Outside the whale
- Rahul on leave before budget session, BJP says people have already sent Cong on long leave
- 21 more deaths due to swine flu, toll reaches 833
- Anna protests against Land Acquisition Bill in Delhi, lashes out at Modi govt
- Budget: Finance Minister may announce policy plans to combat blackmoney
- Land Acquisition Act "suitably refined": President Pranab Mukherjee
A year bookended by popular agitations is now behind us. The people's discontent about corruption, about public safety, about the way democratic experience doesn't match up to the sales pitch, spilled out into the streets and addressed itself directly to the government. This kind of highly visible protest is likely to become a recurring feature as the urban middle classes aided by social media create new mobilisations around causes that affect them. Such movements are given even greater prominence by a media that champions their values and exploits the visual drama they provide. The government is still unused to this mode of protest, and unnerved by it, but it is going to have to figure out how to respond.
The challenge, though, for these new forms of activism is to press for change in a useful way. Their demands, right now, tend to petition the very state they revile, even to ask for greater control and repression. For instance, for all the valid protest against corruption, the only solution proffered was a heavy Lokpal bureaucracy, which would only add to, not reduce, the invasive powers of the state. Similarly, the current outpouring of anger about rape and sexual violence has focused almost exclusively on the state's solutions, rather than looking within for the social roots of the problem. Again, many of the answers are blunt — hanging and castration for rape, moral policing and bans for other manifestations of sexism, with Honey Singh's "rapist" lyrics, for instance, becoming a lightning rod for this anger. With this new alertness to toxic gender politics, attention has turned to things that were always around us — Bollywood's blithe objectification of women, the clear misogyny in certain popular songs, advertisements that speak to dangerous cliches about masculinity. Disturbingly, however, the reflex is to legally ban and punish, rather than to boycott and avoid.