Let’s just say that Sharad Pawar, Union Agriculture Minister, isn’t the most popular politician in India. He’s been implicated in a number of huge corruption scandals. And, yesterday, he got slapped (ek tight lafa, so the slang goes). It wasn’t the first time that an Indian politician has been on the receiving end of enraged behaviour. Amongst other incidents, a journalist threw a shoe at Home Minister P. Chidambaram, during a press conference in 2008.
Yesterday’s slap was courtesy of an apparently mentally unstable man who was fed up with the rising prices of food, and of course corruption. “Sab chor hain…cheer doonga…” (all of them are thieves, I’ll rip them apart), he shouted as he was escorted away by security guards post slap. When asked why he’d slapped the Minister, he responded “Aur kyaa karoon, jab dekho… ghotala, ghotala” (what else should I do?, when you look, corruption, corruption).
The slap was very well received by the common man all across India. I must admit, I laughed over the lafa. Harvinder Singh, who delivered it, has been hailed a hero. And, to add to the comedy, non-violent protester Anna Hazare remarked, “Ekhi mara, kyaa?” (Only one hit, or what?)
Hazare and Pawar have been at loggerheads for nearly two decades now, for reasons including corruption, land grabbing, and the use of power in politics. Anna’s question was seen as a clear indication of his animosity towards the Union Minister, although he quickly backpedaled and went about clarifying his statement to mean that he wanted to know if anything else had happened to Pawar.
Meanwhile in Pune and western Maharastra, where Pawar is the leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, the political fallout started. Although Pawar played down the slap, adopting a forgive and forget attitude, his party workers where in no such mood. They went on a rampage, starting various forms of agitation. In Mumbai, protesters blocked roads during peak commuting hours, attacked buses, forced malls and shops to shut, and staged a rail stoppage.
Over 250 party workers were detained by police for disrupting 52 areas across the city. And the news dominated Twitter. “One slap in Delhi closes streets in Mumbai”.
But all entertainment aside, this situation is an unfortunate one. Many people have been saying, what does a slap solve? The battle should be taken to the ballot. Why don’t enraged citizens direct their anger towards getting these corrupt politicians removed from office by voting them out?
And, what about when people’s anger flows over into other situations?
The slap was indicative of many people’s frustrations in India these days, and the helplessness they feel. An example of this is Mumbai’s commuters. They’re a perpetually angry bunch, ready to explode upon provocation. Earlier this month they thrashed a railway ticket inspector and halted trains on the Western line. Last month, it was auto rickshaws that raised commuters’ ire. Next month, no doubt it will be something else.
Nevertheless, I’m wondering what would happen if someone slapped Julia Gillard, Australia’s ineffective Prime Minister!
© 2011, Diary of a White Indian Housewife. All rights reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.
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