Learning to say sorry

Instead of finding real solutions to our political conflicts, we keep buying weapons, building armies, sending untrained young men to dangerous war zones, expecting them to win against the uprising of local people. The result’s scary.

By Pritesh Nandi
We are an amazing nation. We buy expensive bullet proof jackets that can’t provide protection against bullets. So our top policemen get shot down by a motley crew of novice terrorists, who didn’t even know their way around Mumbai city.

Subsequent investigations into who bought these jackets and who sanctioned them have run into a dead wall with nothing likely to ever emerge, even though the police themselves are investigating it.

We start huge, costly schemes for the rural poor that never reach them because the administration cannot or will not deliver them to the poor, and middle men run away with most of the money. So the rural poor keep selling off their ancestral land and migrate to our already overcrowded cities or commit suicide when they do not even have the wherewithal to do that. When their angry despairing kids join insurgent groups to fight back the unjust system, the state calls them Maoists, wants to wipe them out.

We buy MiGs and Sukhois that keep crashing off and on. We buy old, outdated Westland copters from the British that even the British forces refused to use. The crashes that inevitably followed kill off some of our best pilots. Yet no one ever investigated such deals. No one ever asked why we buy defense equipment with a track record of consistent failure. As for the copters, if we didn’t buy them, the British would have possibly given them away free to some poor African nation as part of a dubious aid package.

We have now bought faulty breathalyzer equipment and punished innocent citizens by implicating them in drunk driving cases. Can you imagine the impact on their lives and families? Can you guess what young Nooriya Haveliwala went through, held in Byculla jail for 60 days because her car accident was not treated as an accident on the ground that she was drunk? What was the proof against her? The breathalyzer test.

Her father died of brain hemorrhage, pleading his daughter’s innocence, while the media went on a rampage claiming she could have been a drug addict too. Who will now give her back her sense of dignity? Who can help those hundreds of young boys and girls whose lives were destroyed by faulty breathalyzer tests?

Even lie detector tests, narco analysis and brain mapping are of dubious merit. The Supreme Court has  now clearly  ruled that they can’t be against citizens to prove any culpability. As any psychologist worth his reputation will tell you, such tests are always misleading because they are based on the premise that all people react to the same chemical drugs in exactly the same way and the slightest variation affirms guilt. This is nonsense. It’s only when we assume a person is guilty and have no evidence whatsoever that we look for such options.

Exactly in the same way, instead of finding real solutions to our political conflicts, we keep buying weapons, building armies, sending untrained young men to dangerous war zones, expecting them to win against the uprising of local people. The result’s scary. One group of Indians in uniform fighting another, desperately seeking to assert their own right to be a part of the modern India we all talk about. Whether it’s Kashmir or Manipur, or the badlands of Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand, the problem’s the same. Angry locals are fighting an uncaring state that thinks the only solution to every law and order problem lies in repression. There’s no attempt to reach out, resolve issues, build relationships that can go beyond the feudal structure of the ruler and the ruled. We have forgotten that we are one nation, one people. We need to work towards one future. A future that can’t be realized through conflict but needs to be nurtured through an understanding of local issues and concerns, by righting as many wrongs as we possibly can.

Can we first start by a baby step? Admit the breathalyzer tests were wrong and apologize to all those who were abused, punished and jailed on their basis? It will be a good beginning and a lesson in humility for the almighty state. We can call off all the cases, return all the fines paid. And, while we are at it, can we find out who ordered those dud bullet proof jackets that killed our best cops? Can we punish them? Can we punish the guys behind the Kargil coffin scam? Has anyone apologized to Tehelka for what was done to them by the last regime? Or is the state too arrogant to admit its own mistakes? Also, instead of chasing old Warren Andersen, shouldn’t we hunt down the exact facts about who allowed him to escape from India and why? More important, shouldn’t we simply apologize to the Bhopal victims and give them their rightful dues, however late it may be?

A nation that only tries to cover up its mistakes is condemned to repeat them. So let’s admit a few and see if we can set some things right.
Courtesy: Times of India

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