As we ushered in 2013 with the hope that the year will be safer and more peaceful, a thought crossed my mind, and I asked myself whether we had moved a step forward as a nation.
Will 2012 go down in the annals of history as the most rewarding year for the Indians? Whether we matured as a nation politically or otherwise and became more receptive to issues which raise a question mark on our sensibilities as civilized human beings.
Were the promises made by our rulers and policy makers delivered? Did the government fulfill its promise of bringing more transparency and accountability in its functioning?
Regrettably, the answers to most of these questions are a big ‘No’. At this juncture, it is difficult to say what 2013 has in store for us or whether it will be better than the bygone year. But we still remain hopeful that the winds of change will sweep the nation, ignite our minds and help us find lasting solutions to those problems, which have plagued our society for decades.
To me, 2012 comes across as the year of awakening of India’s middle class, which kept the spirit of democracy alive through protests and demonstrations round the year.
While 2011 was a year which saw a plethora of corruption cases and a new mass awakening, thanks to the anti-corruption protests led by social activists like Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev, the year 2012 was a bit different as it saw the common man uniting and voicing its protest against the vicious cycle of its suppression.
While we saw the rise of many social leaders, who spearheaded the campaign against corruption or black money in 2011, the year 2012 was unique as it was not dependent on known ‘catalysts of change’ to lead a mass movement.
It was truly a year of restlessness. It was a year that saw the ‘aam admi’ coming out of his comfort zone to express its anger against the government’s failure to address its causes and pressing for an overhaul of the system.
The churning in the middle class was visible when the ‘aam admi’ took to the streets opposing government’s failure to contain rising prices, corruption, inflation, the FDI decision and the latest, seeking justice for a 23-year-old gang-rape victim.
As the protests and demonstrations deepened and diversified, it also brought to the fore a total disconnect between the government and the common man. All these events triggered the agitation in the middle class, which mostly remains alienated by our ruler’s total apathy towards common man’s problems.
A helpless government also had its share of worries when ethnic violence in Assam triggered a mass exodus from the North-East region, when the collector of Sukma Alex Paul Menon was kidnapped by Maoists in Chhattisgarh, when the biggest UPA ally Trinamool Congress walked out of the Congress-led ruling coalition on the FDI issue or when Delhi gang-rape evoked massive protests. .
An important aspect of this restlessness was a change in the texture of the mass protests witnessed in the recent times, where people poured in large numbers on their own. Unlike similar events in past, when influential leaders steered them to bring them together for a cause. The national media and the internet were undoubtedly the harbinger of this visible change in the people’s movement, which are largely non-ideological and remain focused on issues.
In 2011, social crusaders like Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev and Arvind Kejriwal got immense public support when they targeted the ruling disposition over corruption or black money. Interestingly, the anti-corruption brigade failed to generate any mass hysteria this year.
The anti-graft movement started by Hazare lost its sheen due to a bitter split in Team Anna and Kejriwal, who donned a cap of politician claiming to become the new face of people’s struggle, remained busy in accusations and counter accusations.
In the larger context, it was the helpless common man, which decided to fight against all odds, shake the power centre of the country and seek justice from an uncaring government, which responded by ordering a lathi-charge and use of water cannons and tear gases on innocent protestors.
Since Independence, the venue for public protests has been changing from Vijay Chowk, Rajghat to Jantar Mantar and India Gate but after Delhi gang-rape, the demonstrations reached the doors of the Rashtrapati Bhwan, which reflects the frustration and anger building in the citizenry against its rulers. The common man or the agitated middle class appears to have decided that it will no longer remain mute spectator of those events which brings disgrace to our society. It seems to be in no mood to tolerate the inaction and silence of an inept government.
Let’s hope that the voice of the common man is heard and the anger prevailing in the Indian middle class succeeds in compelling the government to pass path-breaking legislations, bring radical changes in the concept of governance and the law and order machinery in the days to come.