Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tackling the Enigma of Indifference.

German bakery : Two years on : Some lessons to be learnt.

Today marks the second anniversary of the German bakery blast in Pune. It was on the 13th of February, 2010 that the tranquility of my city Pune was blown to shreds. Staying a few minutes away from the site I re- visit the horror everyday as I pass the incomplete construction. What is striking is that a lot has been said but the practicality is far from the reality. Apart from the fact that people have been raving and ranting against the ineptitude of the government almost everyone has forgotten the important lessons that this incident taught us. The truth is no one even talks about it.

Now to be fair yes there have been lapses and there have been shortcomings. So, should we have a cop stationed at every café and shop (Yes, that would create jobs! ) or should every MP and MLA or member of the Cabinet be held responsible for what I'd like to call 'plebeian imprudence.'

A very important revelation in this case was the fact that the bomb that was set off on that fateful evening had been left there by a commoner like you and me in a bag and not one person even noticed it. This in itself is a red alert for us. How often do we keep a watch for an unclaimed article or a bag that may have been left at a public place. How many times have we reported any act of commission or omission that would have made a difference? Do we as citizens not owe that much to our fellow men? Are we so full of ourselves that we forget the obligation to our own?

The inevitability of what happened that horrific evening can neither be questioned nor reversed but I do believe that the crime in this case may have well been averted if someone seated there that evening or even those working there had raised the alarm. Can we afford to forget that the majority of those who lost their lives were in the age group of 20 -35? But this could only have happened if there was sufficient awareness created. That in fact is the core issue here. A responsive member of a society cannot afford to overlook such details especially since we have already had several instances of similar nature in the not-so distant past.

This is the harsh reality. The more we run away from it, the more it will chase us in the form of similar or even more heinous acts of crime. What has me astonished is that we are still trying to figure out 'Whose liability is it anyway?'

So where did the authorities falter:
I have intentionally used the term authorities not as a synonym for government because of one very simple and understandably misconstrued concept. The fait accompli of what took place that evening and what ensued was the primary responsibility of the local authorities. Although not a Security Expert, I do believe the local authorities practiced an orchestrated attempt at passing the buck. What is more surprising is the inane move of the local police who stationed themselves for weeks after the incident took place at the blast site. What were they expecting? No terrorist has attacked the exact same spot twice (atleast none that i know of!) I would definitely appreciate if any of you readers could enlighten me on why we would need to guard a place that was battered to an extent that people stopped traversing there. It just didn't make sense. The question of due care and caution in terms of security was of quintessential importance before the incident. If the overall security of Pune as a whole had been taken care of it probably would never have happened. If an alert citizenry is the need of the hour, the onus of protecting the citizens is not diluted for the guardians of society.

Lessons that we should learn:
Lord Byron once wrote: 'Nothing is so difficult as the beginning' The past is the past. Innocent lives have been lost. But we have to ensure that there isn't an encore la. Let's start afresh and stop playing the blame game and shirking our own responsibility. Due diligence is expected of every person who forms a part of society. History bears witness that experiences of the past are valuable lessons for the future but this is impossible until we accept that it isn't the Government that makes a society, it is we the People who do. Lets not wait for the government, let's not wait for authorities, let's pledge to work ourselves, let's awaken from this deep slumber of hypocrisy and indifference. Its time we use the remedy of 'Awareness' to cure the sickness of taedium vitae that we all seem to suffer from. As far as the authorities are concerned, it is essential that the police work in sync with the members of society. It is even more essential that awareness must be created even if it means right from school level. If schools can have lessons in Disaster management why can't they have awareness camps to avert them? After all, how long are we going to blame someone else for our own tardiness?

Apathy practiced so blatantly prevents us from the pursuit of justice. Posters, candle light marches are all futile attempts for ensuring the speedy delivery of justice.

