Sunday, August 30, 2009

The right kind of heroes

Many of us might have been following the news pertaining to the members of the judicial community in India trying for a long time; not to make their financial assets public in spite of an increasing demand to do so. That they eventually agreed was not so much a voluntary act in the usually understood sense of the term; rather it was more of a capitulation to a growing chorus of public opinion. Though a large number of the establishment seemed to side with the judges – the government tied to introduce a bill that would make it unnecessary for the judges to disclose their worth.

The wide acclaim with which the Supreme Court’s final decision that the judges would up details about their assets on the Supreme Court website shows one thing very clearly; we love transparency. Whether it is in public life, or insurance forms, or anything else. We like things out in the open and people who live at the tax payers expense to be accountable; especially when the judiciary is no longer pristinely pure and the news of their misdemeanors are frequently reported in the media. In fact, the former Chief Justice of Supreme Court of India S. P. Bharucha had suggested that up to 20 per cent of judges in India were corrupt and that was a while ago. There is no reason to believe that things are necessarily any different.

It is in this context that the act of Justice D V Shlyendra Kumar of the Karnataka High Court and Justice K Kannan of Punjab and Haryana High Court who went ahead and unilaterally declared their assets without any pressure to do so must be lauded. They are truly brave hearts. After all, the Indian establishment has an elephantine memory and long after the public adulation has faded, their act of displeasing the Chief Justice of India, might have cost them their promotions as Chief Justices in the High Courts or elevation to the bench of the Supreme Court.

If we are going to have more such brave hearts in our midst; or even want to have the days and years to come, it seems that we need to learn to honor and cherish them – not in the sense of giving them awards and medals , but by giving them an abiding space in the public memory. That unfortunately rarely happens. Rogues and criminals like Abdul Karim Telgi of the stamp paper scandal or terrorist s like Ajmal Kasab will keep appearing in the papers for months or years, but the faces of true pioneers, trend setters and Heros vanish within days. We have created false celebrities of people we really ought to erase from the public memory nice they are in the custody of the law and recognize our true heroes.

Like everywhere else, the opinion makers and movers and shakers in the country need to take the responsibility to ensure that we eulogize the right people; and the media – be it the traditional media or the emerging media of blogs, citizen journalism etc need to do all that can be done to ensure that we keep preventing the disappearance of good and positive role models from the radar screen of our memories.

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