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Sharad Pawar Slapped: is it the right way for showing discontent?

Does the recent attack on Sharad Pawar by an angry youth speak about the pulse of the nation or is the works of a deranged mind? No matter what the reason, the recent 'slap gate controversy' as famously dubbed by the media once again brings to fore the ever tingling question, whether it is the right way to show dissent or not?

This is not the first time that a union minister has faced such an attack. In April 2009, a Sikh journalist, Jarnail Singh, threw a shoe at then home minister, P Chidambaram, for the shoddy manner in which the government was carrying out the investigation in the anti Sikh riots of 1984. Though the shoe failed to hit its mark but it made Jarnail Singh an overnight crusader for the victims of the riots. Since actions speak louder than words, the way Jarnail Singh acted probably tells us the way many people feel about the incident but nevertheless was a wrong method. What Jarnail Singh wanted to say was that even after countless committees and innumerable investigations into the 1984 pogrom the guilty still had not been brought to book. Jarnail Singh soon apologized for the incident saying that the heat of the moment had caused him to act in an undemocratic manner. And it was indeed an undemocratic manner. Nevertheless within days the shoe gate controversy was shoved under the rug and eventually people forgot about it. But the methodology was adopted by other disgruntled and dissatisfied people.

Another such incident came to light in August 2010 when former Director General of the Haryana Police, S.P.S. Rathore, prime accused in the Ruchika Girhotra molestation case was stabbed in the face outside the Punjab and Haryana high court by Utsav Sharma, who was later found to be suffering from serious psychological problems. Not only was this a serious breach of security but once again proved that such incidents are the handiworks of unstable minds.

The youth who slapped Sharad Pawar was supposedly angry with the high rate of food inflation and the inability of the government to contain it. After slapping Sharad Pawar the youth then slashed his palm with a small dagger. Maybe he could have gone a step further and stabbed the minister with it. Who knows what was on his mind. Well that would have landed the youth in some serious trouble but the question here is would the government then have waken up and taken some action against these kind of incidents so that they don't happen anymore. It would be hard to imagine public officials and ministers not stepping out of their homes or not giving any press conferences because of the fear of being assaulted by anyone.

Politicians of all hues were quick to condemn the incident with many senior politicians demanding strict and stern action against the errant youth. Sharad Pawar's National Congress Party, an important ally of the government, was so miffed about the incident that it called for a bandh in Maharashtra. Sharad Pawar who always travels with light security handled the matter like a seasoned politician and never once tried to generate political mileage from the controversy. But 'Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena', a little known right wing Hindu political party soon announced a cash incentive of Rs. 11,000 for the youth who slapped Jarnail Singh. It is these kind of organizations who disturb the peace and harmony of the country by conniving and instigating such acts. It is sad to see that instead of condemning the incident certain political outfits try to gain political mileage out of it. What if encouraged by these cash incentives other youths would have taken up such violent acts of desperation. How would that turn out to be for our democracy? Would people in India like to see their country being dubbed as a place where no politician or public servant is safe? Whether it was Jarnail Singh throwing a shoe at P. Chidambaram for the government's lack of commitment to book the guilty in the 1984 riots or the above mentioned angry youth who slapped Sharad Pawar for the spiralling food prices, I personally feel that it is not an appropriate way of showing discord.

Though we live in a democracy where everyone has a right to opinion but such extreme acts of violence are only the doings of a mad person. Nothing can be achieved from such violent methods. Would this slap gate controversy help in any way of bringing down the food prices? Except that both the electronic and the print media went to extreme lengths to tell about this incident and that it caught the nations fancy for a few days and gave essayists some food for thought, nothing much was achieved out of it. Thus the recent slap gate controversy was nothing but a serious breach of security and should be taken up by the concerned authorities who need to deal with this menace effectively. To prevent such future incidents laws must be passed to act as deterrents. Moreover how could anyone blame the recent hike in food inflation on just the union agriculture minister? All the policies of the union cabinet are collectively passed by the cabinet and each one is equally responsible for its success or failure.

Didn't the angry youth know about this? Media reports after the incident said that same guy had kicked former telecommunications minister Sukh Ram a few days earlier for his alleged role in a corruption case. Even his neighbors later stated that the guy suffered from some sort of psychological problem and would often take things personally. It is nothing but an isolated incident and it would be completely wrong to say the slap gate controversy reflected the mood of the nation. Those of us who believe that such incidents should be encouraged by writing about them in newspapers or blogging about them over the internet or that the errant persons should be let off scot-free are completely mistaken and wrong. The government may be slow in doing something or a minister may be corrupt or some policeman may be involved in some molestation case but such extreme methods to show dissent and discord are not the way in which a democracy functions.

Mahatama Gandhi once said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind", so any act of violence that is not fundamental with the rules of democracy should not only be condemned but completely shunned. The important question here is that do these violent acts really help in achieving something? Do they really help the ministers or the bureaucrats in performing better? Obviously the answer is a big no. These acts can only be described as the works of a deranged person. They are nothing but a blot on our democracy.

Ikram singh Harika