September 11, 2008

India: Banana democracy

The Olympics proved China is a dictatorship that achieves, Singur shows why India remains a curio to the world.

As coincidences go, Sunday, the 24th of August 2008 will always stay in mind as perhaps the most revealing. It made it clear to me, and to all who cared to notice, in a dramatic way and in the course of just one evening, why China shines so brightly despite being the world's largest dictatorship and India remains in the shadows despite being its largest democracy.

As the last fireworks were dying out in Beijing, at the end of a spectacular ceremony closing the 2008 Olympic Games, several thousand followers of Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress were preparing to sleep out in the open on Durgapur Expressway at Singur, a national highway (NH2), having occupied it by force and closing it off to all traffic to launch a protest aimed at derailing the Tatas' Nano small car project.

There, in the heart of Beijing, the Bird's Nest heaved and swayed to the steps of thousands of dancing feet, and a Memory Tower rose toward the sky and burst into amazing colourful patterns in a staggering display of human synchronisation. Here, in Singur, Mamata strutted and fretted upon her dharna manch, seething in anger, wildly gesturing and screaming, as fans turned NH2 into a private preserve and the line of stalled inter-state trucks got longer and longer, throwing traffic over a large area into total disarray. Nobody bothered. The police stayed away for fear of stoking a major conflagration.


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