Friday, October 5, 2007

DEMOCRACY - MOCKOCRACY - REVOLUTION?

Much chest thumping has been and is being done over the fact that India is a Democracy. Democracy is the magic mantra by which all our failings are swept under a very dirty carpet. It is also the mantra which is used by all for lofty comparisons with other great but undemocratic nations which have and are clearly doing a much better job of taking their people and nations forward.

China has left us far, far behind on almost all parameters like economic growth, quality of life, eradication of poverty, generation of wealth, military strength, and a seat on the table of great nations of the world. And this, despite the fact that barely thirty five odd years back, both these nations were virtually at the same level on all these counts. Yet, we continue to delude ourselves into believing that we are above China because we have ‘democracy’. Our self esteem and national pride is not hurt by the chasm that China has effortlessly created, making India look like any other insignificant small nation it does not consider worthy of speaking about as anywhere near an equal.

As everybody never tires of saying, there are two ‘Indias’ in India. One India is of the English speaking and materially comfortable Indians, moving ahead at brisk pace now: The Shining India. Indians of this India, particularly the young and brash icons in most spheres, including the media, are living their personal ‘American Dream’, which places them individually as well as collectively in a position superior to Indians of the ‘Other India’. They are quite happy to be floating and gloating there. Feudalism and the caste system have not disappeared; they have just mutated and are now sophisticatedly practiced by these new ‘Upper Caste’ Indians. They smugly and with obscene pride identify themselves in terms of even tiny connections to the ‘superior’ West, which they think places them on a pedestal beyond the lowly Hindi/Regional language speaking Indians, whom they cannot identify with. For them alone, this democracy rocks.

The question that needs to be asked is: What is this democracy that we are so proud of? Does it even remotely resemble the responsible and responsive democracies of the nations from which we did a ‘cut and paste’ job after Independence? Has the expression of democracy here not been reduced for the 'Other Indians' just to the one free(that too not in all cases)act of casting of votes once in five years, to elect representatives who are repeatedly proving themselves to be petty individuals driven by fear and greed, above all else? Fear of losing the next elections and the greed of enjoying the spoils of office, when in power?

Has not our brand of democracy become more akin to ‘Mockocracy’, a mockery of the power to the people that is supposed to be its very basis? For those Shining Indians who still remember Hindi, hasn’t Indian democracy degenerated to the Hindi ‘mockocracy’, where most politicians are in the business only for the ‘mauka’ (opportunity) to make money and enjoy perverse power? Hasn’t the ‘Ram Rajya’ of Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams become a ‘Haram Rajya’?

Democracy has done little for the forgotten millions who subsist on a dollar a day or less. Their existence is remembered only at the time of casting of votes. If some of these unfortunate Indians were to experience the life being led by the poor in China, in the backdrop of the fact that a few years back they too were at the same level, they would either die of shock or come back and probably pick up a gun. Would they want the five-yearly experience of ‘democracy’ which has got them nothing or any other form of government which gives them the life the Chinese are living? The answer is a an unequivocal slap on our face.

Dissatisfaction with mockocracy is growing by the day. The signs are loud, but no one wants to notice; not the fear and greed driven politicians; not the shining Indians who are having a great time. Mass lynching of thieves and petty criminals, wanton destruction of public property at the slightest provocation, increasing naxal violence by the deprived, mass protests by aggrieved groups which bring the nation to a halt, instant and sometimes violent settlement of social disputes; these are all symbols of rising frustration among the masses, not yet galvanized by a tall leader in the mould of a Mao or a Gandhi. The moment such a unifying and incorruptible leader emerges, as he will, if things continue this way, this mockocracy will collapse faster than a pack of cards.

Communism collapsed dramatically in the West mainly because it failed to provide the promised economic and material benefits to the masses, while the capitalist world took giant leaps in doing so. Communism survived in China primarily because Deng Xiao Ping foresaw what communists in the West failed to, well before any serious rumbling took place in China. Thus, while the dictatorial rule of the Communist Party continues, communism as the economic ideology it was has been given a quiet burial. Intelligent evolution has prevented a bloody revolution, a revolution which could easily have seen China break up like the Soviet Union.

Are we headed for a revolution or will we find an evolutionary answer to this blot to the India of Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams, this mockery of the collective intelligence of the most ancient surviving culture and civilization?

Our endless ability to adapt and absorb has contributed in no small measure to our survival for thousands of years.The times now are different. It is the ‘Instant Age’, where information can be made available to more than a critical mass of people instantly.

Revolutionary reactions, when they come in future, will thus be sudden and almost with no clear early warning. The way our leaders continue to live in a different age, and the way elite Shining Indians are happy to live in their own little Americas, it will not be surprising if a violent revolutionary change occurs when least expected by them.

Is there another Mahatma out there to rush to our timely rescue?