As reported in The Deccan Herald, Bangalore on 26 January 2008:
Deccan Herald - Leaders amongst us

Leaders amongst us

There is more than just a glimmer of awakening among the young and educated in India with regards to their rights and duties. Instances can be seen everywhere from the growing awareness about the RTI act to movies and ads that portray this resurgence, says Vimla Patil.

Have you noticed a new ad on television for a brand of tea? It shows an educated and aware urban young man, sipping tea and talking to a politician who has come to seek his vote in a forthcoming election. The young man demands to know the 'qualifications' of the candidate for the 'job' of governing the country! The goons around the politician are flabbergasted at the turn of events and the 'leader' himself is shocked at the irreverence of the young man!

Take another case of the newly awakened India: Every hour, Amitabh Bachchan appears on the television screen mouthing an impressive dialogue that all India needs is a leader with a torch in his hands and the nation will follow him into a new, prosperous, just and rich future. The third example: Films like Rang De Basanti, Chak De India and the current Halla Bol vary in content and spirit. But all of them point out to the fact that there may be more than a glimmer of awakening among the young and educated in this country to their duty as the citizens of this vast subcontinent.

"The signs of this awakening are seen everywhere," says Shirish Kane, who has been active in many cases under the Right to Information Act, "First of all, this act, with all its flaws, has been a useful weapon in the hands of the citizen. There are a huge number of abused people — individuals and organisations — that are seeking to find out who are behind so many crimes and instances of mis-governance in various regions of India. They are demanding to know how the governmental machinery runs in cases of riots, crimes, in handling the money of tax payers and in deciding who gets the benefits of education, jobs and other services that must be provided by governmental agencies."

Deliver promises

Take Sheela Nahar's fight. "India is a young country," says this formidable woman, "Two thirds of our people are under 35 and they want the nation to deliver its promise of democracy and equality for all."

What Sheela says is borne out by recent happenings. Take the case of the Jessica Lal murder. After Rang De Basanti became a hit, this case was brought back from the shelves of the law courts and the people of India walked in silent candle marches until the pressure on the judiciary caused a retrial of the accused and resulted in punishment to the satisfaction of those who demanded justice. Similarly, the judiciary's announcement about zero tolerance against sexual assault on women has brought new hope to people.

Every day, one hears of more and more cases of molestation against women in public places. In recent times, visitors from foreign countries have been publicly humiliated by groups of men.

The police in Mumbai have been brought under pressure to search for such people and bring them to book. This is a clear example of the media and the people of India joining hands to expose the lacunae in the administrative machinery and the security network of the nation.

The Vishakha guidelines set out by the Supreme Court have further caused each large business and governmental office to set up a sort of tribunal to bring to light cases of sexual harassment within workplaces so that women can pursue their careers more confidently.

Media help

The media has also started blowing the lid off many questions hitherto pushed under the carpet. In a recent article for instance, famous legal expert Mahesh Jethmalani questioned the ruling party's definition of secularism in the light of the landslide victory of Narendra Modi in the Gujarat elections. Jethmalani further questions the 'secularism' practiced in India at present, saying, "Consider for example the new poster boys of the secular camp: Sanjay Dutt, Afzal Guru and Sohrabuddin. Instead of seeking justice for the victims of the 1993 blasts, the entire focus during the trial was on Sanjay Dutt. Hardly had the judgement been passed, when an orchestrated campaign commenced to rescue him……but what is indisputable is that long before and just prior to the blasts he was intimately connected with the underworld elements."

Fighting back

"Young people in India are getting more and more aware of the growing injustice around them. It's great that they are using plays and films to put their point across," says Sanjana Kapoor who is involved in a movement to present street plays and conduct street processions to bring issues out into the open by college students who are launching campaigns to 'fight back' the evils of system they find unbearable.

The slow but sure movement in Indian society — urban and rural — to become responsible citizens who watch their elected or appointed governmental authorities with hawk eyes is spreading wider and wider every day. The Right to Information Act has further encouraged activists to seek the truth and expose it for the benefit of the citizenry. This new trend will no doubt awaken millions and help create for India a more responsible government and administrative machinery as well as a responsible citizenry.

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