‘What Do We Do When Our Government Becomes The Inactive Bystander?’ – An Open Letter To PM Modi

Posted by Somya Bajaj in Society
April 22, 2018

Dear Prime Minister Modi,

In a school 15 kilometres from Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, 23 children wrote an essay on ‘What I would do as Prime Minister of India’. All the essays had a pattern. They expressed their dream to get rid of domestic violence in their houses, ensure the safety of women and break barriers of caste that drew lines between friends. Some even mentioned they wanted to join the army. You too might have a wish list, and I am sure these points feature in that list.

Only a person who has worked in the field and closely interacted with many people is capable of bringing change. Your journey is inspiring in itself. From being a common man to a successful Chief Minister and now Prime Minister, you have seen the atrocities and social evils in our country very closely. Being a husband and a son you have seen the domestic challenges and generational gaps, communal violence and social and economic backwardness.

When you became the leader of this great country, people attached immense hope to you. I too am one of those people. But this time like many, I am disappointed. Not just by the delay in your response, but the lack of stringent measures.

We acknowledge that as a leader you have many things to address and challenges to fix, but the rape case in Kathua and soon after in Nagpur in addition to the burning of Rohingya camps in Delhi are inhuman acts happening under your leadership. Globally verified theories say that involving the bystander and encouraging them to actively engage when violence is observed is the best way to stop it. But what do we do when our Government becomes the inactive bystander?

The politics of the region might be important. But does anything compare to the life of a child, the eroding dignity of the citizens? Going by trends in politics, the opposition might look for an opportunity to criticise, pull a string that goes against you and causes your electoral base to shake. But the citizens of the country are looking at your actions and awaiting an outcome that moves us away from this darkness.

You have been named as one of the Most Influential People in the World and your actions matter. What you choose to speak on influences social norms. When you remain silent on this matter, it signals to the perpetrators of horrific crimes that their actions are accepted. It fuels those who would have otherwise been scared to commit these heinous acts. When you speak, the world listens, analyses and follows. We need to work hard to make this world a safe place for women. The social norms need to change. A huge part of this is to change mindsets of people, which your actions can heavily influence and eventually achieve.

I believe there are leaders in the state and in parties that are a part of the BJP coalition, that have an obligation, mass following and opportunity to step up and speak up. In addition to you, it is their responsibility to reach out to the people that they laid down a long list of promises to. This is the time to promote transparency in government and empathy in social relations rather than drawing lines that break us into pieces that cannot be repaired. We need statesmanship and not politics.

Seeking life imprisonment or death penalty and not mere resignation is one way to deal with the issue. Making laws more stringent and effectively using technology to ensure implementation of these laws like you have in the first half of your term will ease the country’s feelings of anger and helplessness. This is a time that can unite us all; please do not let politics fragment us further.

I am a student at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs at Princeton University, and in every class, we discuss India as a successful democracy. We discuss how despite its painful colonial history, internal and regional conflict, it has been able to uphold its sovereignty.  Let us not fragment into pieces at this time. A greater attention to these issues, stringent steps to fix it, and work towards a project that unites us will bring people together and isolate those who want to manipulate and reap profit from this situation.

An Optimistic and Hopeful Citizen,
Somya Bajaj