ByÂ Sharone Birapaka:
The English media and its elite sponsors and readers do not seem to tire of discussing and ridiculing the AAP’s ‘antics’ and ‘absurdities’. They are oh-so-afraid of the bedlam that might erupt as a result of the AAP’s ‘anarchy’. They are afraid because they haven’t been a part of a social movement. They don’t understand that dharnas are the traditional way in which the common collective Indian makes his and her voice heard. They think its anarchy, and they think calling something anarchist is an insult, because they’ve never seen or been a part of the true democratic and horizontal decision making processes that many social movements have invented and come to own successfully.Â .
The AAP is using the repertoires of contention that oppressed and indignant Indians across the country use and have used on a daily basis for decades upon decades. But they’re using it within the metaphorical and real walls of a complex, that far too often, only serves the interests of the rich and the powerful and that is why the elite are quaking with fear and indignation. They’re upset and disparaging because people who walk, talk, and act differently (and not unconstitutionally) from them have entered into ‘their’ spaces and what is different, and often enough poorer and more common, threatens their hegemony. They’re lashing out at the AAP because perhaps, for once, the riksha-puller and Chipko Andolan member can feel more comfortable in a political party than the English-medium educated son of an MP.
It might be odd for a politician to join or even start a protest, but that speaks more to the cowardice of politicians worldwide than to any so-called ‘trouble-making desires‘ of these actors.Â The AAP behaves differently because it is a political party born out of a social movement. It also behaves differently because that movement’s primary purpose has been to destroy the affluent and self-serving corrupt structures of a farcical representative democracy and replace it with a people’s rule that, yes, resigns from power because a bill that a majority of Indians wanted to see realized wasn’t even being introduced. The AAP is not ‘making trouble’ or ‘quitting’, it’s fighting tooth and nail to change the status-quo. To come to power and immediately adopt the norms of hypocritical dhoti- uniform wearing politicians, would be a waste of three years of movement-building. The AAP is aiming for greater and grassroots-driven change.
Of course, it’s not surprising that the English media has been ripping into Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP like a rabid dog on speed. It’s not the first time a party or a politician that emerges out of the far more egalitarian realms common to many social movements, has been demonized (do read Avay Shukla’s description on how it’s been done). Brazil’s most beloved leader, Lula, had to run for office 4 times and have his teeth filed down to appear ‘less scary’ to white upper class women before he (and what I’m sure India’s elite would call his ‘anarchist’ background as a union leader) would be accepted into the hallowed halls of the government.
But the times, they are a changing. The AAP has offered us an ancient and fresh paradigm and I, for one, am on board. Whether the AAP eventually decides to compromise on its values in order to push vital reforms or public policies through, or decides to stick to its guns for the long-haul is to be seen. But I am with them, because ‘they’ are the closest thing so far to a country being run directly by its citizens.
For an explanation of just how constitutional the Jan Lokpal bill process was, please listen to the AAP hangout with Prashant Bushan.