India’s emergence as an IT (information technology) superpower became a reality largely — yes, largely indeed — because the political and ruling class, including the bureaucracy, had little clue of its coming.
The sector remained more or less completely free from the detractive roles these people typically play to stifle creativity and progress, making a cut here and a commission there in the process. In a sense, one can safely argue that the development of the IT sector in India happened in spite of the politicians and the establishment.
The political class is once again finding itself clueless: this time on a trend which manifests technology in a new role, threatening all deeply-entrenched vested interests. While their helplessness with the spontaneous development of technology in the initial phase only meant a notional opportunity loss, this time around, it is much more real and looms as a potential existential dilemma.
With the power of technology at their finger tips, the Indian youth is beginning to assert their rightful place in the conduct of the nation’s affairs, which is sending a shiver down the spine of the political class. What else can explain the way the youth of India poured on to the streets, in total disregard of the heavy layers of barricades, closing down of public transport, brutal use of force, water cannons and baton charges, apart from all conceivable repressive measures, including the clamping down of prohibitory orders, to express their disenchantment with the prevailing order and the skewed system for the delivery of justice? In the end, instead of the agitators being cornered into a spot, the establishment found itself heavily fortified from the people.
Of course, some parallels to this can be drawn in the agitation against corruption spearheaded by Anna Hazare and his supporters in 2011, when large sections of people in various parts of the country joined his call in a spontaneous show of support. He is a great leader in his own right, but in hindsight, the success of his massive show could be attributed to the rallying point that the Gandhian provided for the pent-up feeling of frustration among the people than the appeal of his leadership.
The political class, of which there are only minor shades of differences between parties and nothing substantive to differentiate between them, got into their act of deceit and ensured that the movement petered out, with the agitation’s leadership standing divided and discredited. As the millions that took to the street with the hope of a new dawn returned to their daily routine, dejected and disillusioned with their fate, the politicians seemed to have wrested the initiative back to themselves.
But from the way India’s youth and women have rallied to protest against the country’s moment of shame, it is apparent that none of these uprisings have passed without an impact. Each protest has added to the success of the next. Damini, the name given by the media to the victim of the gang-rape, literally means the bearer of lightning, and she has become a bigger threat to India’s ruling elite than Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev and India Against Corruption all combined.
Irrespective of how the current agitation plays itself out, one thing is very clear: India’s future is safe in the hands of its youth, enabled as they are with the power of technology and social media. And they are capable of acting when the crunch comes. The politicians are already realising this as they remain shell-shocked and bewildered by the speed at which the ground under their feet is slipping away.
Five years ago, it would be impossible to imagine a Prime Minister and the leader of the ruling party go stealthily to some place as they have done now to receive the body of the girl.
The siege within the ruling elite is so complete that the Delhi braveheart has been given a funeral that is unbecoming for a valiant girl who became instrumental in rallying a nation together. The memories that it evokes from the contemporary history of the world are indeed disturbing.
— The writer is a UAE-based journalist.