The Lost Victory March

Posted on April 10, 2011 in Specials


By Piyush Tewari:

Three days back I headed straight to Jantar Mantar after work to join what I thought was a people’s movement against corruption. The air was filled with slogans in support of Anna Hazare and his fast against corruption, and there were indeed people from all walks of life. To me it seemed that this was larger than just the Jan Lokpal Bill and that this was a great opportunity for the country to come together for CHANGE. That evening I got even more inspired during the candlelight march from India Gate to Jantar Mantar when I saw an old man walking beside me, with a serious limp. He had a leg missing but made it a point to attend the march as he felt it was important to show his support for the campaign against corruption. That I believe was a serious message to all corrupt that people are no longer willing to lie low and accept them thrive at our cost.

But incidents of the past few days have left me, at the very least, disillusioned about this people’s campaign. Firstly, the campaign has rapidly moved from an anti-corruption tone to an anti-government one. Swami Agnivesh asking people to turn India Gate into Tahrir Square and bring government to its knees, Anna Hazare taking pot-shots at the Prime Minister & his cabinet, most posters targeting individual politicians or parties, media bashing the government, and lastly and most strikingly, the organizers of the campaign organizing a “Victory March” after the government agreed to their demand of including civil society in the committee to redraft the Lokpal Bill. And the media is screaming headlines no short of what we saw after India won the Cricket World Cup, just this time it is the government that has been ‘defeated’. Is this what the campaign was about? Winning over the Government? Is this how short-sighted the campaign leaders were?

I can understand people joining the movement in hordes, some because they love engaging in politician-bashing once in a while and this was turning out to be a great stage for that, and some like me who were under an impression that this was really about corruption and that the stage was being set for a long, hard fight. The celebration and the “Victory March” this evening has watered down the effect this campaign had, at least on me. Because we really haven’t won against corruption. Because government is not the only actor in this big drama of corruption. It’s of course among politicians, who by the way WE elect, but it can’t be denied that it is catalyzed by businesses who want undue favours to stay ahead (and would obviously never file a complaint with the Lokpal), the media who have proven that TRPs is all that matters & that they are willing to swing if paid enough, and it’s among all of us, the people, who don’t even have the patience to stand in a queue and would rather bribe to get ahead, or get out of a violation. Selfishness and our obsession with getting ahead at any cost has to stop for corruption to stop. The change has to be systemic, social, and cultural. A non-cooperation movement must take place, but not against a democratic government but against corruption of all forms. And that is what I believed this movement was about. But it seems I was wrong. And that disappoints me.

My good friend Pranay Manocha sums it up in a comment on my Facebook profile, “Yes the bill is great but when was the last time an anti-corruption movement got so much coverage? The iron was hot and we failed to strike harder”.

For me this is a great opportunity lost to create a much bigger impact.

Img: India Against Corruption Facebook Page.