Sunday, 30 December 2012

Unfinished business

I sit here watching images of what has been going on in Delhi in the last two weeks. The unspeakable horror that was inflicted upon a 23-year old Delhi student, her 13 days of struggle for life and the deplorable politics that ensued at all stages has enraged the country like never before and the outpouring of grief is unprecedented.

But, the irony is that this is not an isolated incident, it is certainly not the first and probably not the last. Some of these incidents make big news and we have public and media outrage, despair, calls for action...Perhaps we have become too quick to brand our events into hashtags: #lokpal #corruption #Damini #Nirbhaya #alltimelow #stoptheshame.....The awakening of 1.25bn people at last! Our own revolution, led peacefully by the youth and complemented by social media (bravo!).

The government on its part, does nothing and remains silent. The sniggering continues, what! after all this the PM could only say "#TheekHai" or worse, some idiotic politician brands the protesters as "dented-painted women" which just shows how bad their mentality is.

But soon people get tired of protesting, the media finds another issue to highlight, the Twitterrati move on to happier topics... No laws are passed, no law enforcement is strengthened, no accountability is restored. The crime, the violence especially against women, the corruption continues..


Because a system as broken as ours, a society as corrupt as ours cannot be fixed by one or two "uprisings" alone. Because believe it or not, we live in a democracy, and democratic governments are not toppled by a candle light march at India Gate (or Jantar Mantar).

So all the calls for action, special sessions of parliament, better laws, better law enforcement will fall on deaf ears. Because the political class knows they are in power and the person on the street is not. News Anchors, social activists and the like can shout all they want on national TV -"has the political class lost sense of ground reality?" "Have they lost touch with modern India?" 

But, I think that the exact opposite is true - modern India has lost touch with politics.

We have always known that India is a land of diversity - there are many languages, religions, cultures, caste, creed etc. However, any marketing guru will tell you that aside from the regional differences, there are also socio-economic segments, broadly: The rich, the consuming class, the climbers, the aspirants and the destitute. These segments are extremely disparate and they sometimes have very little in common between them. 

India is a growth story because the consuming class and the climbers have become a sizeable chunk of the population and are growing significantly. Add to it the so called "demographic dividend" and this creates a perfect opportunity for businesses around the world. But the important lesson here is to know your segment and cater to that segment only. To win over a segment, you might even have to alienate the others. 

Our political class probably learnt this very important marketing lesson a long time ago. And so they play in their little segments based on regional or socio-economic differences. They know they cannot please everyone, so they only cater to people that will actually put them into power. 

You and I, the educated consuming class of the country, the upwardly mobile climbers or even the aspirants - are not the target segment of any politician today. 

Why? Because we don't bother to speak when it actually matters. We don't vote, most people haven't even registered to vote. Because well, who do we vote for? "The candidates do not represent us". "We believe in no one." But then who is our icon, our leader? Will the real youth icons please stand up? 

We need someone to represent us in parliament, to take up our issues, to create laws that matter to us and ensure that these laws are enforced. Our revolution will come from going inside parliament, not by protesting from the outside. 

But is this incident only about politics, bad governance, lack of law and order? No, it is not! The issue is actually much larger, the issue is about how our society treats women, the attitude towards women which manifests itself in many crimes against women. It is hard to talk about all these issues in one go, but let me highlight one particular issue:
Whenever something like this happens, the media is quick to pose the question: why do we disrespect our women, why are women being objectified? Celebrities and Bollywood personalities are quick to join in. But ironically, every Bollywood movie these days has an "item song". Every heroine wants to have a song like "Sheila kee Jawaani", "munni badnaam huee" or "chikni chameli" to her credit. These songs with skimpily clad "hot" woman dancing among 100s of men supposedly from the "masses" and the "hinterland" are constantly streamed onto our TV screens and radio channels. The latest such song has lines to the effect "main murgee ka leg piece hoon, gataka le alcohol se; meree photo ko seene se laga Fevicol se..." Why are we so quick to lap them up and happily dance to them in our weddings and celebrations? But of course that is OK, because it is entertainment and sure pop songs all over the world are provocative, edgy and objectify women... But have we ever considered that some people might be taking this too literally, that their idea of entertainment might be attacking a woman on the street...Have we ever considered that treating women as objects has become part of our pop culture...

The issues go on....but there are no easy fixes and somewhere the blame lies with us.

Sure, maybe this time, some action might be taken. Maybe the six men will probably get a death sentence; but that is not the point. The point is that we all know that such events will happen again, that we will have to protest again, but the only way to make these protests meaningful is to not just call for action, but to ACT as well...


