B S Raghavan

Time for introspection on all sides

B. S. Raghavan | Updated on March 09, 2018 Published on August 19, 2011

There is no need to take an entirely negative view of the events of the past few days following the fierce face-off between Anna Hazare and his supporters, on the one hand, and the Delhi Police and the Government at the Centre, on the other, arising from Anna's determined bid to go on an indefinite fast at the Jayaprakash Narayan Park, brushing aside the conditions imposed by the Police and in violation of the prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

That, despite the highly surcharged atmosphere throughout the country, the mass upsurge has remained entirely peaceful with not even a minor untoward incident, is akin to a miracle. At any moment, with tens of thousands, carrying candles and torches, in a fever-pitch of anger and agitation, something could have easily gone amiss somewhere resulting in a horrendous holocaust. The exemplary behaviour of the protesters everywhere is in and by itself proof of the extent to which they have been touched by the greatness and nobility of the cause.

On the developments

There is yet another aspect whose vital contribution to the making of an enlightened citizenry should not be overlooked: The white-hot debates and controversies aired by the print and electronic media have also served to educate the people on a massive scale on the merits and nuances of the various issues relating to the fight against corruption, the part that the people can and should play, and the opinions for and against the Government's and Team Anna's drafts of the Lokpal Bill.

In the period since the first fast of Anna Hazare in April, in the course of my casual chats with autorickshaw drivers, hotel bearers, vegetable vendors and even young school students, I was amazed at their perceptive and constructive analysis of the developments and the practical and purposeful nature of their suggestions.

What is now needed is an earnest introspection on all sides on the rights and wrongs of what transpired and the respective roles of the Government, the police and Team Anna itself. It should be done with an open and receptive mind, without locking oneself into pre-conceived positions.

UGLY CONTRETEMPS

There is no question that the Government will have to take the largest part of the blame for mishandling the situation. It heavily counted on a legalistic, law-and-order, take-it-or-lump-it approach that went back to days of British imperialism, whereas the challenge before it was a moral one, and called for total identification with the sentiments and sufferings of the people. Instead, it muddied up the issue as one of rule of law, supremacy of Parliament, sanctity of prohibitory orders, obedience to police diktats and the like. It descended to the level of consciously indulging in character-assassination and intemperate vilification through its chosen spokespersons.

If only, right at the start, Dr Manmohan Singh, Mr Pranab Mukherjee or Mr P. Chidambaram had made conciliatory overtures, and kept both the Anna Team and the Opposition engaged in efforts to build a consensus, it could have avoided all the subsequent ugly contretemps.

The police showed little intelligence and imagination in thinking that it can thrust down Team Anna's throat its long list of conditions, many of them absurd and arbitrary beyond belief (For instance, how to count the crowd to keep its size within 5000? Why the number of days of fasting should be three, and not four or five?)

Finally, the largest share of introspection falls to Team Anna itself. To me, Anna seems bent on fasting for its own sake. What is it that he expects to get out of it? Substitution of the official Lokpal Bill by his Bill? Is this realistic and realisable when there are honest differences of opinion among even sympathisers of Anna about many of the impractical features pressed by him?

He could have achieved far more if, on the strength of the enormous moral authority acquired by him from his first fast, he had hammered out an agreed version in concert with the Standing Committee of the Lok Sabha to which the official Bill has been referred.

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Published on August 19, 2011
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