Friday, March 21, 2014

Voters must demand the world

Hum mehnatkash is duniya se jab apna hissa mangenge
Ik bagh nahin, ik khet nahin, hum saari duniya mangenge

Hasan Kamaal had slightly modified the words of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s ghazal for this song for the 1983 Hindi movie Mazdoor. But the powerful idea brought out by the Marxist poet comes across very clearly. The toiling, the “working-class” people of the world are not forever going to wait for crumbs to fall from the tables of the high and mighty of the world. Once they rise up to demand their share in world’s wealth and resources, they would actually go on and seize it all. This is a legitimate aspiration of the people of our country. Our history has been a story of the chosen few ruling over the vast majority. There was one set of people whose birthright it was to rule our minds. And there was another set, who exercised its own birthright in ruling our bodies. Brahmins and Kshatriyas had held the intellectual and physical—religious and political—power in their tight grip through centuries. It was not till the middle of the 20th century that we Indians experienced what it means to have people decide who would rule them. It was only in the last decades of the last century that people from the toiling classes, the oppressed majority, Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs began tasting the fruits of political power in India. The aspiration of people is at an all-time high today. The general election is around the corner. How are people going to fulfil their aspirations? What will help them make right decisions? Will they be swayed by empty slogans of Bijli, Sadak, Pani? The never-realized promise of Roti, Kapda, Makan? It is true that political parties must give people concrete plans and clear picture of their programmes. But we the voters must evolve also. Our aspirations must include not only tangible objects and facilities but also values and ideals. It’s not for nothing that Jesus taught us to pray first for the Kingdom of God and only then ask for our Daily Bread! As we prepare to vote and seek to play a role in our own governance let’s ponder over which party or candidate best upholds and promotes the values of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as enshrined in our Constitution. Let us become people who reject verbal promises and ask our candidates to ensure in deed that ideals are realized. People need more than bread (Matt 4:4). They need dignity, opportunity and liberty—for themselves and also their neighbours. Let us demand the world where highest values are materialized and practiced. We don’t need bloody revolutions to do that. A little bit of honest reflection before we go to the polling booth will help a great deal.

Published in Punjabi–English fortnightly Masihi Sansar (15–30 March 2014) published from Jalandhar