Author of The Land of the Wilted Rose, of the The White Mahatma Quartet, Anand Ranganathan studied Chemistry at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and went on to pursue a doctorate from Cambridge. A man of varied interests, he is researching dengue and tuberculosis at the International Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology at Delhi. We told you, varied interests!
The Fall And Rise Of Kejriwal
Oh, something strange happened – the lights came back on again. Blow those brief candles and charge those inverters, we’re back in business! A middle-aged man with a finely-combed moustache just clambered up a rickety ladder with pliers in hand and connected the sparking and buzzing wires of sleaze and privilege and lo and behold: the nation stands electrified, its keepers electrocuted.
That man is Arvind Kejriwal and today he has handed power to the meek. Tomorrow he shall grant them the Earth.
As he climbs down slowly and doffs his Gandhi cap to thunderous applause, the people cheering him most are the guilt-ridden workers of the Fourth Estate. All those shame-faced anchors and scornful columnists and sheepish interviewers and I’ve-run-out-of-cruel-adjectives panellists, have formed a flash crowd at Haridwar and, eyes shut, breath held, are plunging their sins away in this holy river named Kejriganga. There remain those still in two minds, still sticking to their briefs, refusing to acknowledge the tug of their shirts given them by the converts. But it is only a matter of time before they too, fall in line. It’s called aping and man is better at it than even an ape.
Suddenly, the social media has no other topic to talk of, no other jokes to crack or cartoons to circulate, and one shudders to think what fate lies in store for the representatives of Google and Facebook when they meet Mr Sibal for their next fortnightly stock-taking reunion.
It is a collective catharsis the like of which has never before been witnessed, and it reveals more than it hides. It reveals hypocrisy and hollowness and that special ability that some people have of talking and walking successfully for miles over thin and melting ice. It hides nothing.
Worth remembering that Arvind is the same man who, barely a month or two ago, nearly died and not one journalist gave his writhing body a sympathetic glance. They had all written him off, especially those who took great joy in declaring his movement a failure, his methods anarchic, his chances hopeless. They called him names, they called his associates Fascists and Maoists in equal measure, and his leader a “simple man whose worldview comes from having been a truck driver in the Indian army” (The Indian Express, July 24, 2011). And when he decided to form a party and enter the “democratic process”, they laughed and lampooned him and spat at their nibs to pen his obituary.
The same man has now shot up from the charred and smouldering pyre, and how!
The Kejriwal-DLF episode can be a case-study on many counts. First, it can illuminate us on the petty stereotyping that goes on in the name of objective analysis. And second, it shows just how eager our media is in following a lead that can rattle the leaders.
R Jagannathan, the Editor-in-Chief of Firstpost, when he is not worrying sick about the torrents of abuse all his columnists get – all except him – manages to put to paper what most journalists want to but can’t. His latest article, “Vadragate is an indictment of the Indian media too” (Firstpost, October 10, 2012) is a debate-ender if ever there was one.
It’s not my intention to elaborate on the contrasts between Arvind and Robert – enough’s been said already. Some journalists have tried to portray it as a class or intelligence issue, without realising that in science there is no concept of class or intelligence – Biology 101. What else will you steal from that junkyard called Social Darwinism?!
What concerns me, though, is how easily, in our hurry to save our present and maintain the same status quo for our future, we forget our history. How easily. And all of us – the prisoners of our mind-shaping media, are equally to blame. The powerful don’t buy so much into real estate nowadays as they do into the Fourth Estate. We should have known this.
Are things really all that faultless in our India? Are we really satisfied with the kind of politicians we have? Do we really have millions of farmers who unable to procure unsecured and interest free loans hang themselves from the nearest tree? Are 47% of our children malnourished? Do 600 million of us really shit in the open? Are 800 million of us really surviving on Rs 20 a day? Is there really unimaginable sleaze and crony-capitalism in our country? Are we really doing enough to fight it? Is there any rule of law in this country?
Let the man do what he wants to, for heaven’s sake. Grill him – but only through questions. Arrest him if you think he’s broken a law, but don’t call him an anarchist. Do people who break the law really go to jail in our country? If they do, then hear this: what is wrong with a man burning electricity bills and linking severed wires if he is prepared to go to jail for it? Answer: Nothing. When Mahatma Gandhi burnt permit papers in South Africa, he broke the law. He broke it willingly and went to jail for it. He was prepared to rot in jail for it.
What is wrong with a man taking his own life for a cause he believes strongly in? Answer: Nothing. Is this anarchy? No. You are free to ignore him like the English were free to ignore Bapu. Put him in jail, serve him a life term – he dares you to. Only a few men can think this way, men who are a product of millions of years of evolution, men who think like animals. Men who are free. He burns an electricity bill and you cry murder and anarchy. They burn books and you say it’s their democratic right to protest! He wants the government to listen and you say get elected first – come, roll in the heat and the dust of India. He wants to do exactly that and you call him a villain.
The events of the past few days are a wake-up call to our media. But those who are still asleep, who slept through paid news and fake op-eds and Radiagate, who couldn’t care less about duping the public through payroll vacation, have slapped the alarm clock away; five, just five more minutes, please, they plead.
Ready or not, he’s coming for you.
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