(Latin: rigor "stiffness", mortis "of death") is one of the recognizable signs of death, caused by chemical changes in the muscles after death, causing the limbs of the corpse to become stiff and difficult to move or manipulate.
The Indian State began dying in January 2012, by the end of December 2012 – it has been unofficially certified dead.
The event coincided with the tragic death of the young 23 year old girl who fought a losing battle to stay alive after one of the most gruesome attacks on a woman in the nation’s capital at Delhi. The death certification has come through the vast throngs of young people who have been unmindful of the winter cold in Delhi and other parts of India, and who have come out in huge numbers to protest against the State. The youth have virtually been forcing actions by the state - which any truly representative government would have done on their own – speedy action to bring the culprits to book and a sensitive response by its leadership.
The slow death was evident throughout the year, in every pillar of the nation state.
An old man from a small village in Maharashtra was the first to raise the hackles. He inspired an agitation which caught the nation’s imagination - and the political class literally with their pants down. Seventy five year old Anna Hazare triggered the thought among the young that they had a choice – and that choice was not to accept nonsense from their elected leaders – and that government officials were actually servants of the people and they were accountable to the citizens.
Arvind Keriwal, Anna’s protégée in some respects, is a young man who reminded us of the Danish folk tale - The Emperor’s new clothes – pointing out to us that our political class was always naked but we refused to take notice or just chose to ignore it. For those who may not have heard of the Emperor’s New clothes.
The two leading political parties were found deeply embarrassed and sometimes shamefully, but more often shamelessly, naked. The Congress party was a sorry comical spectacle with every leader worth his name defending the party President’s son-in-law when he was found involved in several murky land deal which could have been transacted only due to his proximity to power.
The BJP was no better – first they collectively crowed that it was not even a molehill when dodgy business practices of their Party President emerged. Soon the shocking stories of numerous shell companies owned by the Party President with drivers as Directors in the companies emerged. One brilliant argument, repeatedly stated to defend him, was that “politically” he made no mistakes – these were only “unethical business practices”!
In 2010, the public airing of the Nira Radia tapes brought out shockingly what the Indian masses always suspected – that greasing palms – of powerful politicians was the way big businesses worked in India. That even the TATAs needed to do it – suggested the sorry constraints of doing business in India. That the media was being used to further lobbying – a western euphemism for middlemen, or more aptly dalals, made believing the media even more impossible than earlier. As a possible consequence –this year we found more authenticity of news through the social media.
The Kingfisher Airlines drowning brought out the shocking state of the airlines industry. Along with the losses and travails of the communication and media industry, the three glamour boys of the last decade, one sensed that Indian businesses have plenty to solve and are now susceptible to unethical practices to stay alive and the mainstream media may need to bed the wrong partners and will rarely be independent and fearless.
The reputation of the Indian Army took a hard beating from the glory days of the Kargil War. An Army Chief chose to go public with an unhealthy and prolonged skirmish with the Government over his date of birth - which was construed as an attempt to prolong his age of retirement rather than a fight for truth. In a year of activism against the Government - it showed the Army in poor light – an embarrassment the country could have clearly been spared from the one institution among other crumbling institutions that had universal acceptance and respect.
The deaths of Bal Thackeray and Ponty Chaddha
Towards the end of the year, unrelated deaths of two prominent people again showed us how the state machinery in two of our biggest cities is itself close to death.
An old man died in Mumbai of natural causes and as a consequence of his death, the commercial capital of India was brought to a standstill for a whole week by the same goons whom he cultivated and who ruled the city when he was alive. The adulation the man received in his life and in his death spoke in sharp contrast to what we grew up hearing - of timeless Indian values of tolerance and compassion.
The other death in Nov 2012 – of a rags to riches businessman was even more bizarre. He was shot dead by his brother over a property dispute in a Hollywood style shoot out at a farmhouse on the outskirts of the Capital. What has yet been unexplained is how policemen from a different state were assigned for his protection or how a politician of a leading political party was part of the shootout. The rot is deep.
The mainstream media didn’t cover any of these aspects with any seriousness or intent. The dead man meteoric rise was reported by the media as a consequence of his ability to ‘manage” many rival politicians and keeping them all happy!
29th December 12
The saddest event happened at the end of the year – on the 29th of Dec we received news that the brave girl who fought hard to live was dead in the Singapore hospital where she was taken as a final attempt to save her – or save the Capital of India from more violence if she had died here.
The rigor mortis of the Indian state was apparent in the visible absence of the leadership of the country in times of crisis – a true indication of a leadership vacuum. Instead of our political leaders being quickly amongst the people at India Gate and defusing the tension – some minor players were seen mostly on Television. Finally, a whole week after the incident - the Prime Minister gave a lame speech that he read – if ever it could have been extempore it was now.
The Indian State is dying and unless it reinvents itself quickly – is on the way to a chaotic and tragic death.
But what the young have demonstrated is that India and Indians are truly alive and - metaphorically - kicking. The young give us hope that India will rise from the ashes. We can’t go anywhere from here - but up.