By Anshul Tewari:
Anna Hazare has taken the country by stride. A name no one knew about till a few months ago is now a house-hold one. He is probably the only man who has been able to run a nation-wide anti-corruption protest at this scale, mobilizing both young and old to support his cause and fight with him to root out corruption from the country.
His version of the Jan Lokpal bill has been debated as immature and unhealthy for the democracy. Arundhati Roy called the protests as an awful crisis,Â while many others have been calling the Jan Lokpal – a crooked basis to fight corruption. Debates might go on, but we cannot deny the fact that the urban Indian (or Delhi-ite) has come out on the roads to fight for Anna’s cause. But what is Anna’s cause really?
Over the past few months of fighting for a stronger anti-corruption law in India, the Anna causeÂ shifted from targeting corruption as an evil, to targeting just a single Government, to targeting one political party – and then moving a little astray from the entire issue of corruption.
As Rajdeep Sardesai rightly pointed out in an open letter to the self-proclaimedÂ Gandhian. “Gandhi, the greatest Indian ofÂ them all, from whom you claim to derive inspiration, never went on a fast unto death by refusing medication. For Gandhi, the idea ofÂ fasting was a form ofÂ self-purification, a fast could not be undertaken as he said,Â “out of anger. Anger is a short-term madness.” Yes, there is anger in the streets today, an almost volcanic eruption ofÂ a lava that has been simmering for decades. Your genius lies in being able to channelise that popular anger against corruption into a well-defined goal ofÂ a strong anti-corruption law and, importantly, doing so in a peaceful manner. The real danger though now is that a peaceful, non-violent movement runs the risk ofÂ being overwhelmed by what Dr Ambedkar, the great constitutionalist described a fast unto death as, by the “grammar ofÂ anarchy.”’
The people who have been out on the roads fighting for corruption – now have charges against them. Â As the Indian Express reports, “A 34-year-old journalist was assaulted, allegedly by a group of motorcycle-borne young men near Neeti Bagh in South Delhi on Monday night. The journalist’s cab was surrounded by the men who were reportedly wearing Anna caps, carrying national flags and were shouting pro-Hazare slogans.Â D P Satish, senior editor with CNN-IBN, who was on his way home in Mayur Vihar, was beaten up with sticks. The cab driver fled the spot after the incident.”
That is not it. A friend of mine (girl), anÂ ardentÂ supporter of Anna Hazare went in full spirit to support him at the Ram Lila maidaan.Â What happened after she entered the maidaanÂ took her by shock, filth and anger. The moment she entered the ground, group of men wearing “Main Anna Hu” caps, with flags in their hands,Â started literallyÂ grabbing her, pushing her on each other and nearly molesting her, she managed to escape the mob in time. All these were fighting against the corruption in the system – but who will fight against the corrupt minds that these supportersÂ had?
Amit Verma, an award-winning journalist introduces Anna Hazare as: “Consider this man: He runs a village in rural Maharashtra as if it is his personal fiefdom, like an authoritarian feudal lord. He is a fan of Shivaji, and admires him for once chopping off the hands of a man who committed a crime. In that vein, he passes an order that anyone found drinking alcohol will be tied to a pole in front of the village temple and publicly flogged. Several men undergo this, one of whom, a vice sarpanch of the village, says: “I was drinking. I was … tied to the pole and flogged two-three times. It is normal. [He] will try to make you understand once or twice and thereafter, he will beat you badly.” He believes in “rigid implementation” of family planning, including forced vasectomies. Male labourers in his village are paid Rs 50 a day, while female labourers get just Rs 30. He supports Narendra Modi, and is politically active, routinely resorting to a form of blackmail known as threatening to fast unto death until his demands are met. He believes that corrupt people should be hanged”
There have been cases of self-immolation for Anna’s cause. But again, what is this cause? The focus has shifted completely. While fighting against the cause to root out corruption – people have forgotten that corruption is not a political problem. It is a bigger social problem. It is a social evil that needs to tackled strategically. The entire movement led by Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Bhushan’s and the others in Team AnnaÂ has created a sense that the bill would finish corruption in India. But will it?
Status messages of a similar bill in Singapore has taken rounds – being posted by supporters of Anna without enquiring if the bill really does exist in Singapore or not. (funny)
I personally do not call this a revolution. A movement – it might be. It has been able to empower the people to fight against corruption – to at least come out in the open to begin with. But a revolution? Certainly not.
If the ground floor of a building is broken – you do not construct another floor on top of it. This bill will act as the top floor being constructed above the building with a broken ground floor. The building being the social set up that encourages corruption – and the ground floor being the grass roots where the corruption starts from.
By pitching the Government as the demon here – the movement is being run on the wrong lines.
The best foot forward would have been questioning and debating the system. Laws already exist, Lokpal Bill was anyways going to be introduced by the UPA Government. It cannot be denied that the Government’s version is not even worth looking at – but then there is a procedure for everything.
Today Anna Hazare is trying to prove that in a democracy – all you need to do to pass a bill is go on an anshan.Â The ones who have been elected for this purpose will certainly have a problem with it. You cannot deny that. Justice Santosh Hegde, an ex-supreme court judge, who emerged as an anti-corruption crusader in Karnataka, and himself has been a supporter of the Jan Lokpal bill said clearly, “I can’t justify these things that you give command to Parliament. No (it should not be done),” he said. “I have been a judge and I believe in certain democratic principles. And to me, it’s very difficult to digest,”
As Pratap Bhanu Mehta puts in his piece, the bill will be “an unparalleled concentration of power in one institution that will literally be able to summon any institution and command any kind of police, judicial and investigative power.”
The cause of corruption is power. Those who get corrupted are the ones who have the power to change things according to their needs. The need of the hour is to question thatÂ power and the responsibilities that the power has. The need of the hour is to fight the existing system and tackle what we have on hand. Time is to channelize this hysteriaÂ towards tackling the root cause of the corruption – not create a false sense.
I respect the idealism that Team AnnaÂ comes on board with. But the world is not ideal enough. Practicality and realism are the key words here. We need to think beyond political bashing. We need to ask ourselves whether the Jan Lokpal bill will be able to fight for the dying farmers who are conned by financial institutions – and have literally no connection to the urbanÂ world. We need to question whether it will be able to stop the flow of black money from the private sector. We need to first start with awareness.
Before berating the democracy we live in – we need to know that it is this very open democracy that gives us so much right to berate it openly on social networks and other forums. (Talk to people in Libya and Egypt about democracy).
You do not cure a diabetic man by feeding him sweets; equally, you cannot root our corruption by creating more centres of power.
Think about it!