Tag Archives: India

Social media in India and its political impact

Here is a nice list of essays, articles and other interesting thoughts on social media and its impact on political upheavals and outcomes.

Many commenters and mainstream media journalists often condescendingly quip, “Elections are not won on social media, they are won on the streets.”

I totally agree. Social media is definitely not for short-term political gains. Right now it is too disorganized to manage concerted political campaigns. But it is definitely a medium that people can use to disseminate disparate information, and it is already being done. This is the sort of purpose right now social media solves in India. For instance, if there is a piece of misinformation being spread by vested interests, it can be immediately countered by social media.

Take for instance the controversy involving narendramodiplans.com. Someone created this spoof website that was basically a pirated version of a similar website created to lampoon Mitt Romney who contested presidential elections against Barack Obama. There was nothing wrong until the person who had hosted the website started crying that he was being harassed by Modi supporters and hence he had to take down the website. First the link was promoted by Twitter celebrities such as Shashi Tharoor:

And then suddenly the news came that the website had to be taken down due to the harassment meted out to the owner, or the webmaster, or whoever he or she was.

Go through this Storify compilation titled “Unfolding the conspiracy [narendramodiplans.com]” about how within a few hours the Tweeple were able to find that the entire affair was hatched up Congress supporters – a motley mix of journalists, politicians and its political trolls on Twitter.

Now, initially, even a person like me, who is a supporter of the BJP and Modi, was slightly pissed off the way the site had to be taken down but then eventually I discovered that the story of harassment was concocted just to show what sort of goons Modi supporters are.

To that extent social media is useful. It is also definitely useful for scoring brownie points.

But does it change political opinion? Can it affect election results? As far as in India, there is no concrete data that can prove that interactions on Facebook and Twitter can impact election results too. Yes, the opinion on the Internet, especially on the social media websites, is heavily tilted towards the BJP in general (mostly because they are heavily anti-Congress like myself) and Modi in particular (because people are desperately looking for a decisive leader who doesn’t bullshit), but how much this tilt percolates at the ground level it is hard to tell. Primarily there are 3 reasons:

  1. The penetration of the Internet and of social media is not as dense and deep as it is in many other countries despite mobile phones and computers
  2. It is mostly in English that interactions happen on social media websites and the vote bank that actually makes an impact isn’t very well-versed with the language
  3. In the country where people vote for parties based on who can give them more bottles of liquor, blankets, free meals and color TVs, (for that matter even naked girl dance parties) they’re not going to vote based on ideology and opinion

The 3rd point is perhaps the undoing of India. No matter how much people try and succeed on social media, unless people on the ground level seek political change that can actually change the destiny of the country, nothing concrete is going to happen.

I will give you a small example. My permanent address belongs to Sarita Vihar and compared to many parts of New Delhi, in terms of education and money, it’s a pretty well-off locality. But immediately after 16 December when the entire capital was simmering with anger and there was a huge anti-Congress wave all over the city, a Congress candidate won in the municipal elections for this constituency. We were shocked, really. So if this is the condition in a constituency that has educated and the so-called aware people, what can you say about towns and localities where people are less educated and more prone to voting for immediate gains?

So how should social media be used? It can be used as an underpinning for a massive information dissemination campaign. Instead of trying to change political opinions (most of these opinions are any way motivated and hence, cannot be changed) social media should be used to raise awareness and to coordinate political activities. One can get lots of timely information from social media and then use that information to spread awareness in towns and villages, among people actually walking and working on the roads.

How to handle a regional bully like China

China has been a regional thorn for India ever since the 1962 war. India took a severe beating (due to Jawahar Lal Nehru’s shortsightedness and the foreign policy ridden with a personal agenda) in that war. India’s military power has improved tremendously since then, but obviously it cannot match China’s might due to its sheer size. China knows this.

Aside from repeatedly crossing the Indo-China border and carrying out various mischieves it has also started to meddle with India’s foreign policy vis-a-vis other regional countries like Taiwan, Vietnam, Korea, etc. The recent example is the indirect warning against India’s forays into oil exploration in the South China Sea in collaboration with Vietnam. According to India, ONGC-Videsh (ONGC’s overseas arm) is carrying out its operations fully in compliance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas.

This particular problem is not directly related to India because China considers the region being explored as a disputed territory and it is already embroiled in heated exchanges with countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. So India going ahead with collaborative oil exploration means Vietnam taking unilateral decision and asserting its right on the region.

