Her message is that democracy and transparency are the only answer – but the NGOs steer clear of politics, which makes her burn with indignation. She quotes Graham Greene, “He wrote, ‘Sometimes, if you are human, you have to take sides.’ They say we are not ready to compromise. I don’t know what they mean. Our minds are not inflexible, but perhaps our knees are inflexible. We are not down on our knees!” Her message is that politics is everything, nothing is apolitical. With crystal clear precision, she enunciates in capital letters, “I AM A POLITICIAN. That’s a dirty word, but I write it on forms as my profession. I AM A POLITICIAN!” We talk about the universal contempt for politics, as voting declines in the West. “Just ask them if they would like to emigrate to a totalitarian state,” she says. But does she worry that when freedom comes, people quickly forget as the everyday business of governing falls short of expectations? “I’ve always tried to explain democracy is not perfect. But it gives you a chance to shape your own destiny.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, in an interview here.

Somehow, I see the same “indignation” of some dalit/adivasi activists towards NGOs, which rest of the Indian middle class endorse merrily, and the same indulgence with politics, which rest of middle class abhor. Some sentiments arise from an experience of all possible forms of inequalities and a strong sense of social justice, which even people like Medha Patkar, who remain involved in social issues for such a long time, dont get it. You can see her  in this video (at 26:29 min) “hum to karyakata hein, koi neta nehi hei, karya na karta woh neta hota hei” (We are activists, not politicians. Those who dont act are politicians).

Neta, which literally translates to leader, has in the chattering-class parlance has become synonymous with politician, which has, in turn, become synonymous with “corrupt”. The origin of such lingo could only be at a safe yet privileged distance from politics. The caste-hindu middle class, which could thrive and benefit disjointed from the political system could only resort to such trivialization of democracy. The disturbing part however, is the Neta(leaders) of not just the civil society aka. caste-hindu-middle-class shun political system but the Neta( again leader here not politician) of a movement based on the strength of adivasi and dalits (of Narmada Bachao Andolan) disparages politics. It is true when in the same video, Prof. Vivek Kumar says, only the parliamentary democracy had delivered something to the strata of society he belongs, not the civil society. Proof of principle: Medha Patkar arguing for “Merit” of the people in the drafting committee (15:07 min). How do they belittle our struggle and understanding?


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