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Thursday, December 10, 2009

The magic card

He said that he has a magic card. Well, not exactly in the same words but he said that he has a card that will help him not pay toll charges on various toll booths along the road. I didn’t find anything surprising here, thinking that perhaps he has some sort of annual pass. I didn’t think of it much except that perhaps it will save me some money on the way.

It was a pleasant night. A slightly cool, clear October night when I was being driven from Indore to Bhopal for my Diwali break. I would have flown directly to Bhopal were not for the fact that direct flights were all booked due to seasonal rush. Reclining on passenger chair with cool wind rustling in hair and looking at stars made the additional time worth its while.

At first toll booth he flashed his card and was let go for free. At second, same thing happened. I was alone with my driver so I started chatting. I asked if this is annual pass, where did he get his made and how much it cost him. Answer was what made it a magic card. It was, to my surprise, a Shiv Sena membership card.

He explained that it’s an expired membership card but he had hoped that toll operators will not read closely and that he turned out right. They didn’t and let him go for free because he was member of Shiv Sena. Now, if you know India, and particularly if you know Shiv Sena, you wouldn’t ask why. Shiv Sena being allied to dominant and ruling BJP government in Madhya Pradesh is a strong party. Strong more so in its muscle power than in its electoral power, I’d guess. On further probing, he proclaimed that toll operators don’t dare charge him because otherwise his co-members will come next day for vandalism, dharna, protests, road-blocks and what not. He declared that he himself has served party by providing his services such as renting out car for free, feeding party workers for days or joining their protest rallies. And then — it dawned on me.

I had always wondered why do low-rung party workers do all this for a party where their chance of career growth are very limited. They will waste their time, money and resources to join protest marches and rallies; break or burn public property; fight with public and police; and beat innocent bystanders. It’s not uncommon to read such news in media. Once a party workers’ car was towed for wrong parking in Ajmer. It’s a small enough and valid crime which could have been resolved by shelling out about 500 rupees. But of course. Next day whole army of party workers went on rampage in police station. This not only ensured that concerned person saved his 500 rupees but also that no more will police dare to tow off cars of any other party member. Why will people do that was the question I asked. And answer is clear.

More than political aspirations or benefits of party loyalty, such parties are cabal of goons who stick together for mutual benefit. Threat of vandalism and violence, which they exhibit and maintain with group efforts, helps all of them in their daily life. Like getting a telephone repaired faster, avoiding paying penalty on electricity bill, priority treatment at local hospital, getting out of clutches of law, or like in this case, not having to pay toll charges are but some benefits such cabal demands and enjoys.

In India, if you kill a person, you are a murderer and will be charged for the same. If a group kills a person, it’s a riot and everybody walks free. That, in my opinion, is logical reason for such hooliganism. See also: Bludgeoned to death

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