Friday, August 17, 2012

The sad story of an IT powerhouse called Bangalore:
If you decide to move to Bangalore, you should ask the state's political bosses a few questions. 

1. Will you welcome me even if I am not a Kannadiga? 2. If there is an assault on my gated community by vested interests, will you take action swiftly? 3. If there is a (lawful) party at my place, will I be shielded from vigilante fringe groups? 4. Will you ensure local politicians, primarily MLAs and corporators, do not harass me on civic issues? 5. Will you also ensure protection to people from the northeast? 6. In short, will you enforce law and order? 

These six questions may be applied in different forms to different states across the country, but Karnataka is on the verge of getting a lead medal (the worst performance) for lawlessness. Perhaps the people of Bangalore expect too much since they are credited with global mindsets and, therefore, global benchmarks in every activity that entails citizens and officials. But what's wrong in demanding peace and order? What's wrong in setting a higher benchmark? 

Mangalore is a basket case in lawlessness. If there were a global program to aid and revive morally depraved regions of the world, then Mangalore would mop it all up. There has been no effort by the state BJP government since the first vigilante attack in 2009 and the second one a few days ago, to take action. Curiously, political leaders have made socially irresponsible statements blaming the youth for partying and pointing fingers at communities that are threatening Hindutva. 

Noted writer UR Ananthamurthy was asked a question by TOI about the latest Mangalore attack: "Does modern urban culture clash with the idea of Hindu culture as proposed by the BJP and the Parivar?" Here's what Ananthamurthy said: "Both BJP and Parivar have a puritanical version which is not Hindu, but fanatic, as it happened before enlightenment. This puritanical version comes from their desire to build a nation where people have no individuality ... The youngsters went to Morning Mist (the homestay) for their own party and they have every right to do so, with the consent of their families. In India, the same girl may wear jeans one day and sari the next, and the two cultures coexist well." 

If you underline Ananthamurthy's observation, it's obvious the BJP is trying to impose its kind of law and order in Karnataka. Yes, there are enough people who will subscribe to the BJP's version of law. But if law and order is generously laced with ideology, and interpreted accordingly, then we are tasting anarchy. 

When a political party sets its mind on short-term goals, the best you can expect from it is prevarication, deflection, and lack of purpose. It forgets its social and moral obligations to civil society. Unhappiness and fear in civil society can have a cascading impact on sentiment and investment. But who cares for civil society? Who cares for the state's ultimate goodwill ambassador? By calling the Mangalore attacks as "talibanization of culture", we are trying to categorize the crimes in a global template. By "talibanizing" goondaism, we are insulating it with ideology. 

Mangalore 1 and 2 (the two attacks in Mangalore) have become the moral coordinates for the state's resolve to cap lawlessness. Since the BJP-ruled state has sought ideological refuge in fanaticism, why should anyone believe the government's intent, however serious, to ensure law and order? 

On India's 65th birthday, hundreds of northeasterners (some reckon thousands) decided to flee Bangalore. They said they had been threatened and attacked. SMSes have been doing the rounds warning them of the dangers that await them in Bangalore. A Tibetan was attacked near Mysore. But the state government decided to act only when Bangalore's railway stations saw an exodus-like situation. You can call this intelligence failure. Or, you can call it a political impasse. 

The city of Bangalore owes its economic success to northeasterners who man its security, run its hospitality, and fill the service gaps that make's the city tick. 

It's sad we cannot convince them that Bangalore is safe. It's also sad we can't tell our girls that Mangalore is safe too. Both events have a common link: a state administration that is scared to act. It is scared to act because it is ideologically compromised and administratively deficient. Questions about law and order have already been raised by a concerned chief justice and the governor. 

Next time you think of Bangalore as a global city, swallow this by Benjamin Disraeli: "A great city, whose image dwells in the memory of man, is the type of some great idea. Rome represents conquest; Faith hovers over the towers of Jerusalem; and Athens embodies the pre-eminent quality of the antique world, Art." 

And, Bangalore? An IT city that is trying to negotiate peace for its citizens? Surely, Bangalore is sprinting backwards.

- Umesh Shanmugam

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