Americans dismayed by politics in Washington might find something familiar in what’s happening in India. Here, frustration with government has turned into rage. Last month’s gruesome gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman brought tens of thousands onto the streets. And while the protests have subsided, the anger is still palpable and media attention continues to highlight the problem of violence against women. More than a year ago, millions joined in nationwide protests against corruption. “The Indian people are the best in the world,” Arvind Kejriwal, one of the chief organizers of the anti-corruption crusade, told me. “But they have the worst governance, the worst politics.” In fact, the protests and rage are signs of India’s development.
In the past, mass agitations in India have been about religious nationalism or caste identity, or they have been demands for preferential treatment from the government. The more recent protests have a different character: They ask the government to perform its basic duties. Women are not seeking government spending on female empowerment programs. They are demanding that the police and courts function properly so that rape can be prosecuted in the manner required by law.