Anyway, this is just one of the issues. China is a tough neighbour to handle. Beyond doubt it is a regional bully and to make the matters worse, it is not even a democracy. It is headed by a communist regime and most of its people (not everybody, understandably) support such a government. It has no interest in establishing and maintaining friendly ties with the country it looks down upon: India. India is an economic competition but more than that it is a nuisance for them simply due to some perverted habit. Pakistan’s hatred towards India can be defined on the canvas of religion and historical references, but China dislikes India just for the heck of it, it seems sometimes. Both the countries have enjoyed historical ties but something happened in 1962 and they were permanently broken.

So how should India handle a neighbour who is not interested in peace and who doesn’t respect you? China is almost double the size of India and nothing can be done about that and this is a reality we have to live with. It is economically stronger, militarily stronger and even its influence on the international politics is much greater than India. China is one of the biggest holders of US debt (the US public debt is 98% of its GDP). There is practically no country in the world that can directly challenge China or come to India’s support due to whatever reason.

I think we should learn a lesson from Pakistan. Despite being comparatively smaller and despite its economy being in total shambles, Pakistan has created a significant deterrence against India. Should India have more nuclear warheads with their nozzles pointing at China? I’m not a military strategist so I don’t know how much of it is going to be effective.

By nature India is not suicidal. India can obliterate Pakistan completely and in retaliation even Pakistan can cause lots of harm to India. In desperation Pakistanis will be okay with the fact that they will be completely destroyed as long as they can inflict a significant wound to India. India on the other hand cannot have similar approach towards China. The Chinese can completely finish off India and India can cause a significant damage to China. Being a country optimistic about its future India will never tread upon such a path.

Similarly, China will be ready to bear significant damage, just like Pakistan, if such a case scenario manifests, as long as it can incinerate the whole of India. As a layperson, I see this as a lose-lose situation. Both Pakistan and China can be reckless and this makes them more dangerous. The only saving grace in the case of Pakistan is perhaps India can contain it before it can launch its nuclear warheads.

Jingoism and filibustering is not going to help. This issue needs a long-term policy. Every problem has a solution and so must this one. I think if India can sort out its massive corruption it can invest a good chunk of that money in defence-related research and development. It desperately needs to upgrade its warheads – on the seas, in the skies and on the ground. It’s high time India stopped purchasing out-of-use or second-hand warheads and started developing its own, targeted versions.

The current political establishment is quite directionless as well as pussilanimous (but then how can you expect the corrupt to have a vision for the country?). People of this country must work towards completely changing the establishment and encouraging people who have a vision and direction. We must have a strong and well-defined foreign policy. We should clearly know how the government is going to respond to unfavourable overtures, physical as well as verbal. We are always reacting and even those reactions are not actually reactions but fumblings. Just like corruption, terrorism, price rise and religious/class conflicts we should choose political parties that have a clear foreign policy agendas. The next time your local politician comes to seek votes, ask him or her, how his or her party plans to handle China?

The solution to China-problem lies more with people of India than building a strong military deterrence (although that too is necessary, but it will happen gradually). China is a real problem gawking at us and challenging us, although we cannot see it directly or experience it immediately. It is like the bull in the china shop and you never know when it will turn violent.

Who is a patriot?

My good friend Abhishek asked in Twitter (@Abhishek_Rai), “Who is patriot?” I really don’t know what elicited this question in him. I’m assuming that he must had been reading various exchanges taking place on Twitter and elsewhere regarding the anti-graft movement being currently spearheaded by Anna Hazare and his team. Ever since he launched his movement people have been coming up with such existential queries.

Personally, I don’t have an answer, at least not a definite answer, but I thought, it would be a good writing exercise to explore this question: really who is a patriot?

I don’t know what prompted him but Samuel Johnson’s statement, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” is quite a known one. Of course he meant people who pretend to be patriotic. But some people take this statement to heart and actually feel apologetic about showing some regard for the country or the community, especially in India.

Coming back to who is a patriot? Does dying for your country make you a patriot? Does loving your country and declaring that love on a routine basis make you a patriot? Does dedicating your life to the betterment of your country make you a patriot? Does protecting your country against internal and external enemies making you a patriot? Does speaking up for your country’s underprivileged citizens make you a patriot? Are freedom fighters patriotic?

