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CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

 

FROM THE DIRECTOR'S DESK
SEEMA MUSTAFA | 17 FEBRUARY, 2014

This morning one got up thinking lets find something beautiful and peaceful to write about. A good thought that brought a smile to the face, and over a cup of steaming tea one started poring through the morning newspapers to see —politically speaking of course—what one could revel in. Almost humming a tune under the breath, one got down to the daily task, positive that the positive vibes would pay dividends.

The Aam Admi Party was no different from the others, screamed the headlines in one newspaper, and the Delhi government had systematically been blocking efforts by a Right to Information activist to seek data on various decisions of the new government. Oh well, that's okay, it happens.

But the next news item was how Delhi would be facing a black out in the summers if decisions taken by former Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal were not reversed, and how despite his grand measures any number of colonies in the national capital of India were not getting water from the taps. And now not even from tankers that they were dependent on to survive. No water, no electricity, enough to throw even the cheeriest of souls into deep depression. But one was not going to allow this to happen so on to the other pages, after all we are a big country in big South Asia and surely between us we could find something to smile about!

But then one went on to how the Central Bureau of Investigation had let off then Gujarat Home Minister and prime accused Amit Shah in the Ishrat Jehan case. And how in Bangladesh the two women leaders were still squabbling. And how in Nepal there was still no government in place. And how in Sri Lanka the government was trying to stonewall efforts for justice to the victims killed in the 'war' against the LTTE. And how in Pakistan nothing had changed under the new government, with violence—internal and external— becoming part of its daily life.

Thoughts turned to how South Asia remains one of the most backward regions in the world. Little countries like Malaysia could boast of a basic infrastructure that none of the big countries of this region can. Power and water remains an issue all across. Hunger and poverty remain even as South Asian governments praise themselves on a daily basis. Women are the worst affected, facing the brunt of patriarchal brutality in South Asia with infanticide, rape, honour killings, discrimination, domestic violence all mixing in a potent and violent brew calculated to keep women under continuing subjugation. Violence has become the creed of these countries with governments resorting to this at a moment's notice, non-state actors inflicting huge damage on the peoples, and frustration and anger turning the South Asian countries into flashpoints difficult to control.

The good voices are becoming muted, after for how long can those wedded to sanity, progress and peace keep shouting to be heard. Governments ignore them, as do those who prefer to hate and incite violence on one pretext or the other. It could be a hairstyle as the poor Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Taniam found out at great cost—he was killed by a mob in broad daylight; it could be gender as the poor girls being killed by families or by strangers on a daily basis know; it could be religion that turns people into monsters; it could be caste that still treats human beings as untouchables; it could even be as simple as a car scraping against another and the driver being shot dead for daring to protest.

But the governments of these South Asian countries do not speak of all this, they prefer to either make loud promises that they know they will never meet; or they find diversionary tactics by targeting each other and generating enmity and hate. No one, for instance is bothered about the people of Afghanistan, everyone is more worried about how to control Afghanistan when the Americans pull out. The people in these power games become collateral damage, with the end of keeping dispensations in power always being made to justify the means.

Well you guessed it. The smile slowly vanished, a frown furrowed the forehead, the newspapers were set aside, television news switched off (as it is those screaming anchors add to depression by their very style lacking substance!). And what was worse the tea had become cold!