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.