Rahul Gandhi, this is your chance
The nation continues to reel under the shock of the death of a young medical student who was brutally gang raped in New Delhi on the 16th of December. The incident caused an eruption of protest across the country over the past week as people from all walks of life have made a loud, unified demand for the improvement in law and order as well as the mandate for capital punishment for the crime of rape. As the Congress big wigs attempt to placate the masses with expressions of sorrow and promises, the people are far from satisfied. Even Sonia Gandhi's rare 20 minute attempt to reassure protesters outside 10 Janpath failed to garner any confidence as they criticised her for making empty gestures.
The public sphere was embroiled in an image battle between the protesters and the cops, jostling between the brutal lathicharge last Sunday, the mystery of who killed constable Subhash Tomar, to the recent sexist remarks on female protesters by President Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit Mukherjee. But since the death of the victim, and the gang rape of a 42 year old woman in Kalkaji within days of the first incident, that perception battle has abated. The nation seethes with anger, focused only on the police and the government as a large question mark looms over their credibility.
There is a need for proactive action and responsible outreach over this crucial issue. It's surprising that the 'young' leaders of the Congress party are nowhere to be seen supporting or even debating the call of the nation. Most importantly, as the Congress party props up Rahul Gandhi as a youth icon and the party's flag bearer for 2014, he is missing from the scene while the people yearn for swift action.
Doesn't Rahul Gandhi sense public sentiment and see an opportunity to fill the political void? If he is who the Congress party says he is, doesn't he feel it his duty to directly address the concerns of thousands across the nation? Doesn't he see that any attack against him allegedly 'politicizing' the issue will only backfire? Doesn't he feel the need to step in and attempt to remedy the mistrust surrounding the political class? Doesn't he feel the need to give some peace to the girl's grieving family? Doesn't he feel the need to do the right thing?
Mr Gandhi, this is your opportunity. You have the chance to change the nature of political discourse in the nation by responding to the concerns of the people your Party says you allegedly represent. You have the chance to bolster faith in politicians by understanding and reassuring all those on the streets, at home, in schools and offices, worried if they or their loved ones will be safe in the capital. This is clearly not a political issue, but one demanding a simple and strong message. While you may give a press conference or a sound bite, nothing would be as potent as you meeting the protesters in New Delhi. Discuss with them the progress of setting up fast track courts; the pros, cons, and the practicalities of imposing the death penalty for the crime of rape; the definition of 'rarest of rare cases'; and the measures put in place to ensure safety in the capital. You have nothing to fear from them. They are the ones who live in fear everyday in the capital.
It's about time you flex your position in the Congress party in the service of the people, to drive the point home that you are capable to lead and represent the youth of this country. Set the groundwork for your political future in the full glare of the media, and the people will invest their faith in you now, in 2014 and beyond. Please take that step, and prove your detractors wrong.
More about Ayushman Jamwal
Ayushman Jamwal works on the foreign desk at CNN-IBN.
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