‘Arab Spring’ of India

In Tunisia it began with the insult to a street trader. Is India witnessing an 'Arab Spring' in its political and social life? The anger and protest which have engulfed the cities are an expression of a new generation which sees politics very differently from their elders who are hidebound in their perceptions. Like the student movements of US, UK and France which swept a lot of old politics aside in the sixties, this is the first expression of the 'baby boom'—a 'demographic dividend' if you wish. Indian politics had begun to shift towards a younger generation during Rajiv Gandhi's brief years. With his untimely death, it had a geriatric setback. Now, this is the new dawn.

Unlike Anna Hazare's pastiche of Gandhian politics, this movement is expressing sentiments which have never had a political expression in modern India in ways which are unique. It is not that rape is unusual, sadly not. The majority of rapes are by a man known to the victim; patriarchy is not just a concept in India, it is a daily reality. Yet this particular episode has exposed all the myriad structural faults in Indian public life.

A gang rape is horrible enough but along with it the woman and her companion were physically beaten to within an inch of their lives. They were not in a night club or bar; no standard excuses were available to shift the blame on to the woman. They were in a bus. Women in Delhi and across India take the casual grope, touch or lewd remark in their stride. But in this bus which pretended to be ferrying passengers to their destination they were subjected to inhuman degradation. Every woman could imagine herself in the place of the brave woman who was nearly destroyed. But not the political classes.

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