There was no war. Neither horses nor elephants were ridden to their sordid ends in the battlefield. I did not fight. Neither did the King. Nor his Commanders. No swords were drawn. No shields shattered. In fact not a single drop of blood that marred the City was shed on its account. Yet, all the same, the City was lost to some of us. Snatched from one half and given to another.

It was brilliant. It had taken only one weapon to win or lose and that weapon was called ‘Diplomacy’. It was wielded only by the Kings and it was used, not to fight, but to make peace. This Diplomacy had perhaps been used many a times by many a king and kingdom in the past. It was perhaps a means to save lives and resources. Today, it was everything. It had replaced the war, the battlefield and the warriors.

It lessened the duties of the citizens immensely. They did not have to fight, they did not have to sacrifice, in fact they did not have to do anything at all. It did not kill anyone, it only made lives a little harder. It did not dethrone anyone, it only put the old King on a new throne. It did not make anyone homeless, it only made people outsiders in their own homes. To be sure, the victims of diplomacy were some of the luckiest people in the world.
But seldom do the lucky know of their own luck. They dislike change, however small, and will certainly be aggravated by it. Why must they suffer, however slightly, for someone else’s doings? For someone else’s greed? How should they, who have called the City their home their entire life, perceive it now that it bore a different name? How could their lives go unchanged when everywhere around them they saw the marks of the new reign? When the new citizens took precedence over them in every way?

Fortunately or unfortunately these changes were hard to swallow. What were they to do? Or rather, what should they have done? They should have learned to master their own weapons. Oh yes! every person in the city had one. Only they had not taken the time nor made the effort to learn it’s ways. It was called Democracy. It was certainly more powerful than the king’s Diplomacy. But it was also harder to master. It wasn’t for the lazy. It wasn’t for the kings. It was for the people. It did not require a river of blood, after all it was a weapon that made peace, but it did take a few beads of sweat. The fact that it could be wielded by so many was both it’s strength and weakness. It required the hard work and sacrifice the residents of the city had long forgotten how to make.

It is perhaps too late to win the City back. But it is time the citizens realize that Democracy is not a decorative object to keep safely stashed in their homes, admire from time to time and be proud to own. It is a weapon and it has to be honed and practiced carefully. It has to be sharpened and shinned and dusted of old cobwebs frequently. It has to be primed to be used at any instant.

Those of you who hear the chants of ‘Allah Akbar’ in the morning but don’t feel the same familiarity behind it, those of you who have to think for a second when people ask you where you are from, those of you who squirm every time you have to put down the new name of the place at the end of your address, those of you who are paying new taxes, those of you charged for roaming in your own capital, those of you giving those extra exams, know that you are paying the price of your neglect. Know that you do not have to grin and bear it. Know that you have all been bestowed with some gifts and that it is your duty to use them. If you can find it within yourself to win back your City, know that you can. If nothing else, know that you cannot let this happen a second time.

 

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