Imagine Osama bin Laden fighting the forthcoming American Presidential elections. To any true blue American, I am sure that this imagination is inconceivable even in their wildest of dreams. Unfortunately, for an Indian, forget dreams, even in reality our sensitivity does not move an inch in the event of occurrence of a similar scenario, which is just about to happen in India. It is nothing but most disgraceful that while our faint hope (or hollow rhetoric, if you will) of cleansing the extant Indian political system is wilting in front of our eyes, we are letting it happen as thoroughly hypocrite spectators. It comes as a blatant slap on the face of the already fractured judicial system and fragmented political structure that an extradited underworld don, Abu Salem, who is accountable for plotting and murdering hundreds of people in one of the most gruesome blasts in Mumbai in 1993, has the audacity to join politics, by contesting in the impending Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. More pathetic were the ‘arrogantly shameless’ statements that were scripted in posters in Mubarakpur promoting Salem’s candidature (Hum pakke Hind hain, seene mein sher ka dil rakhe hai, agar saath mila aapka to rukh toofan ka more sakte hain, vatan ki abru bachayenge, hum ek khushal Bharat banayenge). The more I read this, the more I’m bewildered by the audacity of the man, an audacity which arises from our very own home-grown apathy.But then there is nothing surprising as Indian politics anyway was always a haven for criminals (According to reports, almost one-quarter of the over 540 people elected to Parliament in 2004 face criminal charges). But in this editorial, I am not referring to just any other petty criminal. Here, I am talking about a person who has been accused of being one of the masterminds and has been held responsible for the logistics and cold blooded execution of one of the biggest serial blasts in India, which not only killed hundreds of innocent people, but its aftershocks culminated into blood-spattered communal riots (wherein there was a complete massacre of countless people that once again brought back memories of almost forgotten wounds, the sense of constant suspicion and recurrent insecurity). I reiterate, I am talking about a man for whom the CBI spent three torturous years of sleepless nights and won one of the best executed cases in history; and that too against the established lawyers of Europe. This is the same man who has been on a run for years, and who even had plastic surgery done to conceal his identity. And when that man today conceitedly claims to have substance in him to lead a country of a billion, the popular media, which is assumed to be the conscience keeper of the common man, has willingly and deplorably underplayed this grave news by carrying it in the inside pages in form of a tiny story – this sufficiently indicates that there is something inherently and terribly wrong with our sense of ethics and justice.My anger is not against Abu Salem merely, for I know that he is just another coward who is following suit like his predecessor politicians in order to save his neck. My anger is also against the very lawyers who actually advised him to get into politics. Shame that they call themselves lawyers! My irritation is against the silence of the polity and even the Election Commission, which never spares an opportunity to showcase whatever little it has achieved. My anger is directed against this deafening silence, which is holding each and every citizen to ransom.What more, amidst this conspiracy of silence – of the polity, the regulator and media – unmindful of probity and morality, dangerous political parties like Apna Dal (This is the same party that has supported Bablu Srivastava, another mafia don, and thankfully lost in the last Lok Sabha elections) are eager to associate themselves with Salem and reap political capital (cheap publicity) out of this issue. The party president, Sonelal Patel, has blatantly stated that his party is open and not averse to promote Dawood Ibrahim and other criminals as well, if they abandon the crime path and aspire to do social service by joining politics. If not for the grave consequences upon an under-developed state like Uttar Pradesh in particular and Indian polity in general, this entire episode would be achingly amusing!Well known sociologist Max Weber had lamented that ‘freedom and democracy are only possible where the resolute will of a nation not to allow itself to be ruled like sheep is permanently alive.’ USA celebrated this month for having crossed the 300 million population mark; ironically, around 300 million Indians live below the poverty line. The will seems dead, freedom further so, and if illiteracy, unemployment and poverty are all that our criminal politicians have been able to provide the majority of our countrymen till date, pray tell me what democratic difference remains between us “intellectuals” and Max’s sheep?