The Untilled land

3 Aug

On the news today, a young girl was shouting at tv channel microphones that unless the government paid compensation of 30 lakh rupees to a girl killed in a bus accident, protests by a hundred-odd students would continue. The news item ended with the protestors dispersing after officials promised compensation.

In the next news item, student protestors from Pachiyappa’s college were shown pelting stones at a TASMAC shop. A burly policeman in plain clothes was beating the hell out of a rather skinny student who had ran out of luck.

On another channel, MDMK leader Vaiko was exhorting students ‘to come out of college classrooms to the streets to break TASMAC shops’. ‘Not a single shop should be spared!’ he said.

The striking similarity across all three news items was the unflinching certainty of those involved that the judiciary or the due democratic process of government has no chance of seeing the light of the day here.

The first case – a court in any country where democratic ideals have taken roots, like the USA would have quickly ruled imposing penalties on the transport authority without getting hundreds of people working up under the midday sun.

The second case of stone-pelting students – a healthy public debate aided by a free press and judicial steps by social activists could have kept a check on the liquor-industrial complex (viz. the TN government?) without students having to step back in history to violence, which was how disagreements between folks were settled in the medieval ages.

A leader of an reasonably experienced political party exhorts students to violence, eschewing both peaceful democractic demonstrations and the law of the land. He is a lawyer-politican, and he apparently has had enough of both. This betrays a complete distrust of the due process of law and political engagement. One cannot blame him though – he once spent 180 days in jail without any chargesheet by the ruling government.


India is at a crossroads. We may be the world’s largest democracy, but a democratic civil society is yet to take root in our tropical soil. The last political person who tilled this land was Gandhi.   


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