  1. Bollywood is perhaps the only source of entertainment for the largest chunk of Indian population and it has a varied influence on different segments within. When our film industry churns out crass item numbers to titillate the masses, more often than not the content is taken literally and not purely for its so called entertainment quotient. Some people try to replicate what they see on the big screen...sometimes this results in eve teasing which is a menace too but there are times when it gives birth to something as gruesome and sick as what happened to Amanat/Damini...

  2. and what about alcohol , these days alcohol has gained social acceptance , but the root cause in most of the cases is alcohol as the accused was under the influence of alcohol , the road side alcohol shops
    add to all these as they are cheap way of forgetting their adversaties/enjoyment for masses

  3. Regarding what we were discussing earlier today about Bollywood - I don't think there is a "demand" or a "market" for vulgarity or item numbers. Demand and market can easily be created. Its like the iPod. There was never a demand for it. Apple created the demand, they created the market. Same for Ekta Kapur's sas bahu serials.
    And this fevicol se is such a pathetic absurd song that I feel like slapping the songwriter, choreographer and Kareena Kapoor!

  4. Very well written! The call-to-arms on changing the govt is spot-on.
    I worry though, if the last bit, bordering on social responsibility, inadvertently curbs freedom of expression?

  5. a strong judicial system is imperative in order to ensure social responsibility without infringing on freedom of any kind.
    I don't believe prohibition will make any difference. Those who have to drink will still drink. There should be strong punishment for crime. There should be strong punishment when someone infringes on another person's freedom or right to life. Accountability is a very important aspect of freedom and can only be achieved via a strong justice system.

    Today the Supreme Court enjoys -
    - 7 weeks of summer vacation
    - 2 weeks of winter vacation
    - 1 week each for Holi and Diwali
    - National holidays
    - weekends
    - works from 10:30am- 4pm with one hour lunch.
    - Mondays and Fridays are practically half days

    High Courts have similar holidays. The earliest high courts were established in the 19th century and the last one was in 1975.
    How does a nation of 1 billion ever expect to get "timely" let alone speedy justice like this?
    Has our judiciary kept up with the growing population and growing rate of crime since the British Raj? I don't know. I am collecting more data on this.

  6. Thank you all for your comments - I am not sure if blogspot lets you know my response via email etc. But anyway, I agree with you all about the point about social responsibility. It is genuinely tricky. What is acceptable to me, might not be acceptable to the other person. In general, I don't think we should censor too much and people should be free to choose and act as they please in their personal life and we all have a right to movies, alcohol, food etc. But then, if such behavior is leading to anti-social behavior, then maybe we all need to think a little.

  7. The issue is law enforcement. Look at Singapore. If one commits even a minor crime/offense - the person is fined a fortune. The cops have the power and are not corrupted so they make the offender pay. In India - you can practically get away with any thing. If you have money in your pocket, you are the king. How do we change this? Law enforcement is the key - drafting laws alone will not work. Does that lead to talibanization of Indian democracy - maybe, but I guess, if done well, it will prove to be a good deterent and will mend the ways of the social corrupts.

  8. Completely agree with Mayank. Social irresponsibility, not behaving properly when drunk etc are all symptoms that will go away if you have strong punishment and law enforcement system.
    simple examples from the US - driving under influence, or speeding. The punishment is strong and it definitely serves as a deterrent.
    Similarly enforcement seat belt laws, and increasing the drinking age to 21 has reduced the number of teen fatalities caused by road accidents. Not everyone follows the law but strong laws definitely go a long way in deterring mishaps.

  9. Also, on the question of the real youth icons standing up - that will not happen till we start taking responsibility for the lack of participation not just as voters, but also as candidates. We are not represented because we don't bother to contest so we will always be governed by idiots. Smart people, smart leaders, just don't want to enter politics. I don't blame them. But that has to change.
    One option is to explore the Freedom Team of India (, a leadership platform looking for capable leaders to contest elections in 2014 if possible. Their ideology is classical liberalism and in my opinion doing away with socialism and promoting liberty is going to go a long way in improving our situation. I would urge anyone intending to make any difference to consider joining or supporting this platform in any way possible.

    1. Definitely need to read up on this platform. We need more ideas like this

  10. Unfortunately curbing freedom is a slippery slope that might exacerbate the problem. Isn't a more plausible explanation of the root cause the mere fact that sexual freedom is largely oppressed to begin with?
    As long as you have phrases like 'socially unacceptable', 'taboo', or 'offensive' you will continue to shelter criminals with genetic misfirings and compromised brains. Time to get rid of those medieval concepts.

    1. Agree with you 100%. Have you seen the latest with Asaram Bapu saying, if the woman had prayed to God, she might have been saved!! all in the name of "Bhartiye Sanskar"

  11. hmmmmm...thought proviking...and showing the hearfelt emotions...will discuss, in person!

    1. Rajesh - we never really got to discussing this in person!! we had too much to catch-up on...anyway, topic for next time :)