Uniting voices: An Open Letter to Shantanu
Update: (2008/11/22) Here is Shantanu's reply.
Here is my open letter to Shantanu Bhagwat. For those who do not know who he is: Shantanu blogs at Satyameva Jayate about Indian issues. He recently revealed his identity. He talks about how he wishes to better India, what his contribution will be , and what you can do.
Dear Shantanu Bhagwat:
I applaud you for this decision of yours. I will observe what you are doing and do my part to support you, and your cause towards the betterment of India. I would like to share something that I have been thinking about for several months now. I hope some form of this wish becomes reality in the future, and I seek your opinion and support.
I wonder if I am alone in my principles and intentions. Are there people out there who think like me? If so, what is the way for them to represent me and my views, and how do I be their representative?
Let me talk about a couple of issues: the UPA Government was mulling imposing a content code on news organizations. How can poor me, squeaking from a corner, make my voice heard? A Supreme Court judge, whom you would expect to protect an individual's freedoms, asks the government to regulate content. I would expect someone to file a "friend of the court" brief letting the Judge know he is free to switch channels. And that if enough people switch channels, the content will change.
The Election Commission of India was contemplating rules that would prevent criminals from contesting elections. Given India's slow judiciary, it takes a long time to convict or acquit a suspect. Obviously, the rights of the innocent have to be protected. I had a suggestion: make it mandatory for people seeking public office to seek a fast track trial. I wrote a letter to the ECI when it was seeking suggestions on this topic. I am not even sure if anyone read it. Any way, in this issue the ECI eventually did nothing. Obviously, the voices of political parties were louder.
What I dream of is a group that represents me, that I can be proud of. And a group that lets me represent it. A group of like-minded citizens who agree on a core set of values and come together. Some issues are easy to reach almost unanimous consensus, and some issues can divide groups apart. I hope there are several others who understand the power of a united voice and agree on core issues.
Representation in our democracy means two things: votes and voices. Political parties are a way of uniting people to garner votes. Most Indians will agree (maybe not) that voting for a party is choosing the lesser of several evils. In our democracy, uniting diverse voices is vitally important. That is what I would like to focus on.
I want people in the group to write letters to their local newspaper on my behalf. I will do so to mine. I want them to call and harass bureaucrats and lawmakers into action. I will do my part. I want them to organize peaceful protests on issues the group decides are important. I will gladly join. There are going to be active members who do the above. There are going to be numerous passive ones who offer just moral support. Nevertheless, by merely nodding their heads in large numbers, they can amplify the group's voice.
I want members to bring up issues and incidents that need others' attention. The group can then decide how to act. In the two instances mentioned at the beginning of this letter, citizens in one united voice could have spoken louder than the amplified voices of the few. Each member laying a brick or breaking one, with resounding force as a group, we can build or bring down a building.
Nothing that I have said here is new or profound. Groups and political parties exist for precisely this purpose. It is imperative that like minded groups and individuals unite. Recently, a bunch of youngsters started a political party, with all the right intentions. What happened? The group split into two (yes, I am talking about Lok Paritran). The focus should be on principles and not personalities, to avoid such incidents.
The Internet has made it even easier to organize. We should start with an online organization and after reaching some critical mass move into the offline world. There are several organizations already out there: political parties, consumer rights groups, human rights groups, environmental groups, civil liberty advocates, etc. How can we bring them all together? Can we ensure that we do not splinter people even further?
I am very interested in knowing your opinion about what I have written. You will surely be having your own ideas and priorities. I urge you to consider mine. I wish you the very best in your endeavours.