Nations that are armed to the teeth and ready to go to war at the push of a button to further their geo-political interests must learn from the incredible achievement of the peaceful revolution in Egypt.

Last Friday millions across the world, including huge numbers in India, sat riveted to their television screens, savouring the euphoria of a historic moment in Egypt. The winter revolution spearheaded by Egypt's youth, who refused to get cowed down by Hosni Mubarak's defiance and decision to dig in his heels, even 24 hours prior to finally quitting, had finally come to fruition. And, thank Allah, the Arab world would never be the same again.

Through their peaceful, but determined and dogged protests, young Egyptian Muslims had done more than liberate their country from a dictator who took his dictation from the US, and feathered his family nest with a fortune estimated at around $70 billion. But he did much worse than stealing of Egyptian people's wealth through rampant corruption and nepotism.

At the behest of his Western friends, who tend to mollycoddle Israel to placate the huge and powerful Jewish lobbies operating in their countries, Mr Mubarak was the first to sign a peace treaty with Israel. He didn't lose too much sleep or ask uncomfortable questions about the sufferings of the Palestinians.

And for being a great ally of the US, Mr Mubarak's military gets an annual aid of a whopping $1.2 billion through arms, training, and other “strategic resources”. It is another matter that finally it was the same military that had put him in power which asked him to step down.

Now intelligence reports are coming in to establish that the defiance shown by the ousted Egyptian President barely 24 hours before he decided to resign was at the behest of his son Gamal Mubarak, who was in line to succeed as the next Pharaoh… sorry, President of Egypt. Ironically, the son just could not read the firm resolve of the young protestors. Finally it was the military which asked Mr Mubarak to step down and told him unequivocally that it would not obey any commands to shoot its own people.

Absence of VIOLENCE

While making kings, princes and dictators across Arab street shake in their boots through a revolution that had its foundation in social networking sites, where Facebook and Twitter users shared valuable tips on how to be best prepared for rubber bullets, tear gas. etc., the Egyptian and Tunisian youth have sent a stronger message. That Muslim youth can redress their grievances through methodologies other than that of guns and bombs.

And this, in real effect, is the bigger story from the Egyptian and Tunisian turmoil. In these countries, regime changes have been achieved without violence. After all, extreme violence and the resultant suffering (‘collateral damage', in the American lexicon) were the hallmarks of the method the US chose to punish Afghanistan and Iraq, with the latter being totally unconnected, to avenge the 9/11 bombings.

An already devastated Afghanistan was reduced to rubble, and a modern and well developed Iraq was bombed, and thousands of its people, who had no connection whatsoever to the al Qaeda, lost their lives for sins they had not committed.

A much-needed message

Egypt's youth did not resort to suicide bombings to get at their former president. Had such an attack happened, the western world and all Muslim baiters would have shaken their heads and said in triumph: ‘One more gruesome act of terrorism from a community which understands no other language.' By refraining from bombings or suicide attacks and staying put at the Tahrir Square through the long days when Mr Mubarak refused to budge, the millions of Egyptians have sent a much-needed message to the rest of the world — there are peaceful ways of effecting regime change.

Those sanguine or generous enough to concede the point will agree that nations that are armed to the teeth and ready to go to war at the push of a button to further their geo-political interests, also have a lesson to learn from the incredible achievement of the peaceful revolution in Egypt.

Violence is violence… whether through suicide bombings or through unprovoked war; and the world has very little patience for warmongers. The gruesome devastation that any war — is there such a thing as a “just war”, one wonders — wreaks on the people of the country under attack simply cannot justify the unleashing of missiles and other aerial attacks.

Contrast the manner in which the priceless treasures of the Baghdad museum were looted and wantonly destroyed by criminals and lumpen elements on that fateful day in 2003, when the US troops were more engaged in watching the drama of a Saddam Hussein statue being pulled down than guarding this treasure, with the loss reported in the Cairo museum. Thankfully, the latter has escaped with less of a loss, which is nevertheless shameful.

A note of caution though; the euphoria of this bloodless revolution in Egypt might yet be short-lived, because all that the Egyptian people have now is a promise of democracy. The Egyptian military is in charge at the moment and the world has seen too many examples of how rulers — in uniform or out of it — are reluctant to let go of power. So we still have to wait and watch if Egypt really makes the promised transition to democracy.

Winter of discontent

Meanwhile, it is sad to note, that while there is such a feel-good factor about Egypt in India, as elsewhere, it has certainly been a winter of discontent for Indians. Each passing week brings only more bad news of scams and scamsters, of bureaucrats, corporate dons and now, even space scientists, ganging up to loot the nation of its precious resources.

How long will a billion plus people continue to remain proud of a democracy which only fattens the chosen, or elected, few? How long will the masses who watch helplessly the shenanigans of the extremely corrupt amassing huge wealth while their lives remain a struggle, think of their once-in-five-years-vote as a brahmastra?

Surely, at some point, they will grow sceptical about the value of the ballot that throws aside one corrupt or useless regime only to usher in an even more corrupt and useless one.

(Response may be sent to rasheeda@thehindu.co.in and blfeedback@thehindu.co.in)

(This article was published on February 15, 2011)
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