Real and Sustainable Change - still a Chimera?

The past few days since December 16th have been full of the normal public up in protest against the horrendous attack on Nirbhay. This was a reflection of the public's disgust with the police forces as well as the Government. People from all walks of life came together again to protest. And yet again, the inefficiencies of the police and the inadequacies of the political class were brutally exposed. This activism is indeed welcome, and will put some pressure on the Government to get its act together. 

The disgust in the people with both the police as well as the political class has been apparent for quite some time now; yet, there has been little discernible change. It is reminiscent of the physics law of inertia, wherein an object remains in its current state unless there is some outside stimulus. Now imagine our society as an object moving on a line, and these protests as stimulus to change. Currently, our society is moving along a defined direction at a defined speed. Then comes the Lokpal agitation, which pushes it on one direction. Next, comes this agitation - on a differnt but equally (perhaps more important) tangent. What happens to the direction of the movement? It again changes direction in another direction in response to the the stimulus. 

These are knee-jerk reactions, which are unplanned. Further, the topics at hand are highly emotive in nature; and hence it is difficult to get a perspective of the reality. The problem is not that the people are rising: they should rise; protests are a sign of the vitality of democracy. And protests are a significant stimulus to engender peaceful change. The point is that protests alone will not suffice; it requires addressing the root cause - which is our attitude. 

Our attitudes towards rules, laws, civic sense, corruption, women are all at the root of the problem. We break rules as a matter of fact; we dont question our elected representatives as a matter of course; we dont care about our environs and our cities, our people and our behaviour! Rape happens because of attitude towards women; but that is too simplistic. Rape also happens because we consider breaking rules as ok, and that the perpetors feel they can get away with it. Note that the bastards had actually thought this very thought. Why did they think they could get away with it? Why did the driver assure his partners in crime that they would not be caught?

Rape also happens because we dont hold our babus responsible for governance - leading to laxity in policing and the rapists getting off. Rape also happens because it is considered a social stigma, and thus goes unreported. Rape also happens because the victim can be threatened into silence - which betrays a lack of trust in the system. Rape and particularly eve-teasing also happens because we dont interfere as a mass; one or two people interfere- and get killled. How many people are there on roads? Only 1 or 2? How many can you see? Yet, only one or 2 speak up. Rape also happens because in some cases the victims are scared of harassment by the police - which emboldens rapists. The same logic can be applied to corruption; the corrupt are emboldened by the tolerance shown by we the people of India and our disgusting and ugly inaction. 

Yes, protests can cause a change in attitudes through forcing people to question their behaviour; which is what I hope is happening. The signs are heartening; but there seems to be no sustainability. One issue is forgotten only to be replaced by another. The prior issue is neglected. No change can happen if all such outbursts are spontaneous but lack a defined direction. For positive change, the attitude of the people has to change; there has to be sustained pressure on the Government to act. This is absent. Lokpal and corruption issues lie forgotten; likewise, this issue too will get replaced by some other equally emotive issue. The people are angry - yes; but they now have to question and change their own attitudes of tolerance of law-breaking. For example, how many people have taken down their tinted sheets from their vehicles? How many have stopped ogling girls? How many have refused to pay a bribe? These attitudes have to start to change... 

Without this happening, change - real change- will remain a chimera...


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