“Politics defeats Durga’s ‘shakti’”- 7 August 2013


On the practical plane, there is no need for anybody to feel greatly disturbed by the news that the Uttar Pradesh Government has suspended Durga Shakti Nagpal, the gritty IAS officer who took on sand mafia under her jurisdiction. For, this is what has often happened whenever a tough officer takes on criminal elements with political backing. So, all one can say is that politics has defeated Durga’s ‘shakti’ — power — used by Durga Shakti Nagpal. She got the rebuff for her courage, for her firmness to stand up for what was right, to tell the sand mafia to stop its shenanigans. As she was restrained, DurgaShakti must have been very angry and even sad, but there is no doubt that she is not out though down.
Many women, including the legendary Kiran Bedi, have had such experiences and each one of them has fought back, like any person with similar grit anywhere in the world. Such persons often tell a new story of common details. Each such story has a potential to inspire, to motivate others. Perhaps, gods must be using such persons only for motivational purposes, because their sacrifices lead to more people turning to courageous ways of living in different areas of life.
Though Durga Shakti Nagpal is a woman, I would not like to treat her as one. For, she did not get punished because she was a woman; she got rebuffed because she was candid enough to stand up to goons with political backing. To that extent, her story is not the story of a woman’s courage, but a story of human grit — in female or male frame — against wrongdoing.
Yet, the Indian society does need more and more Durga Shakti Nagpals whose examples can leave a blazing trail of human courage and firmness of faith in principles.
The young IAS officer must have seen many lonely days when she put up that fight against the powerful sand mafia. Many might have advised her not to stick her neck out. Others may have rebuked her with serious words of caution. And still, she must have fought on. She might have approached others in the officer cadre, but most must have turned their face away. Those must have been lonely days, the suspension may not bring those days to end. For, how, after suspension, Durga Shakti Nagpal must be going through hell.
Yet, looking at her bespectacled face, shown endlessly on television, one can agree that she has no remorse for her act of courage to take on sand mafia. For me, Durga Shakti Nagpal, thus, is an example of somebody with immense faith in her-self, no matter the negativism around, the refusal of others to stand by her. And this can happen even to a man, let alone a woman. To all such persons — men or women — who have the courage to stand up and get counted, I offer my salutes.
Kiran Bedi faced such times often in her illustrious career that also gave her the coveted Magsaysay Award. Durga Shakti Nagpal, too, could go a long distance by being herself and without compromising her principles and beliefs. The current experience would, I am sure, not daunt her. On the contrary, it would strengthen her resolve to fight on with all grit and determination at her command.
Yet, what kind of system have we allowed to evolve in India! If virtue is at such a discount, if goodness is isolated like this, if politics does not care if Durga Shakti Nagpal is a woman, then we can conclude that goodness is on its final exit from our society.
However, my belief that goodness can never be defeated permanently has got buttressed so many times in the past. Each time I have felt shaky in my resolve, some incident takes place that revives my faith, my feeling, and my willingness to fight on. I am sure, women like Durga Shakti Nagpal must be acting like catalytic agents in the great social laboratory. This is their actual contribution.
My hats off to her. My salutes to her courage. My prayers for her so that she continues her life’s journey of courage. That’s the reward for being part of the human society.


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