Civil and Uncivil Societies – By Ratan Sharda
I have been rather intrigued by the term ‘Civil Society’. I had a long argument with a dear friend of mine, a leading light in this ‘Civil Society’ movement. By calling citizen activists (the right word, perhaps), as civil society, aren’t we keeping out a large part of the society which is not ‘civil’ or rather which is ‘uncivil’ – probably with low education, low income, average life style, unaware of civilized society’s obsession with brands etc. etc. My friend explained to me, it is not so but this is the universally accepted nomenclature for citizen activists. But, contrast between the media coverage and deep sighs of ‘beautiful people’ at a Baba running amok brought out the difference between perceived ‘civil society’ and our majority ‘uncivil’ society of ‘average boring village and town and suburban dwellers.
Contrast the crowds that thronged media elevated Anna Hazare fest. Don’t get me wrong. With all due respect to the veteran crusader, the crowds were not as big as what Baba Ramdev brought in across Bharat. But, media was so taken in by presence of English speaking ‘beautiful people’ in their designer clothes and with it attitude, just right for good news sound bites, that it helped create ‘Brand Anna’ as next only to Gandhi ji. I am not even suggesting that ‘civil society’ (as I read this tag) should not be on road. By all means, they must come out roads, they can provide the requisite leadership and come out with good ideas.
I know of wonderful work done by Anna and I respect him a lot. But, the point I am driving home is not about personalities of Anna or Baba. But, rather the way they are presented to us by news coverage because of the crowds they attract. The followers of Baba who came from all over Bharat were a study in contrast. Rustic villagers, small town residents, or coming from distant suburbs of Delhi or Mumbai etc. They are the worst sufferers from tyranny of bureaucracy at lower level in their daily dealings and have no where with alls to pay their way through their chicanery. They came on faith that Baba will fight the mighty corrupt and they came to support this. So, there is hardly any coverage of the participants of this agitation. They can’t speak English, they dont come pretty on camera, so just keep camera on Baba – he makes colourful copy! Witness the way Baba Ramdev is harangued by media and the kid glove treatment Anna Hazare gets.
Now, you will understand why I am against the word ‘civil society’.
Was this contrast in two societies of India i.e. Bharat that flummoxed media and powers that be? When Congress flexed its police muscles, it calculated that these ordinary folks will not get sympathy and colourful coverage from media and will go home tails between legs. It forgot that this is the common ‘uncivil society’ that votes with its feet and not the beautiful ‘civil society’. Now, that shit has hit the fan, let us see this ‘police state’ mentality haunt them in coming months.
What I have noted above, does not at all take away the credit from media for standing up against corruption, giving live coverage to attack on innocent citizens in the dead of night. I am just pointing out the difference in approach to the two agitations. And making readers aware of this phenomenon of common man fight against corruption and civil society’s fight against corruption. The gap between Bharat and India as cliche goes, and our elite society’s perceptions.