There is no lasting hope in violence, only temporary relief from hopelessness - Kingman Brewster, Jr
India had a double facepalm moment when on Thursday Samajwadi Party chief and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav nonchalantly opposed capital punishment for rape, saying "ladke, ladke hain...galti ho jati hai [boys will be boys...they commit mistakes]."
"Boys and girls befriend each other. When they fall out, a rape complaint is lodged. We will change this law and will make a provision for penalizing people who misuse the law by filing frivolous complaints," said Mulayam. "If boys and girls have difference, and the girl goes and gives a statement that I have been raped, then the poor fellows are punished."
The statement predictably triggered an outpouring of outrage - on social media, where the Aam Aadmi Party operates, but that space hardly matters to 'mass leaders' like Mr Yadav or Abu Azmi, who went a step further saying "rape is punishable by hanging in Islam. But here, nothing happens to women, only to men. Even the woman is guilty."
This triggered more outrage - but we will come to that later. For now, turn to the other facepalm moment:
On April 8, an autorickshaw driver slapped Aam Aadmi Party leader and former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in full public view. Earlier, on the 4th of April, Kejriwal was slapped during a roadshow in New Delhi. Earlier still, on March 28, he was attacked while campaigning in Haryana. And before that, on March 25, somebody threw eggs at his car in Varanasi.
My colleagues and I were having lunch when the news flashed on the TV screens of the AAP leader being attacked. All of us went "ouch" - but we also found it, at least initially, funny. And that is what scares me, this schadenfreude, this reaction where we take pleasure in the pain of others.
Kejriwal handled this latest attack - like he handled earlier ones - with a grace that is unusual in our public figures. He had been slapped so hard that even a Mahatma Gandhi, in his place, would have had occasion to rephrase his "turn the other cheek" definition of non-violence. His glasses fell; his eye was injured. But a day later, Kejriwal visited Lali, the rickshaw driver, and forgave him. Admirable.
But it does beg the question: Who are these people? Are their acts of violence motivated? Or visceral? Or just a cynical attempt to hit the headlines? How is all this slapping/hitting/throwing ink helping their cause? And most importantly, why is it only Kejriwal who finds himself at the receiving end of such "spontaneous" protests?
Narendra Modi, who - even if you go with the line that no court has deemed him responsible - passively oversaw the worst massacre of Muslims in Independent India, and is now poised to take over as Prime Minister.
Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi, former Delhi CM Sheila Dixit, the country's First Son-in-Law Robert Vadra and so many, many others - you know who you are - roam the streets with impunity after having looted thousands of crores of rupees in scam after scam after scam.
Remember A Raja? The former Telecom Minister, having been indicted, arrested and jailed for some 15 months in the 2G scam where the net look was reportedly 170,000-plus crore, is now contesting for a second term
Then there is Lalu Yadav. Mayawati. Madhu Koda. BS Yeddyurappa...An endless list, really, of politicians who have betrayed this country, and who roam around in public with absolute impunity.
While I am not suggesting that they be targeted for violence, I do wonder: how come no one "protests" against them in the fashion they have used against Kejriwal? Simple - do so much as breathe too hard on any of those politicians and you will be (a) beaten up by their security detail and by the supporters; (b) jailed indefinitely; (c) All of the above.
It's part of who we are. Think of it like this: You won't hesitate to bargain with the poor vegetable vendor over a kilo of tomatoes, but will meekly pay up in the fancy store where the sign over the counter says 'fixed price'. You will abuse the hell out of the rickshawallah who cuts in front of your car, but will suck it up in silence if the offender is driving a high-end vehicle. Kejriwal is the Aam Aadmi - the vegetable vendor, the rickshawallah; he is us. And we are never so mean as when we deal with our peers.
We are like this only. And maybe we will never change.
And who knows - maybe the next government will be just as bad as the previous one. But at the least, don't forget to vote - it is the one time you get to make your voice count, for whatever it is worth.