Friday, December 05, 2008

We The People 0; Our Politicians 1

Date: Dec 3rd 2008
Place: Mumbai, Gateway of India, Taj Hotel, First big protest against what happened in Mumbai

Score: We The People 0;
Our Politicians 1

I want to keep this mail as short as possible, but I don't think I'll be able to. If any of you were affected by what happened, do take time to read this.

The power of the internet, SMSes and media brought together thousands of people lighting candles for the shaheed jawans and protesting against inept politicians. In no time, various groups of people and organizations came up with various ways to show their protest – be it through t-shirts or placards. I was there to witness it all.

For the first time in my life, I saw the voice of the people raised as one, asking for change. Fighting for change. The energy was tremendously positive. So much energy that at that moment we could have achieved anything, absolutely anything. I'd like to illustrate the energy, intensity and clarity of why we were there with one silly example:
when I first saw the crowd, I was afraid to enter especially since I was with a girl, knowing the kinds of things happen in crowds in parties or on the roads. But I was amazed to see thousands of young and beautiful boys and girls walking fearlessly, and not for a moment did I feel any girl would be unsafe here. In fact, it was my friend who forced me into the crowd. It didn't matter who in the crowd was Hindu or Muslim.
It was clear that religious divides matter only to the politicians.

But even after all this, I felt that at the end of the day the score stood the same: we the people 0; politicians 1.
I completely agree that although the nature of the protest was wonderful and unexpected, so many positive things came out.
But the next time we come together, our protest needs to be more focused. One error on our part and the politicians will win… again. Remember that they were sitting at home with a glass of whiskey, watching us on TV and laughing. They wanted this protest to center only around this single incident, and that's what we did. The energy was scattered and although the people were united, the unity needs a path.

Half the people there were shouting anti-Pakistan messages. Weren't we there to pay our homage to the soldiers and policemen who died to protect us? Most people were demanding better security measures like CCTVs, armed guards, better disaster management, more securities in malls and public places. etc.

How is this related to the larger problem of the citizens' apathy? We have taken too long to wake up. Why didn't we have such protests after the Godhra riots? Or after the train blasts?

How is this related to the larger problem of shoddy governance? What if tomorrow a poorly made bridge falls and the same number of people die? Isn't this too a failure of the government just like the terror attacks? The government will again wait for us to get angry enough to stage a protest before doing something about it. But what will they do? Order attacks on Pakistan? If so, will the people screaming at Gateway agree to stand and take the bullets?

The issue is not just terrorism, it is about the way we function at a fundamental level. Who does a quality check on the government's work?
Why have I never seen my local politicians? Why are there no periodical reviews of what they have achieved? Why aren't the politicians forced to confront the people of his constituency every 15 days and explain what he has done to improve their lives? What happens if he fails to do anything?

The issues we were screaming about at Gateway are not the real issues.
We need to come up with a plan that puts pressure on the government to do their jobs and clearly tells them we won't listen to their bullshit anymore.

we get together with so much of energy but I guess we are still single man army. I thought the groups who are coming with number of people will have a plan and I guess they had also. I thought they will take other people together but not a single group came forward may be because it was first time and the situation was such that it didn’t worked out.
There was no action from them to collaborate with more people or other groups. Or as an individual I couldn’t relate to a single group and say yes we will be together and fight against terriosm against the politicians to bring the change. And I am sure this is same story with every individual person who came forward thinking he will do something that day.

And this is what made me say. Score: We the People:0 Our politicians: 1

I have great appreciation for the groups that formed on the 3rd dec. and I have no doubt about their efforts and planning I know how tough it must have been to bring together even a small number of people to join the protest. I know because I tried and didn't quite succeed. But next time all the groups need to join hands and form a unified force. And that’s where politicians ke dhoti gili hogi.
Once again remember we have to beat them in their own game

So to the next group of protesters getting together on Saturday or any other day, I would only say: please go with some focus. You will never again be part of a crowd that has the intensity and drive to achieve anything – so go with a purpose. Get everyone together

Remember, it's now or never.


my thoughts on what next after 3rd Dec in my next mail

- Parag Gandhi

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