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ARTICLE: 'Fast', Furious, Fervent and Futile
Saturday, 05 January 2013 04:46

'Fast', Furious, Fervent and Futile

When we were in school and college, there was just one Angry Young Man. During the later part of our blissful lives as students, there was this movie called Inquilab that had Amitabh Bachchan in the vortex of a rotten system where politicians and businessmen were brazenly corrupt and venal. There appeared to be no solution, no relief and no justice whatsoever for that hapless citizen we now have honored as the aam aadmi. The movie hall erupted in thunderous applause during the climax when one could sense fellow moviegoers audibly washing away their anger through paroxysms of faux voyeurism. You see, Amitabh picks up an assault rifle and guns down every single villain masquerading as a politico, a cop and a trader. I am not too sure, but I think the movie was released in late 1983 or early 1984. Terrorism, corruption, inflation and dynasty politics, to name just a few, were the leading topics of discussions in newspapers and magazines (there wasn't much by way of TV news and absolutely no Internet back then).

Isn't it ironical and a monumental fraud perpetrated on the aam aadmi that terrorism, corruption, inflation and corruption continue to rule the airwaves. It seems nothing has changed. But in some silly and significant ways, change has happened. Thirty years ago, there was one angry young man. Today, Indian roads, homes, rallies and media outlets are overflowing with angry citizens. Everybody seems to be deeply angry with something. But hardly any of us seem to agree on how to target the root causes behind this anger.

You have political leaders who seem to think that displaying anger is a sure-fire way of attracting reluctant voters. So during much of the election campaign for the Uttar Pradesh assembly in early 2012, Rahul Gandhi adopted the persona of an Angry Young Man. In rally after rally, the scion spewed anger at the manner in which non Congress parties ruling the state since 1989 had ruined the present and the future of the aam aadmi. In one rally, he got so angry that he apparently tore the manifesto of the Samajwadi Party. Such a waste of paper. The problem with this kind of anger was that the voter was neither impressed, nor convinced. The voter could not find anything concrete or worthwhile in what an earnest and sincere looking Rahul Gandhi was saying and what his political and media acolytes repeated ad nauseam. We all know the kind of results the UP electorate delivered.

Rahul GandhiAround the time Rahul Gandhi was storming through town after town in Uttar Pradesh, another very, very unusually angry citizen was knocking on the doors of the Supreme Court. After retirement, he now threatens to blockade the Parliament to demand justice for the neglected and browbeaten Indian farmer. Yes folks, I am talking about former Chief of Army Staff General V.K Singh who claimed his honour was hurt because the government of the day had decreed that General Singh was born before he was. Forget the confusion. It was a sorry sight to see an Army Chief slugging it out with his political masters in the Supreme Court and in the gleefully sensationalistic news TV channels. In the end, both General Singh and the extremely articulate but too smart for their own boots defenders of the government were testimony to the fact that anger in this age in India increasingly seems, "fast",  furious and ultimately futile.

Do see how I have used apostrophes for the word. Till about the end of December 2011, it did appear as if Anna Hazare would be the most furious man of 2012 and shake up the political system from its roots if political parties did not pass his own well meaning but quaint version of the Lok Pal Bill. Remember his angry fulminations of 2011? Remember the angry diatribes unleashed by his minions on the political class? And surely you remember the delicious counter bites unleashed by the likes of Manish Tiwari? Well, the Lok Pal looks as dead as a dodo right now. And one of his most ardent followers Arvind Kejriwal has launched a political party named, what else but Aam Aadmi Party! And now, it does appear as if Anna Hazare is more angry with Arvind Kejriwal than all other politicians in the country. So where did all this anger and counter anger lead to? Forget the Aam Aadmi, I don't think even Arvind Kejriwal and the political system he targets will be long term beneficiaries.

VK SinghBelieve me, I do believe that a lot of this anger is genuine. But the manner in which anger is being displayed and circulated at public forums is sometimes resulting in entirely unexpected and dangerous consequences. Do allow me to cite two editorials that my boss Arindam wrote: one in 2009 asking Indians to think of Kashmir as an independent country and the other one an open letter to Indian Muslims after the mob violence at Azad Maidan in Mumbai and the exodus of north eastern people from various cities. The first one attracted so many abusive e mails and short messages from angry Hindus that one could only marvel at their extent of anger. The second one attracted so many abusive e mails, short messages and tweets from angry Muslims that you marveled at the extent of their anger. Many high profile Indian media professionals have – I must say often justifiably – critiqued the extreme Hindutva types. They have been bombarded with angry and abusive tweets from the now so called Internet Hindus. Not funny, I agree. But was it right to again and again claim that such misuse of social media by Internet Hindus must be punished? So while there was a crackdown on social media in the name of public interest, a businessman was arrested because he tweeted against the son of the Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. A professor was arrested for allegedly offensive cartoons against Mamata Bannerjee being sent via e mail. Aseem Trivedi was arrested for offensive cartoons posted on the Internet. Two girls were arrested for using Facebook to object against a bandh called by Shiv Sena....I can go on and on...The moment we in media ask for official help to manage a pesky new generation that makes offensive use of new technology, we are doomed. Just as the viciously angry exchange between some media professionals and Internet Hindus becomes a farce. But the cost paid by then would be very high.

Anna HazareIn the case of some media professionals and Internet Hindus, some of the rage is genuine. But often in our public discourse, the anger and the outrage that we see is clearly manufactured and downright hypocritical. The best example of this in 2012 was when Narendra Modi made his famous or notorious remarks against Sunanda Pushkar. Hordes of feminists, secular intellectuals and other busybodies descended upon him like a ton of bricks. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh even publicly challenged Modi to tell the nation if he indeed has a wife or not. Now, if you are pissed off at Modi for denigrating women, you are probably right. Or, are you? How  come the same set of feminists and busybodies displayed hardly any rage at the vicious manner in which the personal lives of three female political leaders have been talked and written about. I am talking about Uma Bharti, Rabri Devi and Mayawati. Come on guys, this is clear double standards and this kind of rage preaches only to the converted. And it is ultimately futile because it is not going to do one whit for improving the dignity of women.

Then there is another kind of anger that is both genuine and manufactured. I am talking about the anger displayed by sundry Congress leaders whenever anyone takes a potshot at members of the Gandhi family. The rage is manufactured because even they look like parrots while talking about undying and eternal loyalty to the Gandhi family. The rage is also genuine because the concerned Congress leader is pretty damned scared of a life and career where the Gandhi name may be liked but doesn't get the votes. How long since the Congress won a state election in UP, Bihar, Odisha, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, to speak of a few?

But have at least some sympathy for the Indian cricket fan. His anger has crossed such limits that he is well in the throes of despair. Our cricketing gods with feet of clay have betrayed him repeatedly this year and there seems to be no hope of a turnaround in the next couple of years. But please, do get angry along with the Indian cricket fan. In this age of scam after scam and expensive LPG cylinders, cricket histories were an elusive dream. Now they are truly elusive. Incidentally, the year in which that Amitabh starrer Inquilab was released was also the year in which the English cricket team won a test series in India. I remember now. It was 1984. A year of anger and futility. Just like 2012.