Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Two Addendums

I have two additions to my previous two posts, which I am clubbing into one.
Today, December 30, the Right Honourable Shibu Soren, will be sworn in as chief minister of Jharkhand once again. In my last post on the issue, I had pointed out how corrupt and criminal politicians keep getting voted to power by voters, even after information is now available about their antecedents. The Association for Democratic Reforms has done an analysis of the antecedents of MLAs in the new Jharkhand assembly. The list is telling and tragic.
Twenty-six of the 79 MLAs in the Assembly (73 per cent) have criminal cases of a serious nature pending against them. The serious charges are murder (four), attempt to murder (14), theft (14) and kidnapping.
This is information collected from the affidavits all election candidates are supposed to provide. That means this information was in the public domain from the minute these candidates filed their nomination papers.
And yet they got elected. This is the value we attach to our votes.
Going on to the Ruchika Girhotra case. I am now beginning to seriously think that far too many people are cynically capitalising on this case.
Apparently a Chandigarh NGO, World Human Rights Protection Council, has decided to file a public interest litigation seeking harsher punishment for S P S Rathore and on the issue of the harassment of Ashu, Ruchika's brother.
And M S Bitta, head of the All India Anti Terrorist Front, toodled off to honour the Parkashes for the strength shown by them in fighting the case. Bitta is a publicity monger of the worst kind. I remember with disgust seeing his antics at the funeral of news photographer, Pradeep Bhatia, who got killed in Kashmir while covering a gun battle between terrorists and security forces. He was roundly ticked off but his face had an absolutely shameless look. Where was he all these years when the Prakashes were fighting alone? I am disappointed that the Prakashes refused the honour till such time as the case reaches its logical end. At that time, will they accept dubious honours from even more dubious people like Bitta? Why didn't they just snub him there and then?
I can understand Ruchika's father now deciding to come out into the open and knock the doors of higher courts for justice. After all, he no longer has to live in fear of S P S Rathore. But surely all these other people didn't have the same fear. And if they had all come forward to help the Girhotras when they were being harassed, could Rathore have gone to the extent he did? It is specious to argue that they didn't know of the case. Lakhanpal is an advocate in Chandigarh. How could he have not known of the case? Bitta is a politician. I find it hard to believe that he was absolutely clueless in all these years. One newspaper had written about the case and Rathore's harassment of Ashu Girhotra when he was made DGP. So why were they silent then?
Some of the issues that are being raised is absolutely pointless now. Like the inquiry against Sacred Heart Convent which expelled Ruchika on grounds of late payment of fees. That surely must have pushed the child over the brink. Someone should have come forward to help the Girhotras and Parkashes and fought the school then. Someone should have held the school authorities to account then. Nineteen years later, does it matter? Can anything be done to rectify it?
Right now, there are only two persons who should be proceeded against. Rathore and the then Superintendent of Police, Ambala, K P Singh, who, according to the Indian Express, registered all those false cases against Ashu. He definitely should not be allowed to go scot free.
People like him and Rathore must learn that the long arm of the law is actually long.
At the same time, let the publicity mongers be kept away.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Jharkhand and Us

As one sees the sight of the thoroughly immoral Shibu Soren insisting that he should be made chief minister of Jharkhand, the only thought that comes to mind is - perhaps states also need to be born under auspicious stars. What else can one think when one sees the tragedy of Jharkhand. When it was carved out of Bihar, it had a bright future. After all, it was undivided Bihar’s industrial powerhouse, it was immensely rich in mineral and forest resources, it had the benefit of a vision document for economic development prepared by the Confederation of Indian Industry (something the two other states created at the same time, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal, which is now Uttarkhand, did not have). But the state is sinking deeper and deeper into an abyss because of political instability and a thoroughly corrupt political class.

Now we will all sit and lament about the political system, the quality of public life and how corrupt politicians go scot free. But who is allowing them to go scot free? Why do corrupt politicians and those with criminal backgrounds keep getting elected? Because we vote for them.

Earlier it was attributed to lack of knowledge about politicians. But that is no longer the case. Ever since the Association of Democratic Reforms, through it public interest litigation, succeeded in making it compulsory for those contesting elections to declare their assets, educational background and involvement in criminal cases, people can’t claim to be ignorant any more. And yet we keep electing criminals and corrupt politicians. I quote from an earlier post, The Four Cs:

I have always held that the Indian voters may love to carp about corruption in plush drawing rooms as well as DTC buses, but that is hardly an issue in elections. Yes, it became an issue in 1989, when the Bofors scandal shook the nation. But that was probably because of the scale of corruption involved and that the Prime Minister himself was under a cloud. But has it ever been an issue after that? Why, Rajiv Gandhi was all set to return to power n 1991 when he was assassinated. Sukh Ram, the telecom minister in whose house currency notes were found stashed in mattresses, had no problem getting elected. The DMK and the AIADMK keep getting voted in and out alternately even though they are known to be corrupt. Similar examples abound. So if anyone thinks voters are going to rise in anger against corruption and throw bribe-seeking politicians out, they would be well advised to perish the thought.

Clearly, we are not willing to do much more than rant in our living rooms about corruption, as I had argued in Morality of Middle Class Politics. Till we are willing to do that, we have to suffer the Shibu Sorens of the world.

More Meaningless Vigils

Oh no, not again. That was my first reaction when I saw the news clips of the candlelight vigils for Ruchika Girhotra. Like it happened in the Jessica Lal case, this too may lead to a relook at the judgement giving S P S Rathore a laughable six months imprisonment and Rs 1000 fine. And it will be all hailed as a victory for middle class activism.

But I find this whole candlelight vigil business quite farcical. Read an earlier post of mine Middle Class Angst to understand what I am trying to say. I made a similar point in another post, Nithari and Us.

I wonder how many of those who participated in the vigil in Chandigarh knew the Girhotras and stood by them in all these years? From all accounts, it was only the Parkash family who did that. The Girhotras were forced to shift houses and leave Chandigarh because of harassment by Rathore. When he sent goons to their house to pelt stones did his other neighbours come out in a group and confront them? Or did they all sit quietly behind locked doors and watch the drama from their windows? When her brother was booked in false cases and tortured, did anyone other than the Parkash family take up his cause?

It’s very easy now to participate in a candlelight vigil after Rathore has been convicted. And once everyone is sure he is not in a position to harm them any more. I would have saluted all these people if they had done something like this in all these 19 years.

This candlelight vigil doesn’t mean that more Ruchikas won’t be harassed by more Rathores any more. I am absolutely certain that among those in the vigils there will be many who will not do even an iota of what the Parkash family did for the Girhotras when faced with a similar situation. Why, they will not even stop to help if they see a girl being teased in a bus. Even if it happened to their own daughters, they will, in all probability, hush things up.

We don’t need more candlelight vigils. We need more Parkashes.