Proud of my Country. Shameful of my countrymen.

There have been many events in the recent and not-so-recent past that prepped me to touch pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard); The execution of Saddam Hussein, the attack on the art student for an ‘objectionable’ painting, the election(?) of the President of India, the NICE corridor fiasco, numerous terrorist attacks in India, the foiled terror attack in London, the Haneef episode,… the list is large.

It was only my complete mastery at procrastination (I am the best procrastinator there is!), that enabled me to avoid a return to the blogosphere. And of course, there was this statement by one of our learned cabinet ministers, who sniggered at the people’s campaign (mostly online) to bring back APJ Abdul Kalam for a second term as the President of India, as a insignificant minority who live in a deluded world of computers and virtual reality.

All this and more, could not prepare me to what I saw on the idiot box early yesterday morning. A group of 30-odd people (mostly men) attacking a lady, ostensibly to teach her a lesson for crossing pen with the sword of religion. This was too much to take and here I am typing away at my keyboard.

The scary fact remains that these so-called leaders carried out this horrendous attack inside a Press Club of India premise, right under the glare of numerous journalists, unmindful of the fact that they were on camera – both photo and camera! Or perhaps that was exactly the point — that they were on camera; That this was a quick way to be ‘known’ across the state and country, arguably boosting their chances at the next elections.

And what has the new Lady President of our country got to say about this barbaric attack on an author – a lady author at that? Silence. Sorry! Did we miss something? We did not even hear a peep from the Rashtrapathi Bhavan.

What has the most powerful lady in the country got to say about this shameful episode? Sorry, but we did not hear any “tch tch” noises emanating from Madam’s 10 Janpath either.

As for our new Vice President, all he had to say is people should not take law in their own hands. Asked a point blank question on what he feels about this uncivil incident, the learned intellect chose neither to condemn the incident nor state it as deplorable.

One should not find this too surprising as the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM)–the party to which these three legislators belong–is one of the partners of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the center. I only wonder if we should treat this as a government-sponsored attack on democratic rights and secularism — especially since secularism is a topic that the UPA heralds as its own?

As my mind revisits this inhuman incident, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to Taslima Nasreen had some journalists and morally-guided co-invitees NOT come to her rescue. The newreel showed this motly group led by three legislators repeatedly attacking the exiled Bangladeshi writer with everything they could lay their hands on: chairs, flowerpots, bouquets. I can’t help but wonder if these three elected representatives of a democracy called India would have perhaps physically assaulted Ms Nasreen if they could reach her? Would they have gone to the extent of killing her if the others had not kept them at bay?

Based on what the perpetrators stated on new cameras — “We will behead her if she sets foot in Hyderabad” — I have to say yes. Although deep inside I still think this was all an act linked to polity and to please that incomprehensible and inexplicable “vote-bank”. And in that moment of time, I really can’t help but think: What right-minded individual would elect these characters?

A country once respected the world-over for its philosophies of non-violence and non-cooperation, has turned into a modern Wild Wild West (except this is the Mystical East) — where lathi-wielding and gun-toting people roam the streets, beating the shit out of anybody who does not agree with their ideals and ideology.

As my motherland reaches the independent age of 60, I can’t help but state – I am proud of my country, and shameful of my countrymen. We seem to have lost the spine and the morals that gained us independence and freedom.

A basic question come to mind: Do we deserve a democracy? (if what we are living in now is indeed a democracy).

If Mahatma Gandhi were amongst us today, would he have led us on another freedom struggle — For independence from the nincompoops who govern us?

Nakul