2022:New hopes & promises

Covid Spoils Party Again

By Poonam I Kaushish

How does one begin an epitaph of the year gone by? Uncork the champagne and roll out the drums? By welcoming 2021 on the wings of new hopes and promises? Or twelve months of steady downhill with no barrier to stop the slide? Clearly, 2021 will go down in history as une annee charniere a tumultuous year, a mixed bag.
Covid 19 has again turned to be a party pooper as new variant highly contagious Omicron continues to hold humankind hostage in its vicious tentacles, making us realize how frail we are as nations fight the crisis on a war footing. Prime Minister announcement on boosters and 15-18 years vaccination is welcome. Prevention is better than cure along-with need to change our lifestyles and habits even as medical experts quibble about better vaccines, its efficacy etc.
Politically, 2022 begins with five States in election mode which are potentially super spreaders as our netas follow the dictum ‘might is right’ and operate like Warlords of Bharat with an inured sense of justification peddling grandiose dreams of a dysfunctional system choreographed to suit their vote banks wherein Parties gerrymander vote-shares to appease voters with the sole objective of the winner taking it all!
For the Opposition specially Congress the coming polls will decide whether it can resurrect itself from its present morass as TMC redoubtable street fighter Mamata makes plain her intentions of being ring-leader. Having shown remarkable political resilience by defeating the BJP juggernaut in West Bengal, notwithstanding that it catapulted the Party from three seats in 2016 to becoming the principal opposition with 72 MLAs is no mean achievement.
Undoubtedly repealing the contentious farm laws was a loss of face, yet, Modi showed statesmanship when faced with resilient farmers who refused to budge from Delhi’s borders for over a year. Even as one is tempted to pin it on the coming Assembly polls, including crucial UP, this alone cannot be a sufficient ground given for any politician keeping one eye on popular sentiment while pushing forward reforms is always a tricky balancing act. However it has opened space for Government to attempt agricultural reform in a more holistic and less confrontational manner.
Alongside the year was dotted by ‘hate’ speeches across the religious spectrum. The latest was in Haridwar where Hindu Raksha Sena President Swami Prabodhanand Giri spewed hatred at a Dharam Sansad recently. “Like in Myanmar where Hindus were killed, the police, politicians, army and every Hindu here must pick up weapons to die for and kill to protect our religion from Muslims…we will have to conduct this safai abhiyan to make India a Hindu nation.”
Not far behind was AIMIM Owaisi, “Please remember, Yogi will not be Chief Minister always. Modi will not be Prime Minister forever. We Muslims will not forget your injustice. We will remember this injustice. Allah will destroy you through his strength. Things will change. Who will come to save you then? When Yogi will return to his mutt and Modi will retreat to the mountains, then who will come?” he lashed out at UP police in Kanpur. Clearly, the speed with which our tolerance is falling to breakable levels is worrying.
Moreso, in the silly season of appeasement politics wherein democracy is a conflict of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. From Kerala’s ‘narcotics jihad’ to lure Christians towards Islam using drugs to UP ‘love jihad’ and politics over God seems to be the order of the day. Accusing previous State Governments for their ‘Muslim politics’, Yogi lashed “those saying ‘abba jaan’ used to digest ration meant for poor.” Samajwadi hit back “BJP maar kar ke raaj karna chahti hai … dara kar ke raaj karna chahti hai.”
Amidst this political aakrosh, the common man continues to struggle for roti, kapada aur makaan with an increasingly angry and restive janata demanding answers and yearning for change in the New Year. Sick of the crippling morass of our neo-Maharajas with their power trappings and suffering from Acute Orwellian syndrome of “some are more equal than others” and Oliver’s disorder, “always asking for more”.
On the social front things are depressing. Seven decades post Independence, after spending trillions on education, health and food, 70% people continue to be hungry, illiterate, unskilled and bereft of basic medical care. Increasingly, we are getting more casteist and communal whereby a distraught India is searching for her soul under the increasing onslaught of intolerance and criminalization.
Tragically, nobody has time for the aam aadmi’s growing disillusionment with the system which explodes in rage. Turn to any mohalla, district or State, the story is mournfully the same. Resulting in more and more people taking law into their own hands and borne out by the increasing rioting and looting. Capital Delhi is replete with gory tales of crime resulting in murders. The system has become so sick that women today are being raped in crowded trains with co-passengers as mute spectators. Sporadically converting the country into andher nagri.
Beastly tales of Her Story tumbled out of sexual harassment, molestation and assault by politicians, celebrities, relatives etc. Recently, a Karnataka Minister advised women to lie back and enjoy rape. Sic. Clearly, in a society which lives with the regressive mindset that freedom and equality for women tantamount to promiscuity, we show utter disregard and disrespect for women, whereby they continue to rot at the hands of lecherous, predatory or pedophile men despite talk of women empowerment. See the resistance to increasing girls’ marriageable age from 18 to 21.
On the external front India relations with China and Pakistan are like playing poker. Show no emotions even as one plans strategy, play is multi-causal, defiantly stand one’s ground and gambling on a winning hand. Despite umpteen military and diplomatic dialogues over-22 months and continuing standoff in Eastern Ladakh, Beijing continues to take “incremental and tactical” actions to press its claims along the LAC, including its new village/ PLA’s military camp in Arunachal.
China’s desire to restrict India as a regional power has been further exacerbated by New Delhi’s vocal criticisms of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative. As it stands both countries will find it increasingly difficult to calibrate and control their responses in ways that satisfy their political, military and strategic aims. India cannot afford to lower its guard as relations have entered a new, more precarious, and unpredictable era.
As India enters 2022 our netagan need to stop getting their shorts in knots over excessive trivia, get their act together, take responsibility, amend their ways and address real serious issues of governance. The people want jobs, transparency and accountability. Enough is enough. We need leaders with grit and determination who can and are ready to build a new India, not pygmy netas.
We need to focus on what we are going to do to make 2022 a good year. It’s not going to be easy but we have no choice. Time to get back to basics and reignite the magic of simplicity and minimalism, become more humane and see the world through new lens of hope whereby, the principles of ‘Jus Ad Bellum’: right authority, right intention and reasonable hope dictate our responses. What gives? — INFA