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March 20, 2011




Page: 5/38

Home > 2011 Issues > March 20, 2011

Thinking Aloud

India too is ripe for a revolution

By Dr Jay Dubashi

Can it happen in India? Of course, it can, and I have a feeling, it will, sooner than you think. In Cairo, they were asking for bread, jobs and the army back in the barracks. In Delhi and Mumbai and Kolkata, they are asking for the heads of crooked politicians, which means every other politician, and their loot.

I am not an Egyptian, and I have been to Cairo only once, but I have a feeling that we are going, or will soon be going the Egyptian way. It’s only a hunch, and I may be wrong, but I have lived through quite a few revolutions, and can smell them, as a cat smells cheese, from a distance. We are on the cusp of a revolution ourselves and one of these days, we shall see horses galloping down the Rajpath, and tanks and armoured cars circling Flora Fountain in Mumbai, as they did in 1946, forcing the British to quit India.

Look at it this way. Revolutions do not come through announcements in the classified columns. They just happen. A month ago, nobody could have predicted that Cairo would be in flames in a couple of weeks’ time and Alexandria would start burning. Not a single pundit in Washington or London, leave alone here in New Delhi, would have told you with a straight face that Hosni Mubarak would flee in a few days to a resort on the banks of the Nile, while Barack Obama, his great friend, watched helplessly from the banks of the Potomac in Washington. But that is what happened. All it required to get the revolution going were a few laptops, and may be twenty or twentyfive thousand men and women in Tahrir Square, and the deed was done. It was the quickest revolution of modern times, exactly 18 days long, and a despot was pulled down, before you could say "Inshallah".

Can it happen in India? Of course, it can, and I have a feeling, it will, sooner than you think. In Cairo, they were asking for bread, jobs and the army back in the barracks. In Delhi and Mumbai and Kolkata, they are asking for the heads of crooked politicians, which means every other politician, and their loot. Farmers have been dying in hundreds over the last few years, but nobody takes any notice. Men like Sharad Pawar, I am told, have never visited them. Prices have doubled, yes, doubled, in the last twelve months, whatever experts like Pranab Mukherji and P Chidambaram might say, but all that Dr Manmohan Singh, the world’s great economic expert, can assure us - when he does open his mouth, which he does rarely - is that he does not possess the Alladin’s lamp. Lakhs of crores of rupees have been looted from the treasury, right under the eyes of those, like the great doctor, who are supposed to keep an eye on the nation’s wealth, but all they can do is to catch a small mouse from Chennai and another rat from Pune, long after they have had time to secrete the cash to the cool vaults of Switzerland.

And do you really think all this has been done without the knowledge, if not on the orders, of the higher-ups in Delhi? Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine el Abidine Ben Ali are supposed to have salted away billions of dollars in Europe. How much have our Mubaraks and Ben Alis salted away in Italy and Switzerland and London? And if Mubarak & Co can pay the price, why not our own Mubaraks?

Revolutions do not give advance notice when they creep upon you. I remember walking down through what was then called Azad Maidan - and, before that, Esplanade - in Mumbai on a fine afternoon in 1946, when everything was quiet and peaceful. There was not a single soldier in sight, and we were having fun watching cricket on the maidan. The next day, as I was going to collect my passport, I heard gunshots and marines, our own, marines, marching, I don’t know from where to where, but marching in perfect step, as if going to war. It was the beginning of the so-called naval uprising in Mumbai, which took not only the British, but also most Indians by surprise.

Who would have thought that Indian sailors, who had fought under the British Flag for six years, would suddenly decide to give up the ghost and lay down their arms? I watched them myself, utterly stupefied, as they marched past me, and it was only the following morning that I came to know that they had revolted - the first such revolt after 1857 - and would not return to barracks again. The British then realised that their time was up and, if they did not leave India on their own, their goose would be cooked, and they would have another 1857 on their hands.

Revolutions have a habit of creeping upon you when you least expect them. Just as you need only two matches to strike a five, two men, or women, can start a revolution. In Tunisia, the revolt was triggered by a vegetable seller - a bhajiwala - whose cart was seized by a police woman because she wanted to stop all traffic for a bada saab who was expected to pass that way. The man was so enraged he set himself on fire and that is how it all began.

In India, traffic is held up for hours by the so-called security men, when a bada saab passes by. This does not happen even in Washington when the, President himself is going by. About twenty years ago, when Lyndon Johnson was President, we were visiting friends in Washington, not far from the White House, when the sturdy policemen halted our car, and asked us, or rather begged us, to park our car elsewhere for a few minutes as the President would be passing by. They were so apologetic, I almost cried.

In India, we are living in a police state without our knowing it. Anybody can enter your home and take your things away by dangling a non-descript paper before your eyes. They can take away your car, and in small towns, they can rob you of your land, your home, and your money, there are so many murder every day, you do not know who is killing whom. And through this mayhem, the politicians and the bureaucrats, who, between them, have looted this country right and left, and are still looking for more loot, sail calmly from one election to another, and from one cushy job to the next one, without batting an eyelid.

This country is ripe for a revolution. What shape it will take, I do not know, just as Hosni Mubarak did not know, until he saw the writing on the wall, that his time was up. Of course, we are supposed to be a democracy, and revolts do not take place in a democracy. Go and tell that to the next farmer preparing for suicide because he has lost everything, and to the family whose small piece of land has been stolen by a local babu. And you still think there is not going to be a revolution?




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