I think it is understandable that by definition all the traits mentioned above make you a patriot. But there is another trait that makes you (this is simply my opinion and I might be mistaken) a patriot but its feasibility depends on collective patriotism and not selective. Living a righteous life and achieving your full potential without harming people. When we all achieve our full potential it is always beneficial to the country.

Why I call it a collective patriotism is because simply living a righteous life isn’t going to get you anywhere if everybody around you is resorting to unfair means. You can become a saint and live an eccentric life, but you cannot live like a citizen in such an environment. For instance, Gandhiji wouldn’t have been able to practice nonviolence had there been a firing squad facing him. Yes, he could have chosen to not to react but people would say he simply died without putting up a fight. Similarly, living a righteous life while living in a corrupt society isn’t practical, and isn’t practically possible (I am not saying it’s impossible).

This brings us to the current state of affairs: Anna Hazare’s anti-graft movement. I have observed these types of reactions ever since the movement started:

  • People outrightly reject the entire thing as a farce
  • People, although find it in the right spirit, term it impractical
  • People have started their own smear campaigns because they strongly feel against the fundamental philosophy driving the moment
  • People are staunchly supporting the movement having full belief in the effectiveness of the bill being promoted
  • People are supporting the movement despite having some doubts about the bill
  • People are in different and taking it just as an ineluctable transcendental inconvenience

Since Anna Hazare’s anti-graft movement has metamorphosed into a people’s movement, are people not supporting it unpatriotic?

Again, this is just my personal opinion and you are welcome to correct me, people who oppose the anti-graft movement fall under the following categories

  • Highly opinionated people who believe that only parliamentary practices can redeem the country and rid it of corruption
  • People who don’t generally like mass movements
  • People who somehow cannot relate to the pathos of the common man
  • People who want to project themselves as elitists and hence siding with people who they think are elitists
  • People who think saying funny and smart-ass things against the movement makes them look cool

The last category seems a bit frivolous but spend some time on Twitter and you will get my point.

In the above list I haven’t included people (journalists, intellectuals and public figures) that publicly oppose the moment because they are affiliated to particular political parties and interest groups and hence are paid to run their own respective agendas or who are seeking one or another favor from the contemporary corrupt government officials and politicians.

Many among the people categorized in the above-mentioned list might be patriotic and they might also love their country to an extent of dying for their country, so simply opposing the movement doesn’t make them unpatriotic. For all you know, they might find people supporting the movement unpatriotic because they think that it’s the mob mentality that is driving the anti-graft movement.

Simply supporting popular movements doesn’t make you a patriot. What makes you a patriot is taking the right decisions when it comes the time to decide. And it doesn’t always have to be the right decisions because being “right” is quite circumstantial. So it is the feeling that lies in the crux of being patriotic.

A patriot also works towards the common good. He or she takes steps that are for the common good of the country. Referring to the anti-graft bill whether you support it for the common good of the country or oppose it for the common good of the country, you are a patriot.

And what about those who live a righteous life without showing active interest in the events taking place around them? Seeking your opinion.

When objectivity turns into conspiracy mongering

I normally avoid writing blog posts in response to other blog posts (by other bloggers) but there is a blogger I really respect (I think there are just a couple of bloggers I keep a conscious effort to follow) and when he wrote on Anna Hazare I was compelled to write this short blog post as a response. For what he has written, please read Anna Hazardous.

As such, the blog post by Sandeep has nothing new to say and easily qualifies as one of those “spinner” anti-Anna Hazare articles being published with great zeal, with so much repetition that it has metamorphosed into chain mail activity.

First a quick observation. All these the so-called experts on Indian democracy and the parliamentary system share the following attitudinal traits:

  • They hate candlelight marches
  • They think the Indian maudlin middle class is totally hopeless and even if it comes out once or twice a year it is a total sham
  • A protest is no protest unless you burn buses, people are lathi-charged and there is a general state of destruction and disharmony
  • What-if and why-now are their favourite refrains
  • Intriguingly, maybe this is a whimsicality, they also nurture an inveterate disliking for activists, global warming advocates, NGOs and social workers

So maybe the recent reaction to the Anna Hazare movement is simply a manifestation of the above-mentioned peculiarities. Having said that, since in the beginning I wrote that I am specifically writing this blog post in reaction to what Sandeep has written on his blog and since I eagerly await his blog posts, in this case, and for the sake of writing this blog post, I assume that it is more than a whimsicality.

