In these largely agonizing days in India, a call to savour the Achhe Din would seem highly preposterous, isn’t it??? Well, wait a minute!
- New Delhi, Oct 1984 – The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by 2 of her own body guards. Over the next few days, thousands of Sikhs get killed and their property burnt in Delhi in a violent reaction.
- Chennai, Dec 1987 – M.G.Ramachandran, the charismatic actor turned Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu died after prolonged illness at his residence. His death sparked off a frenzy of looting and rioting all over the state. Shops, cinemas, buses and other public and private property became the target of violence.
- New Delhi & Parts of North India, Aug 1990 – The then V. P. Singh Government decides to accept Mandal commission report which recommended 27% reservation for OBC candidates at all levels of Govt. services. Large scale protests erupted mainly in North India including self-immolation bids by students against co-opting the report.
- Mumbai, Jan 1993 – Following the Babri demolition in Dec, 1992, what started as peaceful protests escalated into large scale communal riots in Mumbai between Dec 1992 and Jan 1993 where thousands of people died, properties looted and destroyed.
- Thane, Mumbai, April 2001 – Shiv Sena Leader Anand Dighe dies in Singhania Hospital, Thane at a relatively young age of 50 following a cardiac arrest. As soon as the news of Dighe’s death broke, irate Shiv Sainiks went on a rampage in the premises of Singhania Hospital and set on fire the hospital.
- Bengaluru, Sep 2016 – Supreme Court orders Karnataka to release of 15000 Cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. Immediate violent reactions erupted with burning of TN registered vehicles and destruction of public and private property.
In all the above, one can notice that while the provocations are different – from a leader’s killing to another leader’s own demise to a political move to demolition of a religious symbol to an adverse Supreme Court judgement that too in different parts of the country, the reaction of the people followed a pattern. Violence, looting, mob fury, vandalism,…,…. leading to many deaths and large scale destruction of property.
This proves that as Indians we are a bunch of gullible emotional people. We can get easily provoked into carrying out what are supposedly unlawful activities that bring disrepute to the country and also affect us economically.
In any country’s timeline there are defining moments. Moments which change the destiny of the country for the good or worse. Our country’s history since Independence also is replete with such defining moments – some of them which we can be proud of and others which push our heads down.
I reckon that the Demonetisation call of 8th Nov, 2016 would be such a defining moment in our country’s history when it’s scripted later. I am not here to pronounce this based on the economic benefits of Demonetisation. The erudite are already doing it with media abound with pieces hailing and trashing the move in same breath. And frankly it is early days yet. However something else that is monumental is happening in the country which is what this post is on.
Going back to what I elucidated in the beginning of the piece, in our country we get easily provoked. And the result of the same is there for all of us to see. In this context let’s look at what’s been happening since that eventful address to the nation of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8th November:
- Bulk of currency in circulation was withdrawn and we were told to go Banks/Post offices to withdraw/exchange the old currencies before Dec. 30th
- Since then there has been serpentine lines in front of banks.
- Banks have been woefully short of currency as RBI’s supply chain right from printing to distribution has not been able to cope up.
- Banks when they had currency only dispersed high value 2000 rupee notes.
- ATMs have not been mostly functioning and if working for few hours, could give us just 1 note of Rs.2000.
- The rules of withdrawal and exchange have been changing by the hour and have been the butt of new WhatsApp jokes by the minute! In fact the exchange goal post of 30th Dec. has been brought forward.
- Both the TV and print media have myriad stories of how Demonetisation has affected the common man in urban and rural areas.
- There have been many deaths attributed to Demonetisation in many parts of the country. Every day there are updates on the death toll in the media.
It’s almost a month now and still the situation is fluid. As one can see that this Demonetisation gamble by the Govt. has presented to us – public many, many opportunities to get provoked. But the one difference is we that have not got provoked. At least up until now. And I hope I have not spoken too soon.
The resultant emotional outbursts leading to violent reactions for events mentioned in the beginning are sometimes quite spontaneous (though it is still difficult to explain the reactions so very violent) but many times orchestrated to further political interests. In this case (Demonetisation) also we have seen few political parties trying their best to spin things out of control and bring the Govt. on its knees. But just that this time around, few things have been different:
- The common public of all hue – have not taken to damaging of banks, burning of empty ATMs, attacking Bank officers, setting on fire currency vans,… even when they have been driven to heights of frustration.
- There have not been blackening of faces of BJP leaders or burning of effigies of PM or the RBI Governor!
- For the 1st time in my memory, political parties had to go a large length to explain that they were not supporting any Bharat Bandh supposedly after reading the citizens’ Anti bandh mood!
- For the 1st time again in my memory, no political party has given the Demonetisation move a communal colour so far. Otherwise in our country any decision from awarding a Padma Shri to constructing a hospital is given a communal tint by commentators and vested interests very convincingly.
For the above reasons I would like to believe that the benefits or otherwise of Demonetisation notwithstanding, this move will emerge as a defining moment in India’s history – where the public of India completely toed the line of its Prime Minister, shunned the rhetoric of others, remained unprovoked and went through the grind.
I am not sure if we as a country will display such great maturity in reacting to unfavourable events in the future. But for now, let’s savour the Achhe Din!!! Shoba De in her today’s column calls 2016 – Annus horibilis! No, Ms. De – for this significant change in our public reaction, 2016 is in fact Annus mirabilis!!!
Toon Courtesy: Satish Acharya
Also read my other post on Demonetisation – “Cash Mukt Bharat” here!