Thursday, April 21, 2011

A twinge of Democracy

Dhairya Maheshwari, Media Trainee, MassCoMedia

Changes,however trivial or revolutionary are often tumultuous and sweat is
 their provender. And they go in proportion with their magnitude. National
or regime changes,as history suggests, are always accompanied by chaos, din
and some amount of blood-shedding.For blood is what instils fear and anger,
the two drivers behind revolution.

The Day of Anger, or January 25th, the day when it all started. Egyptians, in
flagrant disregard of their autocratic laws, defied the thirty-year old 
emergency-rule and took to streets irrespective of their class or age.Under
 the law, police powers are extended, constitutional rights suspended, 
censorship is legalised, and the government may imprison individuals 
indefinitely and without reason. The law sharply limits any non-governmental
 political activity, including street demonstrations, non-approved political
 organisations, and unregistered financial donations.Although socially 
liberal than most of other Muslim-regimes and having a more inclusive society,
Egyptian people toiled with shackles of poverty and oppression(mostly police)
holding them from integrating with rest of the world.Human rights organisations estimate that in 2010 between 5,000 and 10,000
 people were in long-term detention without charge or trial. They could not express 
themselves, and number of government dissendents inundated the jails.Egyptian
youth, which was continuously growing restless due to rising unemployment and
social oppression, and not being able to decide its country's fate unlike 
elsewhere in the world decided to give it back to the government and take its
rights, forcefully.President Mubarak, no doubt, did a commendable job by 
laying emphasis on education. As a result, literacy rate in Egypt is pretty
high as compared to other parts of the Arab World. But even Britishers built
railways in India hoping to gain from it, and it was one reason that led to 
their doom. Similarly, Mubarak could not take into account rising aspirations
of the educated youth and it could,very well, be his last fight.
The Sarajevo moment of the uprising is attributed to the Alexandria Church 
bombings just after the New Year's eve.The inability of the Mubarak-led 
National Security Forces to protect the Church was seen as a breach of trust 
by Egyptian people and Christians, along with Muslims, marched to streets 
condemning the Mubarak govenrment. The bomb was alleged to have been planted 
by Gaza-based Army of Islam and killed 23 people.
The Egyptian Army, after exercising much restraint, had to take up to streets
on January 30th. They have not fired at the protestors, and see this as an 
oppurtunity to outster Hosni Mubarak, who has tried in the past to lessen
its influence by forming his own Security outfits. The Army, which enjoys
good rapport with the people of Egypt,in a sign of solidarity with the people
helped them in organising themselves and has really prevented the matters 
from going bad to worse. It has thwarted attempts by pro-Mubarak rabble 
rousers to cause mayhem. To paraphrase Manu Pubby of Indian Express, who is 
reporing from Cairo, there is a  carousal atmosphere prevailing with people
singing patriotic songs. They are assisting the army in checking credentials
of foreign journalists and preventing pro-Mubarak supporters from entering
the crowd beyond certain vantage points.The Army, which has direct linkages 
with US Defense Department, is closely being scrutinised by all around the 
world. It is the single most important entity, whose action or misactions 
could change the course of the revolution. It is being alleged that US$1.3 
billion of military aid each year in addition to economic and 
development assistance from the US has kept the Army quiet until now.The 
American clout is clearly visible here. And so is its flak toward a 
dictator it has backed for the last thirty years.US have supported the people
and called for a peaceful transition as early as possible. But Mubarak wants
to complete his term and go in September citing instability and chaos that
would follow his retirement.He has made encouraging overtures that suggest
change of guard is imminent in near future.A statement issued from Suleiman's 
office after the meeting said that the
 government had offered to form a committee to suggest required 
constitutional amendments by the first week of March, pursue corrupt 
officials, undo curbs on media freedom, liberalise communication, lift an 
emergency law in the country and open an office to look into the release of 
political prisoners.But people want an immediate switchover.
Another important player in the uprising is Muslim Brotherhood. They have
a considerable presence in Egypt and are leading from the front.The MB stands
for Islamic Law and that is what is feared most by its critics. But MB insist 
that they will run their society on tenets of Islam, which stands for tolera-
nce and peace. Women will have a choice to wear what they want. Secularism
will be the order of the day.But they have been involved in violent activit-
ies in the past and thats what is worrying about them.We do not want a second
Who gains from this uprising? Well,ideally it should be the people. But bomb-
blasts from MB dominated Gaza-strip or military suppoting the people and 
reverberating the US. It can make one ponder. President Mubarak may be right
to not to relinquish power immediately as it may lead to power struggle in 
which people may be left unattended,but who can trust him or his motives
either. One thing is for sure, somebody is gaining big time from this turn 
of events. 

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