Now, I’m not saying here that I am completely aware of the situation. I will be sincere here: I didn’t know about Anna Hazare much. The first time I read about him was when he received the Magsaysay award. And to be more sincere, I would also like to mention that people associated with him during this current movement, barring Kiran Bedi, have shady backgrounds especially Swami Agnivesh and Mallika Sarabhai. This out of the way, let me come back to what Sandeep has written and I would like to provide my point of view beneath that.

After quoting Shakespeare for no particular context he says:

–Enter Baba Ramdev whose rally in November 2010 is hugely successful. The English media dutifully relegates it to Column 4, Page 5.

–Enter Anna Hazare who on April 5 2011 begins a fast-unto-death-until-something-is-done-about-corruption “movement.” It picks up steam, is graced by various “civil society” eminences, and is generally declared a blockbuster.

Well too bad if Baba Ramdev couldn’t sell himself (or his idea) the way Anna Hazare could. Of course there was a strategy involved and I found him quite shrewd in the way he handled the entire affair. But how does that make him a villain? We obviously need smart people in the country who can manipulate circumstances for the betterment of the country. Kautilya would have appreciated that.

Regarding the role of media if media were so powerful then Rahul Gandhi would have been the “youth icon” (nothing short of a nuclear disaster) and not Anna Hazare. Media, especially Times Now and IBN7, surely played a constructive role, but they couldn’t have gone beyond a particular point.

–On April 6 2011, newspapers gleefully announce that Anna Hazare “tasted his first victory on Wednesday, the second day of his fast unto death, when Maratha strongman and NCP chief Sharad Pawar quit the group of ministers (GoM) on the anti-corruption bill.” What a slap! The nation is delirious with joy.

I don’t know what newspapers he read because every right minded person knows that in no way it was a victory but a small step towards the envisaged victory. It was a perfunctory action performed by a guileful politician who knew that nothing much was to lose. It would have been a small victory on the other hand if he had resigned altogether.

–On April 8 2011, the Queen graciously bows down to the wishes of this gentle Gandhian and on April 9 2011, the Government of India issues a Gazette of India notification to form a joint committee to draft the Lok Pal Bill.

The Queen was simply trying to be “begani shadi me Abdulla diwana” as more than 99% Congresswalas habitually do. They simply wanted to leverage the entire state of affairs and I personally feel, for the moment, it was sort of a dampener.

–For lack of information to the contrary, I do believe Anna Hazare to be a man of integrity whose commitment is genuine and has done good work in the past. But many things don’t quite add up and unless there are some convincing answers the nag of suspicion will persist.

Well, for lack of information you can doubt everybody. If doubting is the game of the day then first of all let us start doubting the credentials of all those experts who are doubting the intentions of Anna Hazare. I would like to doubt the credentials of all those who kept quiet when scams of thousands of crores emerging right left and center and now they are breast beating about extraconstitutional thingies and the hypocritical middle-class that doesn’t vote. I would like to tell these writers that it is this middle-class that mostly consumes their misplaced opinions, and not those villagers in tattered clothes whose only concern is the next meal.

–Cut back to the Spectacular Socialist Seventies when Mrs. Gandhi had all of India in her iron fist. What that alsomeans is that conditions so horrid that corruption was just one of the grave issues: we were pretty much under an authoritarian regime where inconvenient people simply disappeared, Indira was India, and so on. What’s the record of Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption and these grave national issues back then?

It is like saying why did the Indian cricket team win the World Cup this time? What was it doing 4 years ago when it lost? Or maybe something like why didn’t Sandeep share his brilliant ideas back in the days when there was no blogging but there were newspapers and magazines (I don’t know, he could have been writing, but I’m just using the Anna Hazare conjecture that he used — we don’t know much about him so we can easily doubt him)? I think it is a ridiculous argument even if Anna Hazare didn’t do something purposely. Maybe nothing moved him. Maybe he was too bogged down by his own personal problems. Maybe back then he wasn’t motivated enough. Who the hell cares? That time is gone, it is not going to come back, so why worry about that?

–The one thing that I see amiss is not the nature of his fight—it’s noble etc—but the timing. Why now? Why not say, when Madhu Koda looted his state for what it was worth or during the Adarsh scam that happened in Hazare’s own state or against Kalmadi or against Raja as soon these scams erupted? Is there some gold standard of corruption that had to be met before he launched his movement? Now, there was a lull from April 2 to April 8. If you want me to spell that out here goes: April 2 was when India proudly lifted the cricket world cup. April 8 is when the first IPL match for 2011 was held. Now go back to the papers and news channels between April 5 thru April 8. Nonstop drumming about the “movement” on television and relentless front-page assault. Now read #7 again. On which page does Anna Hazare’s news figure in the papers now?

