By Pradyut Hande:
A little over a year ago, a supremely determined denizen along with his trusted coterie didn’t just shake up an already encumbered UPA – II Government; but also unleashed a roiling revolution amongst the masses. The Iron Man from Ralegan Siddhi, Anna Hazare, has since then positioned himself as the quintessential public crusader through his novel Anti-Corruption Movement. His unstinting efforts at getting the Centre to pass a pertinent, purposeful and powerful Citizen Ombudsman (Jan Lokpal) Bill in the eventual quest to usher greater transparency and accountability with regards to governance at large have garnered him a loyal legion of supporters. While he may have become a champion of civil society, his movement has predictably incurred the wrath of multiple Government leaders who have not only cast aspersions on his motives but also derided his methods.
Anna Hazare is a product of the puritan Gandhian School of Thought. The great Mahatma would firstly be proud of the fact that the nation who’s independence he tirelessly strove for, today, has an evolved democratic mainframe held together by a pluralistic society that upholds the Freedom of Expression and allows movements such as those helmed by Hazare to take root. He would have taken pride in Hazare’s initiative, staunch perseverance and indefatigable spirit whilst spearheading the Anti-Corruption Movement. If Mahatma Gandhi had to view Anna Hazare’s gargantuan undertaking from a more discerning lens, I would base it on four touchstones – Ideology, Approach, Execution and Tangibles.
For starters, I am of the firm opinion that any movement is fuelled by its core ideology and reinforced by the pillars of the very principles it stands on. Whilst Gandhji’s historic fight for freedom from British rule drew its strength from the efficacy of non-violent Satyagraha; Anna Hazare’s movement too draws fundamental inspiration from the same ideology in his fight against the scourge of corruption at large. Gandhiji would have approved of Hazare’s endeavour to weave the fibre of non-violent struggle into the very fabric of his movement per se. The fact that he has embraced and stayed true to the same despite extraneous pressures, influences, changing dynamics and personal battles; would lend his movement even greater credence in the eyes of the Father of the Nation.
Secondly, when it comes to Hazare’s approach towards achieving his objectives; he has periodically opted to tread the path of hunger strikes, public rallies and collective protests. Although tantamount to self infliction of mental and physical agony, Gandhiji would have been proud of Hazare and his team’s selflessness, integrity and stubbornness in their quest to spur an ambivalent Government into action. Although over time the efficacy of his methods may have diminished owing to the frequency of his veiled threats, Hazare’s initial hunger strikes and consequent widespread public outcry did at least make the Centre take the Jan Lokpal Bill seriously.
The great Mahatma was always someone who could inspire, motivate and draw in the crowds in equal measure. The objective was to lucidly communicate his ideology, modus operandi and action plan to the masses and instil in them a sense of purpose and self awareness. The Gandhian in Anna Hazare too was able to light the match of passion and inspiration that soon became a conflagration of huge negative public sentiment directed at our leaders. His long term objectives may not have been fulfilled yet, but Gandhiji would have been gratified to watch the manner in which Hazare mobilised huge crowds from different walks of life to muster support for his movement. Additionally, the manner in which Hazare was able to leverage the dynamic platform of the media to further gather momentum would have met with Gandhiji’s approval. Thus, his execution would certainly find favour with the Mahatma.
Finally, Hazare clearly demonstrates his idealistic outlook as an extension of his simplistic lifestyle. His eschewing of materialistic pleasures and tireless efforts towards the upliftment of a decadent society would surely have won Gandhiji’s appreciation. The air of approachability that surrounded Hazare as a true leader of the populace would have also made Gandhiji proud.
However, despite espousing the merits of Hazare and his trailblazing movement; I believe Gandhiji wouldn’t have approved of the often derogatory and crude remarks Hazare made at multiple public rallies in order to incite the congregated supporters. Spewing vitriol at one’s own democratically elected representatives in public is unacceptable; no matter how noble one’s intentions maybe. Also, his decision to venture down the avenue of politics, having previously stated that his movement had no political ambitions, appears dubious.
On the whole though, Gandhiji would definitely have been proud of Anna Hazare’s vision, initiative and spirit that collectively contributed to spur a germane movement of great significance. At the end of the day, we ought to salute both these individuals. While Gandhiji was our guiding light in our liberation from foreign rule, it remains to be seen if Anna Hazare’s gradually slowing movement is able to liberate the country from the evil clutches of endemic corruption. One thing is for certain though. Gandhian principles have continued to stand the test of time and when adopted prudently in the context of a modern democratic setup, can translate into far reaching consequences. Anna Hazare’s Anti-Corruption Movement is testament to that realisation.