Throughout human history abuse of power has often been an irresistible temptation. Such abuse is most conspicuous at national and international levels, while what directly hurts ordinary people is usually little noticed. Thus those guilty of evil readily escape punishment, and their would-be imitators are not restrained. There are immediate victims but in the long term the total society, brutalized to ignore their sufferings, pays the higher price.
Speaking for the abused and upholding justice then becomes the task of those who care and have courage. Only they can insure that their society does not slip into callous disregard for its least fortunate or tyrannized members. Yet modern intellectuals increasingly are crippled by a comfort cocoon that curbs their capacity for courageous action. Or they lash out, using simplistic political formulas that lack constructive relevance.
ARUN SHOURIE came indirectly to his crusading newspaper career. From the comparative affluence of being an economist with the World Bank he became a fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research in 1976. During the Emergency he began writing articles and speeches for leaders of protest. In 1980 the publisher of the Indian Express invited him to become Executive Editor.
It is the distinction of SHOURE and his Indian Express colleagues that by exceptionally thorough investigative reporting and incisive writing they challenged the lethargic ways threatening Indian journalism. India has gifted and intrepid writers but during and after the Emergency newspapers offered them shrinking forums for significant work. Numerous small magazines appeared, attempting to offer alternatives, but their articles, even when solid, tended to be dismissed by those in power.
SHOURIE and the Indian Express?with 10 geographically dispersed editions and the country's largest circulation?could not easily be ignored, and the mirror they held up reflected some ugly images. Young men and women were being killed by the police in false arrests. In Bihar state unconvicted prisoners were deliberately blinded, not because this was their due under the law but because police thought this was what they deserved. In several states pretrial detainees outnumbered convicts four to one; some had been held in filthy jails awaiting trial for more than 10 years, damaged in mind and body by mistreatment, their case documents mislaid.
India's political hierarchy was shaken last year when in the Indian Express SHOURIE revealed how the Chief Minister of Maharashtra State within a few months collected more than US$5 million by creating artificial shortages of cement, industrial alcohol and other prime commodities, which he then allocated. His justification was that these funds were for a charitable foundation. To Congress Party parliamentary leaders who charged "frame up," SHOURIE responded by publishing more details, until eventually the Chief Minister resigned.
Loyal readers in India insist that more than a journalist, SHOURIE is an ombudsman who is affirming the right and duty of every citizen to initiate and secure redress. SHOURIE is equally a scholar. His assessment of the Sikh religious quandary, his book on Hinduism and his Institutions of the Janata Phase and Symptoms of Fascism are contributions to understanding in depth. Soft-spoken, graceful of manner and preferring a quiet home life with his wife and son, this 40-year-old has shown that a conscientious, resolute writer can strengthen public morality.
In electing ARUN SHOURIE to receive the 1982 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts, the Board of Trustees recognizes a concerned citizen employing his pen as an effective adversary of corruption, inequality and injustice.
You have done me this great honor at a critical time. In several of our societies rulers have become parasites. Indeed, parasites have become rulers. Evil has come to be accepted as inevitable, as natural, as a mere commonplace. Ideals have come to be dismissed as idle dreams. Idealism has become a dirty word. In these circumstances it is important to affirm three great truths.
First, it is important to show where all this will end, to affirm that no good will come of this process. Already in many of our societies the hopes people had when their countries won independence have given way to despair. Already the state apparatus has been brutalized to an alarming extent. Semiliterate, vulgar, puffed-up bullies have converted the state into private property. The people are becoming accustomed to malfeasance, injustice, even to violence.
Second, it is important to affix responsibility for the process. The responsibility is not primarily of the rulers?they are merely pursuing their pleasure. The primary responsibility is ours. Their evil is done with our hands:
No President, no Prime Minister tortures a citizen with his own hands. Other citizens do the work for him.
Corruption is not the bribe the ruler takes, it is the bribe you and I give.
We have an ancient saying in India: yatha raja tatha praja, as the ruler so the ruled. Mahatma Gandhi used to say that this is just a half-truth; the other half of the truth is yatha praja tatha raja, as the ruled so the ruler. So, the state of affairs is what it is because the ruled are what they are.
Hence?and this is the third point and it indicates the way to the cure?the evil of the rulers will persist as long as we partake of it, so long as we lend ourselves as instruments for its execution, so long as we assist it by putting up with it, by doing nothing to end it. But, as we are its primary cause, it will cease the moment we withdraw the assistance we give it. The real tragedy of our times, therefore, is not that the rulers use their power for evil, but that the people do not use the power that is certainly theirs, to put an end to it.
Now, pointing all this out is not a popular task. The rulers naturally do not want to hear the truth. They are afraid of sunlight. But the people do not want to hear it either. For them also truth is an inconvenience; it demands of them at the very least that they stop assisting evil, that they change their conduct.
And yet there are at all times individuals who speak the truth to the bullies and to the people. At all times they are the special targets of the cruelty of the rulers, and all too often they are the targets of the derision and scorn of the people. But they hold on to the truth. The very efforts of the rulers to snuff out the man of truth proves his point. Eventually the man of truth bears testimony to how wretched the state of affairs has become by what is done to him; he bears testimony by his suffering. This is the ultimate service he does for his people.
In the end the cause of the truthful prevails. For one thing, as long as the man of truth suffers, as long, for instance, as he is in jail, and forever after once he has been martyred, the people's attention remains on the lesson he was trying to teach them. If the great Rizal were still around, you and I would quarrel with this formulation of his or that, with this prescription of his or that. But, martyred, he today rules your hearts, his message is forever engraved in the minds of his people.
Day to day events also drive home what the prescient man of truth was warning the people to heed. You may kill a man for affirming there is corruption, for affirming there is torture. But the people learn of corruption from the bribe they have to give at every turn; they learn of illegal detention from the neighbor who disappears. Thus it is that even if the man of truth is killed, truth prevails.
These brave, tenacious men, these men who hold fast, throwing all rational calculus to the wind, constitute a fraternity in spirit. The fraternity cuts across national frontiers, it cuts across time. Few of us can claim to belong to it.
I take this great award as being a command from you that persons like me should live up to the ideals of this fraternity, a command that we should aspire to it.
I accept the award in this spirit, with the greatest humility and utmost gratitude. In return for this great honor I cannot promise you that I will make it to the fraternity, that I will succeed. But I give you my word that I will try.