Rhetorical. If we start the “why not this” and “why not that” we can go back to the thousands years of Indian history. No reforms in India can take place simply because these reforms haven’t taken place yet. We can never do anything constructive simply because we have been so destructive.

I think it was an astute move even if it was based on the cricket season. People were already charged up after winning the World Cup and there was a strong sense of nationalism brewing in the country. It was like hitting the iron when it is hot. Good strategy. Even if the movement was abruptly stopped before the IPL matches the organisers knew the fickle-mindedness of the Indian masses, especially the middle class.

And every news, I’m pretty much sure it also happened when we got independence, eventually is relegated to the inner pages

–We wonder what the selfsame media was doing when Baba Ramdev launched his protest. Or is it the fact that Ramdev didn’t go on a huger strike? Or the fact that he didn’t have celebrity societal conscience-keepers like Agnivesh, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, and Jayaprakash Narayan who jumped on board the Anna Hazare ship barely before the anchor was dropped?

Just wondering. Would he have found the movement against corruption legitimate had it’s been Baba Ramdev’s successful campaign?

I totally agree that some opportunists conveniently latched onto the Anna Hazare bandwagon including Agnivesh, Medha Patkar (I don’t dislike her per se because I have never seen her openly expressing her views) and Mallika Sarabhai.

Regarding Baba Ramdev, again, I don’t know much about him but he does seem a bit queer, but then again it is my personal view (my parents respect him). Again, if his movement against corruption didn’t catch on than perhaps he did it in the wrong way. Let’s face it, it’s the reality of our time, everything has to be marketed through proper channels. Our generation sucks, I know, but we have to accept the reality and make the best of it.

–Had Anna Hazare undertaken a Bosesque “movement” instead of the Gandhian garden variety, what’s your bet how the government would’ve reacted? He and his supporters would’ve been arrested, lathi-charges galore would’ve ensued and the rest. The worst? Not one candle-kisser would’ve turned up because the occasion would’ve evinced not kissing candles but getting middle-class-asses kicked and lathi-charged.

What is this fetish about getting lathi-charged and ass-kicked? Cannot we ever rise above such animal behaviour? I am pretty much sure that had the movement been violent most of the people wouldn’t have gone and there is a psychology involved in this. Politics in our country is basically goondagardi. Go to any political rally and you will either come across villagers who have been paid by the organisers or you will see their musclemen. There are rarely “normal” people in these gatherings. And by normal people I mean people who can bring along their kids (even in their prams), their grandparents, their grandkids, their spouses, and girlfriends and boyfriends and go back home without being jostled, groped, molested, shot at or killed. My wife attended the sit-in at Jantar Mantar twice and she amazingly said that not even a single shoulder pressed against her shoulder and everybody was so respectful. What is wrong in that? Why are we always seeking maar-peet and janglipana in anything that can be called a socio-political movement. As our civilisation progresses, whether you believe it or not, more and more protests will be of such form.

–And so we repeat: why did the Queen agree to all his demands, and so soon?

So what if she did? Do you think people in our government have a backbone? They are the greatest cowards we have ever seen ruling the country so far. They must have seen protesters emerging from every part of the country and they were worried about getting things out of control. People had already started saying that they would attack the Parliament if something happened to Anna Hazare during his fast.

And who knows, maybe it was also something related to IPL. They wanted to wrap things up before the matches started so that there was no revenue loss especially to people like Sharad Pawar. Doesn’t matter what was the reason and who did what. The only thing that matters is things turned out to be the way people wanted it. Maybe it was stage-managed, but it was something really positive for the country.

–Developments after the Hazare Fast Circus ended only point to the fact that the Congress party has more than a sinister hand in the whole affair. This news item reports that Anna has asked Kapil Sibal to quit the newly-formed Panel of Pushers. Here’s a rescued-from-obscurity Gandhian who has suddenly “found” widespread fame, now dictating terms to a government elected by the people of India, all nice and Constitutional.

I think it is the way he talks. He doesn’t mince words. Even before starting the hunger strike he was just like that, if people paid attention back then. It is not about having confidence or finding widespread fame. He is just being himself.

