With the fever of revolution in the air in the Middle East and North Africa, it was inevitable that other nations around the world would feel the repercussions. Has India caught this revolutionary spark?
In the last two weeks, India has witnessed bursts of extreme nationalism in two forms: First, victory in this year’s Cricket World Cup, which might seem insignificant, but was monumental in a country where cricket is almost a religion. In a burst of patriotism, people paraded around the streets of India and the tricolour was draped over every vehicle.
The second form of nationalist fervour took place when the country rallied around a Gandhian by the name of Anna Hazare, who took on a fast unto death. The 72-year-old anti-corruption crusader has been pushing for an effective ‘Lokpal Bill,’ a bill that aims to increase transparency and accountability at every government level. After approximately 96 hours marked by a hunger strike, national candlelight vigils, and much media attention and politician-bashing, Hazare’s fast came to fruition.
Shortly after the World Cup victory, it seemed India was ripe for revolution. The national pride combined with the exposure of corruption in the last few months (the 2G spectrum scam, the cash-for-votes scandal, and the commonwealth games fiasco) seemed like the perfect backdrop for an uprising. So why didn’t a revolution occur? Here are some speculations:
While some articles tried to draw parallels between the Middle Eastern revolutions and the rise in Indian national sentiment, it is crucial to recognise that these countries have two very different kinds of political structures. India, for all its corruption and flaws is still very much a democracy, not an autocracy or a military dictatorship.
Even though most people might view this rampant corruption as reason enough to overthrow a government, the problem is that Indians have become too complacent about the issue. Corruption is accepted as an inherent part of ‘the system’. It is a legacy of the inefficient and bureaucratic system left behind by the British and then exacerbated during our independence. It is something that people often cluck about disapprovingly, but rarely do anything about.
Indians have a two-day attention span. After the Mumbai attacks on 26/11, people protested against the government vehemently. In less than a month, people were back to work and the rage against the government died a natural death. The true test of whether the Lokpal Bill actually translates into reality will be during the monsoon session of the parliament, when the government has promised to bring it up.
Last, but not least, there are bigger fish to fry. India has a whole basket of problems to deal with, the prime concern for most Indians being inflation and the incumbent food price-rise as well as the ongoing election campaigns in several states in the country. Corruption just does not seem to be pressing enough.
None of this dilutes the fact that the government of the world’s largest democracy had no choice but to comply with the demands of its people, when they raised them. While the need of the population to bring about this sort change in the system truly questions the stability of the Indian government, it does not imply that the country is ready to ignite a revolution. Perhaps for now, this should be left to countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
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