Its not surprising that fundamental freedoms such as freedom of speech, cultural and educational rights etc are taken for granted in our country. That is because most of us have spent our entire lives in a democratic nation and rights such as the ones mentioned above are inherently part of the nation’s psyche. We do not realize how important they are because we have never lived without them. I for one have always believed that democracy is the most ‘humanitarian’ form of governance. It may not be the most efficient(as in India’s case to some extent) or the most stable(as in Pakistan’s case) type of governance but it endows the people with rights and privileges that if used wisely can propel a nation on the path of growth.
That is precisely why comparisons between India and China cannot happen simply in terms of numbers and statistics. Policies that work in China may never even be approved in India because we have the freedom to dissent and to voice our opinions, both as individuals and/or as groups. If we were to implement an economic policy in India, it would mean no opposition from the political class, the business class, the public and private sectors and of course sometimes the common man. Compare this with China. Communism is pretty much a one way traffic. I am no expert on Communism but I believe that China’s communism is based on unidirectional authority. Fortunately, it has worked for them. I prefer India’s democracy though. Yes, it means we deal with corruption and inefficiency at various levels but, it does not have to be that way. I have the freedom to do something about it. The fact that I do not do much about it is another question all together. The point I am making is we are a very lucky people to be part of a democratic setup.
The reason why I write this is because I just happened to watch an hour long news cast on the Egyptian protests. The visuals from there were powerful. I also followed the Tunisian protests and the underlying causes for these two massive protests are more or less the same. Aside from core issues such as unemployment, inflation etc, the triggering cause for these unrests seems to be the inability of the people to question policies because these are totalitarian governments. They follow a heavy handed approach toward dissenters and in Egypt’s case, the nation has been under Emergency Law for almost three decades. I would not even like to imagine how stifling such restrictions could be. I think its really brave what the people of Egypt and Tunisia are doing. They are relentlessly demanding for a change and have taken to the streets in huge numbers to make their displeasure with their respective current leaders evident. I find the responses of other nations to these protests very interesting. These are hugely, if not entirely, political responses and are meticulously planned and thought over. So, a majority of them express their solidarity with the people of Egypt but refrain from making comments on the existing setup. After all its an internal issue. Except for perhaps the USA which has great relations with Egypt, considers it an ally and perhaps will be affected by the changes in Egyptian politics given its significant role in the Israel – Palestine conflict and its seemingly stable status as one of the more developed ecomies in Middle East. Only time will tell how events unfold in Egypt but I for one am more intrigued by how people will bring about their desired changes.
India on the other hand awards its citizens too much freedom, if you like. Apart from freedom of speech and freedom of religion and so on so forth, its citizens have themselves introduced freedom to spit anywhere, freedom to relieve oneself anywhere, freedom to misuse public money for personal interest etc etc. I honestly think if we were to live under an autoritarian regime for a week, it would do our country a whole lot of good. But then again, this is just what I think. The conclusion though is that, no one is bigger than the country. It does not matter if you are the minister’s relative or the minister himself. If people of the country turn against you, you are dead meat. I think if we carry protests like the one in Egypt against all the alleged corrupt politicians, we could achieve something. I like that we have that freedom. Or atleast the freedom to think and write about it!
PS: If possible try and read articles on the New York Times website on these protests. One such article:
Date With a Revolution