Does 'public opinion' matter? Business Standard / New Delhi August 26, 2007
The sins of the bureaucracy and the police have been documented often enough but the citizen is not pure as driven snow either. He is the public, yet his opinion can be easily influenced by factors such as identity. Ask him to choose between a convicted murderer or rapist from his own caste and a man of impeccable integrity and credentials from another and nine times of ten, he will choose the former. As the poet A K Ramanujam once explained in an essay entitled ‘Is there an Indian way of thinking?’, Indians don’t seem to have a sense of absolute morality. They place everything in some context or another. And, depending on the context, what the rest of the world would regard as being wrong in an absolute sense, becomes quite all right in India. Most Indians also seem to be highly distrustful of the State which, in their experience, is often predatory and biased against them. They prefer to trust customary sources of authority. This tends to render the media toothless, as we have seen so often when it comes to things like inter-caste marriages or communal riots.