The lack of any credible response from all political parties to the recent spontaneous protests against the gang rape in Delhi is not surprising. In the last 65 years our democracy has transformed into an elitocracy. Those who like to call themselves leaders have actually lost touch with those they profess to lead. To them, people are at best an unavoidable nuisance to be tolerated for the sake of garnering votes every five years. They never tire of mouthing platitudes about how people are their masters, and every move, action and decision they take is keeping in mind the best interest of public. But in reality, they consider the cattle class mango people to be gullible enough to fall for all their subterfuge, and docile enough to bear all the indignities heaped upon them.
The political paralysis was partly out of the shock on realizing the possibility of the public actually walking into their well protected citadels and demanding explanations. They are not used to facing the people directly. They prefer the cosy comfort of communicating through a largely pliable media and media managers to help impart a spin to every situation. Or the safety of the distance between the dias and the spectators at a political rally – spectators who have probably been ‘organized’ by the party machinery. Or hidden behind barricades in the traffic held up for miles as their VIP convoy whizzes past. So, when the common citizens broke the barriers and asked for answers directly, none were forthcoming. Response was in the form of police batons and water canons. And when these failed to break the spirits of the protestors, they resorted to letting loose their goons to infiltrate the peaceful protests and discredit it by resorting to violence and arson.
It is a sad commentary on the complete lack of leadership amongst the political class that not one politician from any part of the political spectrum felt the need to walk amongst the people, speak to them, express solidarity with them. Responses from the government as well as the opposition were along expected lines. The government, after initially taking the whole thing lightly, came out with the standard devices. Commission of enquiry, suspension of a few junior policemen, empty assurances and mouthing of a whole lot of platitudes. The opposition played its part by taking the opportunity to take potshots at the government.
Undoubtedly, the protests will die down in a couple of days as agitational fatigue sets in. If anything, at least two things would have been achieved by then. A few measures and systems may be put in place to make our streets a little safer, the laws a little more tough and trial a little faster. But more importantly, one hopes that it will shake at least some of the political leaders out of their complacency, cause them to introspect. Make them realize that these protests were just the manifestation, the brutal rape merely a flashpoint. It is the repeated rape of the country and the systems that the people are fed up with. They have reached a stage where, having completely lost faith in the system, they are demanding direct answers from their representatives, from the people who are living in comfort on taxes paid by them. The charm has long worn off, the glib talking has stopped working. They had better start delivering, because the people are not willing to wait for elections to make their voices heard. And if they decide to throw them out, they may mean it literally.