Opinion

Op-ed

India and the Turmoil in the Middle East

The World Bank estimates that India ranks second in the world in the number of children suffering from malnutrition, after Bagladesh.

Many countries of the Middle East are currently rocked by the people's protests demanding regime change and political reforms. The awakened public now wants the autocrats, dictators and despots to step down. The rulers of Egypt and Tunisia timely left the thrones in exchange for their lives. But the strange Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi has refused to step down until his last breath. For fulfilling this ambition, he is even ready to destroy the nation. And this is the reason that even in the last moments of his rule, Gaddafi has appealed to his numbered supporters to attack the protesters and crush them like "cockroaches." One can imagine if Gaddafi can do such things at a time when his days are numbered, what he could have done with the opponents and dissidents when he used to rule the roost in Libya. 

However, this call of aggression by Gaddafi has little effect on people, though some of them became victims of the violence unleashed by his police, army and hired mercenaries. But since Gaddafi has now crossed all limits of morality, his supporters are gradually dumping him. Libya's home minister has left Gaddafi. Many other ministers are following suit. A major part of the army is also against Gaddafi. Near a dozen Libyan ambassadors and diplomats have resigned in protest against Gaddafi. Indifference of the state, widespread public outcry and Gaddafi's stubbornness to remain stuck to the chair have created the environment of a potential civil war in Libya. If any large-scale violence breaks out in such circumstances, only Gaddafi would be responsible for that. The international community is deeply concerned by the turmoil in Libya. Moreover, the prices of crude oil have skyrocketed due to the ongoing disturbance in the Middle East.

The spate of people's demands for regime change is presently limited only to the Muslim populous countries. This wave of change is being looked at in different perspectives. In some countries the majority Shia community is demanding removal of a minority Sunni dictator. In other countries people are fed up by the inefficient and corrupt despots, at some places trying to dethrone the monarchs and establish democracy. It can be said that people in every country of the Middle East have their share of problems. A misconception promoted for centuries has been that democracy is incompatible with Islam and that the followers of Islam love only monarchy or dictatorship. This revolution has shut the mouths of such fundamentalists. This revolution has proved that by and large the Muslim society is not only democratic but also nonviolent.

Amidst this people's revolution in the Middle East, many political analysts are guessing whether such a situation can arise in India. The reason behind this thinking is that even after 64 years of freedom, India is struggling with the problems of poverty, hunger, unemployment, illiteracy, corruption and scams. Maoism or Naxalism is deepening its roots very fast. For this, too, poverty, hunger, unemployment, ignorance and injustice are responsible. There is no doubt that the common man in India is unhappy with the prevailing administrative system. Every minute a debt-ridden farmer commits suicide. More than half of our children are malnourished. Officers of the elite Civil Service, Indian Administrative Service, are either shot dead or burnt alive by the mafias, or kidnapped by the Maoists. In the name of corruption, opposition parties are not letting the Parliament function. Inflation is at an all-time high.

People are losing faith in political parties, leaders and the system. Common people can be heard saying that the laws are only for poor while the rich and influential easily manage to escape the law. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has admitted this fact. The former President APJ Abdul Kalam expressed the concern that, instead of a smile, there is sadness on the faces of the people. For these reasons, analysts are worried about a potential outburst by the Indian people, influenced by the change in the Middle East. Notwithstanding that India is the world's largest democracy, people are worried about the future of their families and children, just as their Middle Eastern counterparts.

The people of India are divided into hundreds of political parties, ideologies, classes and regions. The Indian Army is constituted on similar lines. Our politicians repeatedly pat their own backs by telling the world that we are the world's biggest and the most successful ideal democracy. But they should not be indifferent to the reality that people have a threshold for everything. An awakened society cannot tolerate for long the fear, poverty, hunger and uncertainty about the future of their children. If India wants to maintain the tag of being the world's largest democracy, it will have to deal with the basic needs and problems of the people as soon as possible. Otherwise, the winds of change start blowing anywhere anytime.

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