Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Shadows Series III - Paradigms of Power

Recently the pet dog of the Police Commissioner of Delhi got lost. The dog- a 12 year old Daschund went missing last Saturday and sent the establishment into a tizzy. But Toto is one lucky thing for its master wields a lot of power and so the police establishment swung into action to find and restore the pet to its delighted owner, who had announced a reward of Rs10,000( out of the Commissioner’s own pocket) for the dog.

Looking at the time available to the Station House Officer of the Nizamuddin Police Station and others to track the dog, one could perhaps safely assume that Delhi is a crime free city where the police find diversion in looking for lost pets but the facts are that Delhi is not just the political capital of the country but also the Crime capital of the nation too. “3,244 criminal cases - including 467 murders, 581 rapes, 1764 dacoity and other heinous crimes - were registered in the city during the 2007 .During the last year, the capital also emerged more bloodthirsty compared to 2006 when 462 murders had taken place” .

Further, according to the National Human Rights Commission, the capital records the maximum number of cases of missing children. In India more than 44,000 children of all ages go missing annually and Delhi has topped the list with 6.7 percent of the total cases. I The NHRC report goes onto say that of the missing children, only about 80 percent are eventually traced. Given the pay hike given to the “public servants” so that they can serve bettter, it is possible now that senior bureaucrats will now cultivate more exotic and extravagant pets which if lost can be tracked.

But this is not a reflection on dogs or police commissioners or the pay commission- but on power. Power on the face of it has nothing shadowy about it – if you have it, you flaunt it- if you don’t , you moan sitting in a corner and cringe before those who have it. One would have you believe that if you don’t parade it, you don’t have it. And lest there be any doubt, you display it blatantly - be it in the red beacon on your car or the gun toting security guards by your side or the slap that an MLA administers on a hapless commoner.

It looks graceless when people with the power which only their position gives them use it so coarsely – whether it be by slapping a liftman or using the hapless, over worked people under you to look for a missing pet ( for a report on the working conditions of the Delhi Police look here) or raping a woman or through in any of the innumerable ways in which we demonstrate our power, not to lift up the weak but to further crush those who are already trampled.

There is a sad anachronism about the society we live in that people who are paid hefty salaries to serve exhibit raw muscle power at its most base or use it for various forms of gratification. Anachronistic because grand old men like the late Baba Amte who died recently, at the ripe age of 92, felt the call to serve and with problems of the spine which rendered him bed ridden and problems of the heart which a broken pace maker could not repair used to trundle through Anandwan in a bullock cart. The sad paradigm of power is that the truly powerful seem to be frail of body like broken reeds like Gandhiji or Baba Amte or Nanaji Deshmush or Mother Teresa while their shadows flaunt a caricature of power through golden cages of glitzy cars or the grandeur of Lutyen’s bungalows displaying vain glory in the guise of the emperor’s new clothes as in Hans Christen Anderson. Truely Gandhiji in his loin cloth was far better clothed than those in resplendent robes of office unaware of their nakedness.

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