By Rohit Kumar:
The acclaimed American author Robert Lee Fulghum in in his book, ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten’, which is a compilation of his essays, has written something profound about the power of hope and optimism in the life of humans. He writes, “I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief and I believe that love is stronger than death.”
What Robert Lee Fulghum wrote in his book is very relevant in the current political context of India where a new socio-political organisation by the name of Swaraj Abhiyan was created after former leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were expelled from the Aam Aadmi Party last year. I found immense strength and saw a ray of light at the end of the tunnel as a political outfit was formed with the intention to establish an democracy and deliver good governance. Fulghum writes, “Hope always triumphs over experience.” We must not stop discovering hope in Swaraj Abhiyan. My belief is not entirely based on human emotions this time, as it was during my attachment and infatuation for the Aam Admi Party. This time around, my belief is based on facts and not emotions.
After the formation of Swaraj Abhiyan, it has been extensively involved in a number of issues related to matters of immense public importance. The outfit has started a campaign called ‘Jai Kisan Andolan’ , it has an internal anti corruption team, an awareness campaign on education called ‘Shiksha Swaraj Yatra’ and has started something called ‘Drought Duty‘ under ‘Jai Kisan Andolan’.
Swaraj Abhiyan started ‘Jai Kisan Andolan’ to highlight the plight of farmers in the country.The newly created outfit also issued a helpline number for the farmers of the country where they could register their ‘Mann ki Peeda‘ (Agony of the mind). This was probably in response to the one-sided conversation of the current Prime Minister in his radio show ‘Mann ki Baat’ (Talk of the mind). Under the banner of ‘Jai Kisan Andolan’, Swaraj Abhiyan conducted the ‘Jai Kisan Tractor March’, to highlight the plight of the farmers. It started mass mobilisation by asking farmers from all over the country to contribute soil from their farms. The soil had to be collected in small pots. Before the march could enter Jantar Mantar, police stopped the march at the border of Delhi and did not allow it to reach Jantar Mantar, despite the claims of Swaraj Abhiyan’s leaders that they had taken prior permission to organise the event at Jantar Mantar
The other movements under the banner of ‘Jai Kisan Andolan’ include the ‘Race Course Protest’ and ‘Drought Duty’. The demands in the ‘Race Course Protest’ were for the construction of a memorial for farmers who have died due to forcible land acquisition. They also demanded a ‘Kisaan Haat’ to be built on the venue, where common farmers can sell their organic produce. The Swaraj Abhiyan has also been fighting legal battles in the courts on issues of public importance. Prashant Bhushan, the well-known legal figure and the co-founder of Swaraj Abhiyan had filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court of India, urging the judicial body to intervene in the then prevailing drought conditions in several states. The Supreme Court lambasted the drought hit states for an ‘ostrich-like attitude’ and directed them to frame a National Drought Policy. It has also excessively fought on the issue of the ‘Punjab White Fly Attack’, in which there was an estimated loss of Rs. 4200 crores, and which also led to a number of farmers committing suicides.
When the entire political class of the country was indulging in blame game over one another during the terrible water crisis and severe drought conditions, Swaraj Abhiyan, apart from fighting a legal battle in the court, was undertaking a movement called ‘Drought Duty’ in the drought affected areas of the nation. The volunteers included students from several prestigious colleges in the country. They would participate at the ground level in drought affected areas to gather data, map water resources, assist in paperwork, amongst other things.
The Swaraj Abhiyan also undertook ‘Shiksha Swaraj Yatra’ for 20 days in the state of Uttarakhand. It started from Dehradun on April 20 to cover all 13 districts of the state. The stated aim of the Yatra was to create mass awareness on the issue of education and put pressure on public representatives. It was to ensure that the directive of the Uttar Pradesh High Court, in which it had said that anyone drawing money from the treasury of the government should compulsorily send their children to government schools is implemented in its letter and spirit.
The Swaraj Abhiyan has also formed an anti corruption team to deal with the menace of corruption. Its stated mission is, “To work towards systemic changes in laws and in the functioning of instrumentalities of the State in order to promote honesty and discourage dishonesty in the functioning of individuals and institutions, eliminate the opportunities of corruption by promoting transparency, encouraging whistleblowers, exposing corruption, using existing institutions to ensure that the corrupt are punished and running campaigns for systemic reforms and changes for the above.” It invites common people to join hands in the fight against corruption. It provides platform, training and support to individuals to learn. It tries to ensure that the existing anti-corruption tools (RTI, etc.) are not diluted. It also pursues matters of public interest through legal intervention. It also encourages the people to monitor and question the work of their government. This team is purely decentralised and its members use the Right to Information Act and other existing anti-corruption mechanisms to fight corruption at the local and national level.
The movement out of which Aam Admi Party got created was fighting against corruption, for transparency and accountability. The current Chief Minister of Delhi before coming to power had promised to bring his party under the RTI, but sadly after coming to power he forgot the core issue of his party’s movement and continued with the high command culture. But, Swaraj Abhiyan, even before announcing its entry into party politics had formally appointed Girish Nandgaonkar as its Public Information Officer, which is undoubtedly a welcome step in the political democracy of the country.
Prashant Bhushan recently filed A PIL in the Supreme Court against the Patna High Court’s decision of granting bail to notorious gangster Mohammad Shahabuddin. He hasn’t done it on behalf of Swaraj Abhiyan. Nevertheless, being one of the co-founders of the political outfit, his decision reflects the spirit of the organisation and the nature and character of the people by whom Swaraj Abhiyan is being led. This is so ironical that in a country with a population of 125 crores, there is only a single crusader who could muster up courage to stand against a deadly gangster while the parties sitting in opposition in the state of Bihar are trying to reap political benefits out of Shahabuddin’s release. The opposition parties in Bihar, particularly the BJP are doing official press conferences, prominent opposition leaders are issuing media statements regularly claiming that Jungle Raj is back, meeting the governor against Shahabuddin’s release and attempting to corner the Bihar government from all sides. My simple question is, “Why did the BJP not announce that it shall approach the Supreme Court on behalf of the victim?” Why does an independent lawyer like Prashant Bhushan have to stand for this cause? Is BJP a poor political party? Doesn’t it have money to approach the apex court or does it lack good lawyers inside the party? The fundamental point is that the release of Shahabuddin is a political issue for BJP, which it tends to utilise to the maximum possible extent. The ‘concerns’ being portrayed by them over the gangster’s release are just simply fake.
These reasons make me genuinely believe that we, the people of this country must not stop discovering hope in Swaraj Abhiyan for an ideal democracy and good governance when it takes part in party politics. AAP has completely failed us and betrayed the trust of the people who had stood by the party. Yet, we must never forget the inspiring words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” It should bestow enough strength and courage on us to stand again and fight. Always remember that “hope always triumphs over experience.”