The London Olympics are drawing to a close. These Games have proved beyond doubt that Jamaica’s Usain Bolt is the world’s biggest sprinter since he won both the 100m and 200m races in two successive Olympics—a feat that is without parallel till date since the inception of the modern Olympics in 1896. Also ace swimmer Michael Phelps of the USA became the most decorated Olympian after winning his record 19th medal surpassing former Soviet Union’s Larisa Latynina who had held the previous record of 18 medals for 48 years. Collectively it is a fight between China and the USA for the highest slot in the list of medal winners. According to latest figures, the top five are China (37 gold, 23 silver, 19 bronze=79), USA (35 gold, 23 silver, 25 bronze=83), Great Britain (24 gold, 13 silver, 14 bronze=51), Russia (12 gold, 21 silver, 23 bronze=56), South Korea (12 gold, seven silver, six bronze=25).
India’s performance, in contrast, has been dismal: we have, as yet, secured just four medals—one silver and three bronze (though this is the largest ever medal haul for us). Of course, one should not minimise the significance of Subedar Vijay Kumar winning the silver in the most difficult shooting discipline (25m rapid fire pistol), while the feats of Gagan Narang in shooting, Saina Nehwal in badminton and M.C. Mary Kom in women’s boxing deserve unreserved acclaim. However, there is no denying the fact that on the whole the Indian sports team at the London Olympics put up a disappointing show, the Indian hockey team taking the cake in this regard—this does rankle as it was in hockey that India had since the late twenties upto the early sixties of the last century achieved maximum success winning gold in every Olympic Games from the time of the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics (when hockey wizard Major Dhyan Chand was the hockey team’s skipper). This is most depressing, to say the least.
The political scene today broadly resembles the one in sports. Parliament’s monsoon session has opened with the main Opposition party going on the offensive against the Union Government charging it with inaction on the issue of illegal immigration of Muslims from Bangladesh in the wake of the Bodo-Muslim clashes in South Assam (that are still continuing). This has been the BJP’s line from the beginning and it is fully in tune with the thinking of sizeable sections of the Assamese. However, as was written by Barun Dasgupta in this journal a couple of weeks ago,
There is a widespread misconception... that the Bengali Muslims are all Bangladeshis and therefore illegal migrants. The forefathers of these Muslims migrated from East Bengal, East Pakistan and later from Bangladesh and settled in Assam. They are all Indian citizens.
This basic point needs to be understood. And in the present situation what is necessary is to comprehend in full the humanitarian nature of the problem that has arisen as a consequence of the latest clashes. In Dasgupta’s words, No police or para-military force, nor even the Army, can ensure permanent peace unless the different communities living side by side for ages realise that they cannot ‘cleanse’ the area of others, that they have to learn to live together and bury the hatchet, to use a cliché. This is, however, easier said than done. Sober elements from all the communities will have to put their heads together and take up the challenge of peace.
But if responsible parties like the BJP, in their bid to play petty politics, refuse to undertake such an exercise and only concentrate on the government’s administrative failures (for which of course the Tarun Gogoi dispensation must be taken to task), then the problem cannot be resolved and the clashes cannot be brought to an end. This is where civil society has to play a key role when the progressive forces, especially the Left parties, are overwhelmed by the turn of events and unable to intervene due to their inherent politico-organisation weaknesses.
The crusade against corruption, launched by Team Anna last year, is continuing even after the end of Anna Hazare and the team members’ fast as New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar and the disbandment of Team Anna following the decision of influential members of the group to enter electoral politics. The decision has led to some divergence of opinion within the team with Anna Hazare himself voicing the same apprehension as was articulated in these columns last week regarding the issue of money power that has come to dominate electoral politics today in the prevailing neoliberal economic climate. Justice Santosh Hegde too is learnt to be opposed to the decision to join electoral politics. Nonetheless, those who are anticipating these differences would lead to a permanent divide within Team Anna on the question of fighting corruption are in for a big disappointment. For, there is no difference on the question of enacting a strong and effective Lokpal Bill (on the lines of Team Anna’s Jan Lokpal) to curb corruption (something on which the government is continually dragging its feet and the other political parties are also not prepared to take up the matter in right earnest since their eyes are only focused on the 2014 elections and all said and done they too benefit from the prevailing status quo). In the meantime corruption in high places is scaling new heights as daily press reports go on providing new and startling information of such misdeeds in the top echelons of power.
However, the massive turnout at Baba Ramdev’s fast at the Capital’s Ramlila Ground is fresh testimony to the persisting public revulsion against such goings-on. People spontaneously thronged Anna’s venue of fast at Jantar Mantar on the same issue a few days ago. In Baba Ramdev’s case the crowds are more since he himself has a wider following. Nevertheless, at both venues the public impatience over fighting corruption and black money was very much in evidence. This once again offers a positive signal even though the authorities as well as parliamentarians and legislators are unable to notice it. (Alas, there is no A.K. Roy among our MPs now.)
Be that as it may, it is only popular intervention which can lead to a veritable change in the situation on all these fronts as also in the field of sports after the London Olympics.
August 10 S.C.