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Bonfire of our frailties

As on every Dussehra evening, we will be reminded again about the natural victory of the forces of good over evil.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2009 22:02 IST

As on every Dussehra evening, we will be reminded again about the natural victory of the forces of good over evil.

Thousands of effigies of Ravana will play metaphor to this universal belief that takes shape from universal hope. And yet, while the war against darkness in its many forms is played out every year on the platform of mass theatre, in the real world there exists a more dangerous symmetry between good and evil, a more evenly matched battle. For one, there lies the problem of fixing what is good and what is evil. India in 2009 is at the crossroads. That inaction itself can be a vice, even an evil, can be gauged from decades of indifference that not only the Nation-State has shown towards vast swathes of its own people, but also that of the citizenry at large.

The innocuous-sounding term ‘chalta hai’ has arguably been the most potent enemy of our country that still sees India’s schizophrenic reality of First World capabilities with Third World miseries exist in full widescreen Technicolour. It’s easy — far too easy — to blame that behemoth called The Government for all that ails us. People get the kind of government and its auxiliaries that they deserve, or at least that they grow comfortable with. The prime function of a democracy is to make popular will policy. Not always has popular will been for the obvious good.

On another level, there is another battle between good and evil going on — a real one. The Prime Minister has reiterated that tackling Maoist extremism is India’s most dangerous challenge. On his part, the Home Minister has made a strong argument for not shirking from the necessary duty of physically uprooting this menace and then going on a damage control mission for decades of under- or non-development among so many of our citizens. Amartya Sen, in his magisterial book, Idea of Justice, invokes the argument and counter-argument exchanged between Arjun and Krishna before the Kurukshetra war. While the former makes a cogent point about the means being more important than the end, the latter wins out when he states that one must do one’s duty. If there is any lesson to be learnt from the victory of Rama over Ravana, it is this: a just war against the many ills beleaguering our nation must not be avoided. Being in denial about them is more than half the battle lost.