Shoma Chaudhury commands my attention whenever I hear her on panel discussions or read her writings. She is a voice of reason that I find is without dramatic rhetoric or inflammatory emotive dialogues. Her convictions are shaped from information that she substantiates via investigative methods; and what she offers are never dead ends but spaces of contemplation to examine issues with more critically and faithful focus than most would desire to do.
Her cover story in the recent Tehelka "Truth in the din of war" is a reflective piece on the legal and ethical issues of forming a committee for the charter of the Jan Lokpal bill; and she underlines the difficulties of conscience-keeping within public life, where the overlap of idealism and accountability, can be derailed by how we fall short of maintaining the standards we may desire in others.
Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea: corruption on one hand that is, as she states, a malaise that eats at everyone or the potential abuse of power that may lie as the invisible ink within the existing norms of understand of what the Jan Lokpal bill is. That people of integrity like the Bhushans also have small yet indelible stains within their own personal histories of public accountability, are going to be the gifted ammunition that will disempower this civil movement that attempts to fight systemic corruption that has infiltrated Indian life if we are not careful in how we precede further.
What she raises without any frills in her article is the question of whether ( and I quote) there can be the possibility for someone to have absolutely no political affiliation or predilection, no moments of vulnerability, no prejudices. She lists many more pertinent questions in regard to assumptions of an ideal candidate to this committee as well as echoes the worry of many about why there is this insistence for only these particular individuals to be the best voices of representation.
What perhaps is important within any battle for change is that nothing should become sacrosanct or exempt of critique. This includes even those who are the true foot soldiers of reform and who are path breakers and visionaries who work for the implementation of better systems of governance. But in relation to the Jan Lokpal bill we need to keep our perception open and without bias; and stop making it a media circus of sensational sound bytes that create a boxing match environment. The media, as in the case of Tehelka, can play a cautious stance in attempting to remain nonpartisan, and thereby offers it's readers as neutral a platform as possible to garner an accuracy of information and decide an opinion.
Shoma Choudhury does not compromise her loyalty and regard for lawyer Prashant Bhushan in her article, even when she suggests that the search for a lily-white reformer could trip the reform itself; and points out that this is the dilemma the Bhushan's need to confront. Freedom is not a black and white state of affairs and perhaps we need to be cautioned to find a more applicable module that, as she suggests, does not presume that those who would wield the tremendous powers that people wish the Lokpal bill to have, would be immaculately virtuous.