We have a barbaric streak in us. The Guwahati incident confirms that yet again. Trust the television studios to be awash with faux sympathy and outrage for a day. Trust the anchors and panelists on their shows to froth at the mouth and rant about injustice meted out to women in the country. Tomorrow another such incident somewhere in the country will hold centrestage. The tragedy of the Guwahati girl will be a victim of the media’s attention deficit disorder. Day over, issue over.
We have been witnessing such unfortunate cases on a routine basis since long. How come after so much animated debate we still haven’t found a way to control, let alone stop, these incidents? Why don’t we still have an institutionalised quick response system to such incidents?
Blame it on our intellectual tradition. There’s something sick about it. It places too much emphasis on accusations, personal vilification, witch-hunting and looking for scapegoats and too little on introspection, constructive analysis and solution-seeking. The sundry intellectual is never a dispassionate observer of developments around him, He must, for some curious reason, be seen as an active participant in these.
He hates nuances. These cloud his thinking process, distort the preconceived position on issues and make being judgmental difficult. Thus debates on critical issues must be pushed to polarised black and white positions – it is much easier to argue a case this way. That’s the reason no debate proceeds beyond the starting mark in the country. We keep discovering, and rediscovering corruption, keep finding and refinding that our policemen are insensitive to women and keep getting shocked that the healthcare system does not work.
As this piece is being written, there are newspaper headlines mentioning that one-third of our MPs face criminal charges. God! Do we ever get tired of repeating the same things? Are we ever going to grow up beyond that and think of how to tackle the problem? For the uninitiated, the country has been discussing the problem for well over two decades now and the numbers keep coming up every now and then. This has to be some kind of self-flagellation. We take perverse delight in negatives.
When did you last hear sober, practical solutions on criminal politicians during a television panel discussion? Children were falling into exposed borewells in 2006 and they are still falling into these in 2012. Khap panchayats issued obnoxious diktats half a century ago, they are still doing it — the latest being a case in UP where a khap panchayat has banned girls from using mobiles or stepping out of homes after sundown; officials and politicians were corrupt in the 1960s and they are still at it; and people were dying due to poor medical facilities in rural and small town hospitals, they still do. The depressing reality about India is nothing really changes here.
Why is that? Blame it on our proclivity to escape addressing core issues. We love to stay at the surface level, not dig deeper. It becomes complicated then, driving us confused. That is the reason we love to rant about corruption and criminals in politics but never think about making the judiciary efficient; we get shrill about police insensitivity to women but never talk about having gender sensitisation programmes in place for the men in khaki; we will shout from the rooftops about bureaucratic apathy to the common man but will never discuss seriously something effective such as the ‘right to delivery of services’; and we will curse the ward boys for carrying out surgery but never suggest ways to make the rural health system work better.
If we want any serious change on the ground, we need to transform the intellectual culture in the country. It is too shallow at the moment, too defensive and too flippant. It is not geared to produce solutions. Watching the intellectuals getting into the routine of finding scapegoats for incidents and whipping boys, it’s difficult now to tell the genuine intellectual from a fraud. This has to change.
Hope the trauma of the Guwahati girl changes the way we look at issues.