Crusade Against Corruption in India: Thanks to Assange?

Posted on May 4, 2011 in Specials

By Amrita Paul:

He has been the harbinger of terrible omens, making every country’s worst premonition come true. A hacker in his early life, today he travels all over the world talking about the need of investigative journalism and the freedom of press. With an enormous support from the international press, he has transformed Wikileaks from being just another news website to an important journalistic tool revealing suppressed and censored injustices to people from all over the world.

From publishing documents on the Iran and Afghan War to reporting about the extrajudicial killings in Kenya, Julian Assange has revolutionised modern-day media into a major instrument for societal change. Recently, over five thousand Indian tapes acquired by the US Embassy were disclosed via Wikileaks taking the entire country off guard. What followed next was a series of harrowing events and the bitter realization of the fact that India’s every move was tracked, followed and commented upon by U.S diplomats sitting miles away in their air-conditioned offices at Washington DC.

Such an astonishing revelation has led to several movements all over the India, the most recent one being that of Anna Hazare about the much debated Jan Lokpal Bill. Inspite of all that, we are left with an inevitable question whether the crusade against such widespread corruption is only a result of Wikileaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange, as claimed by the man himself.

According to law student Surath Bhattacharjee – “It has silently incited the frustration into a widespread movement against corruption”. However he asserts that – “One influential person goes incendiary and the entire population follows without even remotely questioning the moves of the erudite.” According to a recent report by Reuters, Wikileaks has allegedly charged the present ruling party for buying off MP’s during a crucial no-confidence vote. The news was first published in India by The Hindu, giving extensive details about a certain conversation between a senior Congress party member with a U.S Embassy official regarding the payment of nine million dollars to a regional political party in order to secure their support.

Most of this had started in the year 2005 when a series of cables were sent to the US regarding India’s decision to side with America against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Cables from April 2008 have been revealed, of an anxious official worrying about displeasing the Americans because of the visit of the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The cable states later that this trip was organised to appease the UPA government’s left and Muslim constituencies. Little did they know that they would not only face resistance from the US Embassy but also from the Opposition whom they did anything but please. However, the biggest blow has been through the latest cables which stated that the Congress had bought MPs to survive its vote of confidence in July 2008 when the Left challenged India’s nuclear deal with the US. And within three weeks of the disclosure, you had social activist Anna Hazare announcing a fast unto death as a campaign against the widespread corruption in this country.

One might wonder why all of a sudden there is such a hue and cry about a Lokpal Bill which even last year’s handful of scams had failed to stir up. According to journalist Debapriya Mondal – “The Anna Hazare issue has two sides to it. A few call it a political game, and a few call it a revolution.” And when asked about her opinions on the matter she clearly stated that she believed that this was nothing but a government fixture in order to retain its image in front of its people. As for the Wikileaks cables – “That is just a small part of the much larger western perception which believes that whatever they do brings about a revolution in the third world country.”

Veteran journalist, P.Sainath points out that in the entire long list of distinguished members of the Lokpal Collegium there is just one elected representative i.e. the speaker of the Lok Sabha who only votes when there is a tie. There is an incredible arrogance involved when it is presumed that the elected representative process is a farce since the people have already elected “bad people”. It is not only an undemocratic process but also arbitrary in nature. He says – “You needed a committee to turn out such garbage?” And by providing such a dangerous weapon in the hands of the Government they can ensure the retention of that gulf of inequality which separates us from each other.

Anna Hazare has been a revolutionary figure for decades, but somehow the Lokpal Bill seems to get more and more unrealistic with each passing day. Anna, who has earned his people the second movement of Independence has never been concerned with their political affiliation. But then what do you do of a Narendra Modi who is of the opinion that Anna’s fast has created an emergency like situation in the country? Since Modi was well aware of his statement, what could he have possibly meant? Lastly quoting Javed Anand, the General Secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy – “But thank you, Anna, for speaking up now. I was assured that no one would be allowed to make political use of your anti-corruption platform. But who can stop the leader from speaking? So we know now that in your post-corrupt utopia, we should look forward to leaders like Narendra Modi.”