After 26/11, we had seen protests and candlelight vigils by citizens. But the anger was directed mainly at faceless enemies, and the demand was for an action that fell in the shadowy zone between war and tough diplomacy. This time around, the enemy is clear: corrupt politicians. The immediate goal can be held warm between fingers: revised pages of the Lokpal Bill.
From the gathering avalanche of tweets, Facebook posts, online signatures and even ground support for Anna Hazare, it is evident that the government will concede a lot of ground on the Bill, and soon. Even the unembarrassable — politicians who make money from even the smallest of drain or road contracts in this country — seem embarrassed this time.
The real concern, however, lies in the afterlife of the Bill. Will this spontaneous movement, helped by Twitter, Facebook, news channels and other children of information technology, get washed away when work, kitchen, child’s school fees rush in? Is the inert-to-intrepid Middle India prepared for the long haul of revolution?
The Bill will not magically erase corruption. Rivers of rot run deep in this country. If this is to be the watershed moment of our democracy, we need a long, organised and determined citizen’s movement that looks beyond the shrill thrill of one protest and its likely success. The process has to begin with the ‘I’, and go on to three ‘I’s’: involvement, information and implementation.
Involvement: Will you give your democracy an hour every day? In countries like Israel, every citizen spends two years in military service. Even if half of India takes out an hour from its busy day, one has 600 million man hours daily at the service of the nation.
So, get involved. Go to meetings or protests, take the stage to make suggestions or make a point. Also, get others involved. Spread the word.
Information: Find out how you can participate in the movement. Though there is an online petition and a growing Facebook presence, the movement needs a strong and effective website. It can eventually become a place where suggestions and complaints from every corner of India pours in, and central and local citizens’ teams take up an issue and fight till it’s addressed.
Information has set West Asia and Africa on the boil. India has far more advanced sources of information. Also, hopefully our media will play the kind of brave, determined and responsible role Al Jazeera is playing in that region. And then there is Right To Information. We are only beginning to experience its power. It is our biggest weapon against the corrupt.
Implementation: The movement should evolve into a collective human button. You just need to press it with an issue of a certain weight to activate the process. People from other parts of the country can offer their resources, contacts and even physical support to help citizens of a certain locality solve a problem or nail the corrupt.
Frankly, it is comfortable to be cynical and say all this will fizzle out, Utopia doesn’t exist. But if we aim for Utopia, we might end up at least a few miles closer to it. The time has come to make up our minds on how we can contribute beyond our tiny, selfish worlds.
There is a tough job ahead. If we take it up, homemakers, writers, businessmen, policemen, soldiers, marketing professionals, accountants, techies, roadmakers, artists and artistes... will all be needed.