It is my strong belief that like charity, 'Awareness' must begin at home. This will render it impossible for any social miscreant to spread terror and fear in our hearts and in our lives.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


In the year 2009, Martin Luther King’s dream was fulfilled when Barrack Hussein Obama became the first African American to become the President of the U.S.A. He has ever since been epitomized as an icon of change.

I hail from a country that is 64 years ‘young’ and constantly being challenged. From the stormy sessions of the Parliament to individual movements, prevalent circumstances prove that India unlike the United States is still in a period of transition. This is why a 74- year old like Anna Hazare posed a challenge to the supreme democratic institution, the Parliament; the questions that he posed vital. And although I may not be in agreement with his methods, I concede to his proposition that we all need a clean and functioning democracy.

In a country that is home to one- sixth of the entire world’s population, India yearns for redemption of a different kind. It is waiting for a solution that will obliterate rigidity and embrace positive modern values.

Democracy is not limited to values embedded in the Preamble to the Constitution of India. It is the practice of these values in letter and spirit that will empower our country. It must be reiterated that even under an alien rule, India did not beg for freedom; instead it demanded Freedom. The members of the Constituent Assembly did not know what obstacles lay ahead of them but prepared one of the most comprehensive documents in World History that sought to find a remedy for every eventuality.

We need the same today. We need to envision our future. Unfortunately the growing cynicism and apathy towards politics and political institutions shows that the country is slowly succumbing to social and political stagnation.

Khalil Gibran once famously wrote: “Reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.” It is vital that the passion to make a difference converge with the reason to effect this transformation. A definite balance between passion and reason must be struck. This is why we need a concrete plan, because change is not a political fantasy.

Simple steps that can trigger a positive change include the introduction of Political Engages to be organised by various political parties and expose the youth to all kinds of ideologies thereby creating liberal yet pragmatic thinkers. Establishing a direct contact with people is the second important factor. Lincoln won many hearts not through speeches but by a simple gesture of growing a beard to please an eleven year old child. We may not have a Lincoln, but we have a Shashi Tharoor, Naveen Jindal and Sushma Swaraj who try to build an alternative platform for contact and political accountability on social networking portals. As an avid tweeter, I often encounter fellow youth members dwell on cynicism and criticism of various political figures. Media villains are created almost every day. What we all need is an ability to weigh the facts in with logical reasoning rather than speculative apprehension.

India doesn’t need a foreign icon for change. She has gifted the world some of the finest International leaders. They may have faced criticism at home but continue to be remembered as the world icons. We have the best sources of Soft Power, from a rich and varied Indian culture to Bollywood which promotes cultural diplomacy elevating India’s image on the Global front. Indian Pluralism needs to be celebrated. After all, how many countries have the privilege of a firm but united foundation that is based on ‘Diversities’ be it language, religion, class or creed?

The concept of ‘True Freedom’ can only be completely understood when we possess the earnest desire to free ourselves from the ramshackle of old- fashioned and narrow minded thought processes.

It is a sorrowful sight when one is subjected to one- sided media views. It is worse when a politician is reduced to a caricature. It is unfair to generalise that the view of one politician is the view of the entire party and things become worse when the media blows things out of proportion when personal views are divergent from the party making it look like there is severe dissent in the party. India is in need of a certain degree of political maturity. The ground rule is that as long as the members within a party remain united and loyal to the party in totality, minor differences are inconsequential. We must learn to respect individual views with objective rationale than succumbing to subjective reasoning that clouts the mind.

Having said that, it also becomes necessary to highlight that just as how it is essential that the Media imposes some self- restraints, we ourselves are in need of transformation. India deserves a reformist, broad minded citizenry whose sole focus is a Progressive India.

For young defenders of a democratic society, the answer is simple, “In each of us, there resides an Obama. In each of us, lies the potent to transform this Democracy into an intellectually forward, pragmatically sound and culturally strong country.”Development of a social and politically mature society, will serve as a positive political stimulus to attract the youth, the harbinger of hope in this country and Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “Be the change that you wish to see” will come alive.