I don't know how many people watched the debate in India's Parliament yesterday on the Mumbai attacks, but it was worth it. I had woken up at an ungodly hour, so was able to catch much of the debate while sitting in London. It was a remarkable example of sobriety, solemnity and political unity. The treasury and opposition benches disagreed at times, as must happen in a democracy. But the way they conducted themselves, one might have been mistaken in thinking that the protests out in the streets these days are against politicians in some other land.
The Mumbai attacks threw a challenge to all of us (more on that in a forthcoming post). We have lots to complain about but we also have to behave in ways that the terrorists cannot - civilised. As the editorial in the Indian Express noted, 'On this sombre occassion, Parliament gave us a demonstration of public reason in action.'
In the course of my work and research, I have to consult parliamentary debate records and am sometimes surprised to find high standards of debate on key substantive issues. We mostly think of Parliament as a wrestling pit. True, MPs need to change their behaviour but we need to engage in and push for more informed discourse as well.