Somehow, this sudden outpouring of solidarity and protest we have been witnessing over the last few days scares me- wear white on Monday, light a candle at 7:30 pm, assemble at the Gateway on December 3rd, change your facebook profile to an Indian flag on December 10th, sign an online petition, wear a black armband, display the word E.N.O.U.G.H. on your person for an entire day, forward SMSes lampooning politicians in general or one particular politician in particular- the list is seemingly endless . .
On Saturday, I was so angry at myself for allowing politicians to take me for granted, that I would have cheerfully done all of them, but on saner reflection, I realise none of it is going to make any difference at all. Today people are angry, they are scared, they are disgusted, and they are asking questions. The questions they ask are all sensible ones. The partial solutions they are coming up with are good ones that can be acted upon.
But nobody seems to be taking them seriously, nobody seems to be taking us seriously. Nobody feels obliged to provide answers, or even to aplogise for mistakes made in the past. Why?
Because the people in power know how short public memory really is. Today, the images of the fires in the heritage wing of the Taj Mahal Hotel are fresh in our eyes, we can almost hear gunshots when we shut our ears to extraneous noise, we can smell the fear we felt for those 60 hours. We do not want to relive an experience similar to that ever again, and we are willing to take time off to express our fears and our hopes.
But how long will we continue to feel that way? How long before real life catches up with us, and we find these memories being pushed to the back of our mind?
Two weeks down the line, would we continue to ask questions? One month down the line, would we demand to know what has been done in the previous weeks? Three months down the line, would we want to see concrete steps put in place to ensure that such attacks do not repeat themselves? Six months down the line, would we expect to see gradual changes in the way the political system functions? On the first anniversary of the attack, would we expect to see greater transparency and accountability?
We would like to deny it. We would like to believe that this time, the anger is for real. We would like to think of this as a watershed event in our nation’s collective fight against terror. But, our elected leaders know that national security is unlikely to remain one of our prime concerns for more than a couple of weeks. They know that by Republic Day, we would return to being the apathetic citizens we have been for the past six decades. And since they know it, the politicians do not see any point in taking us seriously.
Which is why I would rather all these symbolic protests be deferred by a few weeks. If two weeks later, we wear black armbands in protest, the impact would be much greater than if we do so today. If, one month after the blast, we take out a candle-light procession and hand over a list of questions to the Prime Minister, he would be forced to read them. If on the eve of Republic Day, we demand that the President dedicate her entire Address to the Nation to telling us the plan that is being implemented to ensure such incidents do not recur, she may devote a couple of minutes to the issue.
We do have the power to catalyse change, but we need to convince the people who would actually be implementing the change that we really mean business.
And till then, we can each register to vote in the constituencies we are actually residing in, we can join the civil defense army if we are able to commit that kind of time, and most important, we can try teaching our kids that just because we do not agree with a person that person doesn’t become an enemy.
That is quite a bit in itself!!!!