We shouldn’t give too much credit to the intelligence of the Congress party and assume that it was stage-managed by these dumbwits. It was apparent by their body language and facial expressions that they were being screwed from behind and they could do nothing about it.

–Alleging that Uttar Pradesh is the most corrupt of all states, the Congress today asked social activist Anna Hazare to start a movement from the state if he wanted to start a state-based campaign.

Just so that it suits our argument we are now going to quote whatever bullshit is said about Anna Hazare and by whoever. Very convenient.

–Draw your own conclusions. I think that Anna Hazare is a well-meaning and committed individual but that he’s just being used. Is there someone who’s feeling threatened by Baba Ramdev’s growing and massive popularity and the fact that he’s promised to reveal ugly secrets of a certain party?

Frankly, I pretty much believe that Anna Hazare is quite prone to being used by all sorts of shady people and political parties and this is a worry. About Baba Ramdev’s “growing and massive popularity” I would say let the time decide if the Baba is sincere and deft. If he plays his cards well nobody can hold him back, especially the Congress party who is in power only due to the bizarre lack of alternatives (the BJP is a sorry excuse of an opposition party).

–Anyway, the circus has pretty much ended and the tents have been packed. The middle class has again deluded itself, which is how it should be because it deserves the illusion of power that the government is letting it have from time to time because it’s still not time for the middle class to realize the brutal truth that candle-kissing and assembling in parks doesn’t hurt the middle class and that lasting change is not achieved without cuts and bruises and broken bones.

Here again, coming back to the violence fetish. Whereas I totally agree that our middle class is quite fickle I absolutely don’t agree with the fact that you need broken bones and dead people to make significant social changes. Remember when people used to die because there were no medicines? Now we have medicines and the average life expectancy rate has risen. Similarly, we have different forms of protests. Things change, the way people behave and react changes. There was a time when decapitating people was normal and now it is considered barbaric.

Finally, I agree to some points and there are definitely some shades of conspiracy if you are hellbent upon finding them, but by choice I’m not an alarmist. I think candle marches and peaceful sit-ins have great potential provided they are used as mass movements, they will never work as isolated occurrences. Our strength is in our numbers are not in the way we express and protest. Even if you just sit together in multiple cities and do nothing it can be an effective protest. Even if we just wear black bands around our arms and then carry on with our day-to-day activities it can be a potent form of protest. We shouldn’t underplay such phenomena just because we cannot comprehend such things.

The importance of the Anna Hazare movement

Anna Hazare fasting

Anna Hazare started his fast unto death at Jantar Mantar to force the government take constructive steps to control the tsunami of corruption that is eating away the country’s growth like an epidemic. Being physically restrained I haven’t been able to visit the place but my wife attended the gathering consecutively for two days and she also took our daughter with her the day before yesterday. On my part I have been trying to make people aware through Twitter and Facebook as much as I can manage.

What has caught me by surprise is the resistance by some prominent public figures including journalists, popular bloggers, people enjoying great social media following and socialites. I’m not mentioning politicians and bureaucrats because they are the target of the current Anna Hazare protest.

Most of the resistance has come in the form of misinformation and misrepresentation and this is what is disturbing. I mean these are the people I have trusted and admired (although I don’t go overboard when it comes to admiring people unless they are sex symbols). The Pioneer, the newspaper I’ve subscribed to for more than 10 years now has been publishing plain lies. From next month I’m certainly switching over to Times of India because if I want to read trash, why not get a newspaper that at least has a Page 3 section (aside from publishing trash)?

Similarly online magazines and blogs are full of innuendoes and twisted facts. If nothing else prominent Twitter and Facebook users post indirect jokes and inferences that constantly try to create doubts among people. They are constantly trying to portray Anna Hazare and some bogeyman trying to introduce a draconian law that is going to push the country into the throes of dictatorship.

Frankly, I haven’t gone through the entire text of the Jan Lok Pal Bill but considering the kind of people associated with its contents I’m pretty much sure it can never be draconian. All their lives these people have worked — including luminaries like Kiran Bedi, Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal — for a more open and just society and in no way they would associate themselves even remotely with something “Draconian”.

The current movement is about coming of age of the Indian Republic. In the times of reality shows and momentary uprisings to some it may appear as another middle-class time pass but this would be a great misjudgement. And anyway even if it is a middle-class uprising what is wrong in that? Any kind of uprising is better than no uprising. At least people are not sitting at home and watching their afternoons sitcoms. They’re coming out on the roads and expressing their anger. What more do you want?

