marginalized, anger at being made to feel small, powerless, insignificant, anger at being made non-citizens. And there was relief too. At seeing so many others who felt the same, who shared these feelings and circumstances. Relief in not being alone.

Have we been so thoroughly lobotomized that we think of any differing views as rebellion to be squashed? Isn’t democracy about airing different views, having different perceptions, the space to dissent, to debate? Why should this come down to defamation ? Are we not supposed to be a free nation where we can air views without fear of instant reprisal? Does having and airing a different point of view mean we will face an instant backlash of a slew of false cases vindictively slapped on us? Is the pattern not discernable?

I am proud to live in Gujarat, in Ahmedabad. I am proud of what our people have achieved over generations, in craft, industry, industriousness, inventiveness and adventure. I am proud of our literature and of our poets. Does that mean that I can’t speak about the ills? Or that one precludes the other? Does a relationship’s health not depend on being able to cite ills in the knowledge that one values the good in the other? Then it must be the same for one’s relationship with one’s society, state and country. Unquestioning idolatry, blindness towards what is wrong and could be made better, can not lead to a healthy relationship, be it with a person or within a society.

How can one talk of adoring Anna as long as he talks of corruption at the Centre and not if he talks of local corruption issues? Getting rid of corruption and the corrupt, like charity, must begin at home. A healthy society can not be engineered by hiding faults but by airing them and finding a cure for them.

That is why we need to look at corruption from the immediate to the national, from what we can do to what systems can be put in place. That is why we must sustain what we have started.

This is the time for the Gujarati’s inventive spirit to come to the fore. We need to find out of the box ideas to shame the corrupt, to make them squirm. We need to find ways of celebrating those who do not become corrupt, who do not give in to greed or to short cuts or to bribing for convenience or privilege. Perhaps we need to adopt Munnabhai’s method and bombard the bribe taker with something.

Here is our chance to show our innovative spirit. Let’s take the challenge.

May 29th, 2011, DNA


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