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Delhi outrage: A sycophantic, arrogant and insensitive govt

It has turned this entirely justifiable and courageous cry for justice into an ‘us versus them’ situation
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First Published: Mon, Dec 24 2012. 01 26 PM IST
Protesters brave police water cannons during a protest at Rail Bhawan in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: PTI
Protesters brave police water cannons during a protest at Rail Bhawan in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: PTI
Updated: Mon, Dec 24 2012. 06 04 PM IST
Can’t these guys get anything right?
As I write this, “#Theek hai” is trending right on top on Twitter. For those who missed that wonderful moment at the end of the Prime Minister’s address to the nation today morning, here are the details. After finishing his speech, Manmohan Singh waited for a few seconds, then asked someone behind the camera: “Theek hai?”.
That priceless moment, an instant of mythical-level comicality, perfectly captured a befuddled Prime Minister and his inept administration. The night before, at around 10.30pm, after 72 hours of citizens demanding that the PM say something to the nation, the PMO tweeted much of the speech he would deliver the next morning. The sheer banality of the platitudes being tweeted was astonishing. A line from the speech—“I feel deeply sad at the turn of events leading to clashes between protesters and police forces”—got an immediate and superb response from popular tweeter Ramesh Srivats: “OK, the PM says he is sad and all. Everyone go home now.”
After this we were treated to the excellent interview of home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde by Rajdeep Sardesai. Now Shinde has proved time and again that he is no rocket scientist, but few of his utterances certainly broke some records of sycophancy, arrogance, lame excuses and stunning insensitivity.
Sycophancy: “When someone like Sonia ji has met some of the students, why were the protesters still protesting after that?” I am sorry, but I thought that we were living in the 21st century, and not in Mughal times, when the emperor deigned to give a darshan once in a while to some hapless citizen, and he lived out the rest of his life in the memory of that glorious moment! Besides, who were these people Sonia ji met? Why did they refuse to disclose their identities? Why should we not believe that they were a group stage-managed by the Congress?
Arrogance: When asked by Sardesai whether he was ready to apologize to the innocent protesters who had been beaten by the police, Shinde would only say: “I feel bad for them.” When Sardesai persisted, the home minister asked why the interviewer was trying to put words in his mouth and that he “should read between the lines”. Between the lines? Between the lines? Mr minister, have you seen any of the extensive TV footage of policemen in riot gear beating defenceless women, both young and elderly? Did you see any policeman beating the hooligans who infiltrated the crowd and attacked the police? Oh no, the thugs—and all of us have our suspicions about which political party brought them in—vanished and the innocent and helpless bore the full brunt of the mighty Indian state. (And the official figures released by the Delhi Police claim that more policemen were injured than protesters yesterday! Dear Delhi Police, you may be morons, but we are not.)
Lame excuses: “Politicians took advantage of the protests, that is why we had to take action.” Yes, none of us wanted these spontaneous protests about basic human rights to be politicized, but Mr Shinde, how do you expect politicians to stay mum or not engage in the protests? In fact, the truth is that till now, the protests have remained remarkably non-politicized. Also, even if it was a political protest, are we then to understand that the norm in democratic India is to lathi charge and tear gas every political protest?
But what really took the cake was Shinde’s insensitivity. Frankly, I could not believe my ears when he actually said it. When asked the obvious question why no one from the government had gone to India Gate and spoken to the crowd, he said (and I am still dumbfounded): “No, the government can’t go everywhere where any group of people is protesting. If tomorrow 100 adivasis are killed in Gadchiroli or Chhattisgarh, should the government go there? No.”
This is our home minister.
And please, Mr Prime Minister, Mr home ,minister, and other ministers, don’t give us this crap that you too have daughters. Your daughters are neck-deep in high security. And quite possibly, some of them are fed up of that security and want to live lives as unencumbered as average Indian daughters have the right to do.
Citizens’ protests form the very core of all democratic principles, citizens pressuring governments is what democracy is all about. This ridiculously incompetent government has turned this entirely justifiable and courageous cry for justice into an “us versus them” situation. This shows a staggering lack of intelligence, and a total disconnect from the citizens of India. And they’re still at it! “Vinaashkaale viparitbuddhi,” commented one of my friends. (When the end is near, the brain stops functioning). One can only hope that either the end is near, or the brain reboots.
When I showed my teenage daughter the “theek hai” moment of the Prime Minister, she asked: “Baba, how old is he?” “Near about 80,” I said. “Then why doesn’t he retire?” she asked. “Oh, but that, my darling, will require the ability to feel some shame. Our government and its leaders transcended that a long time ago.”
Sandipan Deb is a senior journalist and editor who is interested in puzzles of all forms.
*The prime minister’s office has since sent the following clarification from ANI news: Earlier today a question to ANI’s cameraman was inadvertently broadcast by some news channels as we fed PM’s message. Lapse was rectified

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