By Pooja Mahesh:
Over the past year, one has seen a great increase in the anti-corruption movements in India. The anti-corruption movement has gained a foothold and strengthened in magnitude with people like Anna Hazare taking the lead to end the rampant corruption on the part of the government. The recent scandals, starting with the Commonwealth Scandal in 2010, have put India in a tight spot and have garnered a lot of criticism for the ineptness of the authorities in handling such situations.
To see as to why anti-corruption movements are social movements, one must understand the term, ‘social movement’. A social movement is a type of group action that includes large gatherings of individuals or organizations. These gatherings focus on specific political or social issues that affect them and act upon it. Such gatherings therefore, carry out, resist or undo a social change, in this case, the infiltration of corruption. Social movements are closely associated with a democratic political system and are also often associated with the democratizing of a country and watching them flourish as a result of the same.
The anti-corruption movement can be considered to be a social movement as it involves people participating in it because they feel for it. Most people have understood and have become aware of the corruption that exists in the country and this would probably be the only way by virtue of which they can seek the government’s attention. It is social because it seeks to bring down the amount of corruption through mass awareness and through activities such as visiting the people and ensuring that they understand and extend support. If the movement was conducted politically, the individual would have no choice but to support them. However in a social movement, one gives in their support voluntarily.
The movements are becoming more social because the common man or the aam admi is invited to fight for what is supposed to be his basic right — having a corruption free government. Individuals such as Anna Hazare have gained prominence as they address what the common man desires out of the government. Hazare has turned his movement into a country wide one where high profile individuals such as Kiran Bedi and Baba Ramdev joined forces with him. The movement acts upon the grievances of the mass protesters. They further focus on legal and political issues which include political corruption and the other forms of corruption.
Anti-corruption movements are the need of the hour, more importantly it is imperative that they are seen as social movements. This is because a social movement ensures that the government hears them out in an effective manner. Furthermore, any political affiliation may dilute the purpose of their movement and thereby in effect disillusioning the followers. A political movement on the other hand, would act more on the interest of the individual who is involved in politics or the political party at large. Often they would be cantered around winning more votes through a probable empty promise.
Social movements also in some ways do imbibe the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence or Ahimsa. For example, Hazare’s movement was a non-violent civil resistance which involved demonstrations, marches, acts of civil disobedience, hunger strikes and rallies, as well as the use of social media to organize, communicate, and raise awareness among the people. These measures are generally able to shake the government at an alarming manner. Hazare’s anti-corruption movement has also been named amongst one of the Top Ten News Stories in 2011, in a survey which was conducted by Time Magazine.
To be able to make a strong statement or send across a strong message to the government, using a social movement would be more effective. Being a part of a democratic country, we are free to critique the ways of the government and through such a movement, they can be coaxed to look in to the matters that are of urgent need. This was best seen when Hazare persuaded the government to implement the Lokpal Bill, which unfortunately, has not been passed as yet.
Although the anti-corruption movements are largely social movements, it must be noted that they are politically flavoured. This is because these work towards the breaking down of a political thought that would be disagreed upon by a large number of people. As a result, the social movement tries to bring to light as to what the political scenario is and whatever it is that the government has been doing.
As stated before, political affiliations would dilute the purpose of the movement and would leave the same with no meaning, leaving it ineffective. Subsequently, a movement would be more effective and purposeful if it was social in nature, attended to the needs of the aam admi and would have some direction.