The Paradoxical Tale of India

The real breakthrough in the Anna age is the realizing civil society’s powerful role!

The story of India is full of paradoxes. We’re always characterized as being in a permanent state of flux: we’re developing, we’re growing, and we’re emerging. We’re always getting there, but yet not quite there yet.

Yet grandeur is inherent in our political thought. We’re a nation destined for greatness. It’s written in our stars, but when it comes to reality, it’s a deadly combination of complacency and cynicism that pulls us back.

It’s either the mentality that nothing can change or a sense of resignation that even if things can change, we’re too small to make a difference.

The Anna age:
In the Anna age we’re moving away from this mentality. I was in Mumbai in April when the movement had kick started.. Anti-corruption was the word on the streets. Then occurred the Auiraya incident, which was victory number two for civil society.

Three lessons, “One, the system we frequently criticise and abandon, can work. Two, we must make it work. Three, if it works once, it will again,” was the Hindustan Time’s Message from Auiraya.
It’s a paradigm shift in thinking.

I’m back in Mumbai in August to see the Hazare movement gain momentum like never before. A strong desire for justice, for a fair system and a determination to see it being carried out; we’re on the brink of change is the message from all this excitement and civil unrest.

But that’s the catch. The brink. We’re “changing,” we haven’t “changed,” and again we’re back to using the progressive present tense. So what’s holding us back this time? It’s easy to get swept up in this sea of demonstrations. But I think the most crucial point is to remember the message from Auiraya. And keep in mind the two reasons for our losing focus.

Too many rules and little enforcement:
One is that this solution to corruption does not lie in taking “sides” and the reason this whole issue has been turned into a battle is our television channels. It’s not about being in “team Anna” or “team UPA”. It’s about our believing in a corruption-free system for our country. And working towards it. Remember, the system that we criticize and abandon CAN work.

Two is that the solution to corruption is not only the Lokpal bill. This is hardly the magic bullet to our problems for several reasons. A small body faced with the monumental task of overseeing a pervasive problem like corruption for one seems unrealistic. And this back and forth debate about being within the “constitutional” and “democratic” parameters has forestalled both the parliament and the public from progressing, because we’re caught in a game of semantics.

The underlying question is whether we need another legislation to solve corruption. We don’t have a dearth of laws in this country. Our constitution itself is one of the lengthiest documents in the world. Unfortunately our legal process is one of the slowest and most inefficient. What we lack is enforcement. Our institutions are not strong enough to enforce their writ in society.

And so we’re always looking for ways to circumvent the system. Which is why that dreaded “C-word” that we’ve been throwing around loosely there days is so entrenched in society, as a common practice but also as a mentality.

A few years ago if you asked someone “how can we change this?” they wouldn’t have an answer. Today your answer may be to support a man on a hunger strike, and the lokpal bill.

The real breakthrough:

We’ve left behind that cynical and complacent persona, but just because we think we have answers does not necessarily mean they’re right. We’re still in a state of flux. We’re in a world where democracy is becoming a more powerful tool, evident in the Arab Spring, where the strength of civil society is also increasing.

Here in our already democratic nation we’re simply waking up to play our role as citizens and learning how to exercise the power we have as civil society. And that’s the real breakthrough.
We’ve definitely come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. So goes the age old tale of paradoxes, the tale of our nation.

Saanya Gulati