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The City of Temples?
   By Sameer Rekhi

The general behavior of the people in the state of J&K today, presents a very dismal scenario. People seem to have lost but all regard for law and civilized behavior. Many would attribute this to the loss of faith/trust of people in the system. However, this is a poor excuse as law is basically designed for trouble-free, peaceful people to people interface, while the administration is just a facilitator of peace and public order. When we show disregard for law and norms of civilized behavior, we unwittingly compromise the interests of our family, friends and society much more than those of the administrative structures. After all, it is our fellow-citizens who bear the brunt of our rash driving, illegal encroachments, criminal disregard for the elderly, destitute and the weaker sex.

The government may construct flyovers, widen roads, earmark green belts or improve education and health infrastructure but what can it do if we fail to widen our minds or refine our sensibilities. The urge to discipline oneself arises only from the inside of a person, no outside influence or authority can super-impose it. We are utterly failing as responsible denizens of the State to lay a solid foundation for an orderly, law abiding society. Instead, what we are designing is a rogue society, bereft of all moral values and responsibility, for our future generations. In the chaotic system we are nurturing, I see a time bomb under preparation which is sure to hit our posterity. It is akin to slow-poisoning our children. We blame government for all our ills, but have we ever introspected to see what rot we are ourselves promoting. Mahatma Gandhi has aptly said, “Don’t ask what your country has done for you, ask what you have done for the country.”

Discipline is one of the most important aspects of civilized behavior. No community or society has ever prospered without regard for discipline, moral values and law. Only when a strong sense of responsibility and love for fellow citizenry rules our behavior, life becomes easy, satisfactory and fulfilling for all stake-holders.

Jammu used to be a close-knit society, simple and peace loving. The democratic and secular traditions of this city were the basis of its calm, congenial and benevolent lifestyle. The rich would never indulge in vulgar or ostentatious display of wealth as a mark of muted solidarity with the not so privileged sections of the society. Any funeral procession passing through the lanes and bazaars would invariably witness people standing up in reverence, shopkeepers pulling down their shutters and many a bystander joining the funeral procession. The beggars would never be shooed away. People would keep small change as alms or in the worst case of not giving anything, asking for the beggar’s pardon: “baba maaf karo”. Simple people, simple life. Alas, only the sweet memories of that bliss remain in the nightmarish life we are experiencing now.

That Jammu of yore has lost its soul. The strong fabric of the city has been torn into tatters. In the mid 80s, more so after the introduction of matador service for public transport, the originality of the place started losing itself. The growing prosperity of the city, largely due to Mata Vaishno Devi’s blessing, combined with shifting focus of governance and business from valley to Jammu, due to militancy, had a marked impact on culture and ethos of society. Life became somewhat easier in the short run but complex in the times to come. The conservative and traditional way of life started turning modern and liberal. A point needs to be stressed here that this modernization was without commensurate increase in awareness and education, therefore counter-productive. The trend has continued ever since. Community feeling and sense of responsibility is almost missing among the people, who have fallen prey to expediency.

\Wherever one goes, traffic jams arising out of wrong parking, illegal encroachments and lack of patience among the drivers are seen invariably. Every third driver is seen using mobile phone, while driving. Hit and run accidents have become common and I don’t feel the need to give statistics to prove this point as it is common knowledge. The old prefer to stay indoors rather than going out and getting killed or injured by rashly driven vehicles by rich, spoilt brats. Parents keep their fingers crossed till their kids return from school, fearing for their safety. The menaces of over-speeding and dangerous overtaking look like attempts to murder, not simple traffic violations. Section 307 RPC would apply very reasonably in such situations.

Few months back, I had scripted an advisory advertisement on 92.7 FM wherein a rash motorcycle driver after hitting an old person comes to his home only to find that all the members of his family were in the hospital as his father had also been hit by some other rash driver. The underlying message is that our devilish ways would not spare anyone, not even our children or ourselves.

Another disturbing aspect is the general propensity to observe law and rules, rather in breach. The general contempt for police or other government agencies is deliberately used as an excuse or an alibi to tweak the system and its laws as suited to convenience. No one is above law, which is sacrosanct. Police is a law enforcement agency not law in itself. So our ire towards police cannot be justifiably diverted towards law. To make police and other government agencies responsive and responsible, we need to discipline ourselves first. Again Gandhiji comes to mind. He refused to advise a child to refrain from much sugar eating, because he was doing that himself. Only when he stopped eating sugar, did he ask the child to desist.

Science and technology is supposed to make human life advanced and comfortable. Instead, what we are seeing is that the indiscreet and irresponsible use of technology is overpowering human life and pushing it to the limits of peaceful existence. Technology per se is not bad, it is how we use it decides its usefulness. And given the overwhelming short sightedness, selfishness and crass materialism, we are demonizing the society with our riches and material possessions. Indeed, life is moving fast and the young generation is adjusting accordingly but at what cost? We emulate western culture and lifestyle without adopting their sense of duty, community feeling and discipline. The day is not far when this monstrous chaos will shatter the myth of “India Progressing”. Discipline needs to be adopted of own will or enforced now. It’s now or never.

 

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