The naysayers say that instead of bringing into existence a new authoritarian body we should strive to reform the existing system. No problem with that. But what have these people been doing till now? They have had a great presence. They have enjoyed some power. They have had public reach. They have had the platform with them. So far what has stopped them? Why haven’t existing systems been improved? A prominent journalist was saying that corruption is a nonissue? Why is it a nonissue? And even if it is a nonissue why haven’t these the so-called experts on democracy striven towards making it an issue? Now all of a sudden they are worried about the legislature and electoral system. Why do they never hit the roads when people like Pappu Yadav, A Raja and Kazimoni successfully become ministers?

If they are so averse to authoritarian bodies then why not do away with police stations, the Election Commissioner and the Vigilance Commissioner? In fact why have a Prime Minister who has so much authority? And if we can have these bodies then why not a Jan Lok Pal?

The country has been seething under the grip of massive corruption for years. Some say previously it used to be thousands of rupees and now it’s millions of rupees and hence the scale of corruption has increased. That might be the case but the value of the rupee has also decreased so the scale has pretty much always been the same. Ever since we got independence we have been ruled by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats and it is simply because nobody is breathing down their necks.

And there has been an all pervading connivance between politicians, business persons, journalists, scholars and intellectuals because everybody works to serve each other. Newspapers and publications enjoy political patronage and it is well known. The creamy relationship between business persons and politicians was made quite apparent by the recent Radia tapes expose and Ratan Tata himself recently admitted that he lobbied for A Raja. Similarly intellectuals and scholars get their studies funded so that they can create history and science to further political and communal agendas (for instance the Aryan invasion theory). The masses are perpetually misguided so that they never rise against the current government. Whether it is Left, Rright or Center every political party resorts to corruption and that is why there is so much resistance towards having a watchdog.

With the coming of 24-hour television and social media the game is totally altered. Previously as a common citizen the most you could do was write a letter to the editor to express your grievance and it was up to the publishers whether they published your letter or not. Television news channels and social media provide instant information consumption and information distribution tools. You can avail news immediately and you can disseminate your opinions and news immediately. Everybody has a mass reach in a big or small way. It certainly has its pros and cons but that is not the issue.

So naturally those who conventionally saw it upon themselves to “empower” people find themselves all of a sudden on the sidelines. Of course there are political and commercial motivations too.

Looking at the resistance objectively my personal understanding says there are political as well as intellectual agendas going on. All these people articulating their doubts against the Anna Hazare movement (some weirdos even termed his fasting as a form of terrorism — never knew Mahatma Gandhi was a terrorist!) have gotten used to representing people. Somehow they cannot come to grips with the idea that people can take up issues on their own and they don’t need journalists and politicians. A person who has no political or journalistic background can be a leader to and this is something they are unable to digest.

They also say that if you want to bring change then join politics and become politically active. Again nothing wrong in that. But do we have a conducive environment to be politically active? You will be beaten to death the moment you start your political campaign as a normal citizen and THIS is the reality of our country. It is very easy to say that fight the elections and then say something. Even an average election campaign requires anywhere between 15-20crore rupees. Can a common person get so much money without collaborating with the corrupt?

So first we need a system that is going to make politics redundant for those who want to join it to pursue their corrupt goals. They must know that after spending 15-20 crores they will not be able to earn 1500-2000 crores, or even 30-40 crores. Once they know they cannot earn the sort of money they want to earn by joining politics they will stop joining and this is when people who really want to work for the country will be able to join. Then they won’t require15-20 crores to fight elections. By merely being what they are they will be able to fight elections and win them.

But that is only going to become possible if we are able to break the current nexus between politicians, bureaucrats, business persons and all sorts of people who control the economy and the thought process of the country. It’s like antibiotics. You have two release germs in the body in order to kill the existing germs.

The Jan Lok Pal Bill may have some queer points here and there (after all people like Swami Agnivesh are associated with the movement and this is the same person who speaks on behalf of Maoists) but they can be easily ironed out as things move forward. If the country needs another surveillance body than let it be. Instead of intellectualising the issue and creating doubts among people everybody should work towards making the system more accountable.

My wife just told me that popular Bollywood dance directorFarha Khan is at Jantar Mantar and she’s saying that she’s not representing the film fraternity, she’s representing her 3 children. This is the philosophy we need to embrace. This is not a social phenomena and this is not a cultural phenomena. This is something that you have to decide for the sake of your children.