Rasheeda Bhagat

The Jantar Mantar victory

Updated on: Apr 11, 2011
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Whether or not a Lokpal can check the monster of corruption, the fact remains that one citizen like Anna Hazare can move and shake the government of a powerful nation like India.

Gali gali mei short hei, hamarey neta chor hei . If one had listened/watched closely enough, this slogan or song would have been part of the four-day storm last week at Delhi's Jantar Mantar that set a cat among the pigeons vis-à-vis our ruling classes. Along with, of course, the overwhelming and deafening chants of Hum hoge kamyab ek din .

A short, humble, low-profile, soft-spoken but, highly respected, Anna Hazare, whose four-day hunger strike brought the UPA Government to its knees, later admitted in a TV interview that all he wanted was to lodge a “small and quiet anti-corruption” protest at Jantar Mantar. “I did not anticipate that this movement will pick up like this… isko kisney chalaya ya badhaya, yeh mujhe nahi maloom, (I have no idea who actually organised or managed such a big movement)”.

Suffice it to say that enraged and depressed at the sheer magnitude of the mega scams that were hitting them in the face at a staggering pace, day after day, millions of Indians were just waiting for somebody… anybody… to give an anti-corruption call. Anna Hazare did it, and the rest is history.

Even though there may be numerous questions on how effective the anti-corruption legislation will be or how a Lokpal can check the colossal monster of corruption in India, the fact remains that one citizen like Anna Hazare, who has with him a handful of activists, such as Arvind Kejriwal, can move and shake the government of a powerful nation like India.

Squabbling, criticism, et al

It is another matter that, now, that Anna has called off his fast, those who stepped in quickly to stand by his side, some out of genuine concern, others for the huge publicity it brought them, are fighting among themselves on the constitution of this panel, which has to submit the draft of the Lokpal Bill by June 30.

Quick to step on the Anna Hazare bandwagon were ‘gurus' with their own huge following… such as Swami Agnivesh, Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and the like. Baba Ramdev, who himself has been giving out tough messages on corruption during his yoga classes and from other platforms, has done some flip-flop on why the father-son duo of Shanti Bhushan-Prashant Bhushan should be on the panel.

Others from the “thinking classes” — the media included, a part of which is also mired in corruption of various hues and nuances — have been scathing in their criticism of placing too much hope in the institution of a Lokpal. Some have questioned the involvement of representatives from civil society, particularly NGOs, many of whom are widely known to be running rackets of their own with the huge funds they raise.

Of course, you'd have to be immensely naïve to think that one such movement begun by a Gandhian will give us clean governance. This is not going to happen. Period. The same netas, who showed such concern about Anna Hazare's physical condition on the third and fourth day of the fast, must have been sniggering in private circles — this time not before any diplomats as they should have learnt this lesson at least from WikiLeaks — about how little such movements can achieve.

Touching a raw nerve

Scepticism and cynicism apart, what Anna Hazare's time-tested method — hunger strike — managed to do was touch a raw nerve in millions of ordinary Indians. Forget the tweets and Facebook messages of gen-X and the celebrities which, of course, helped fuel the movement, similar to the Jasmine revolution of Egypt. Ordinary middle-class Indians, infuriated with politicians and their cronies siphoning off thousands of crores of rupees, which could have gone to improve their lives, educated their children, given them better health care, irrigation facilities, power supply, etc, turned up to support the cause.

The electrifying atmosphere — the dholaks and the singing — set the Jantar Mantar movement apart from what we have seen till now. Though the chief protagonist might try to strike a note of caution by saying that the fight has just begun, what he has managed to do is rally people around a simple Gandhian idea: Non-violent protest to get your objective. And, that too, just at a time when India was beginning to forget the powerful tool called Gandhigiri.

The flip side

But, then, everything in life has its flip side and what would be infuriating to note, if not hilarious, is that Anna's anti-corruption protest has given a zing to the otherwise dull election campaign in States such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Assam.

And, so, we had Congress netas beginning with the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and Mr Rahul Gandhi talking about “corruption, land grabbing” and so on, in the Left-ruled States; the AIADMK chief, Ms J. Jayalalithaa denouncing the DMK for the mother of all scams called 2G; the DMK Chief, Mr M. Karunanidhi saying scathingly that of all the people he didn't need lessons in integrity from her , and the BJP leader, Mr L. K. Advani castigating the Prime Minister for “presiding over the most corrupt government in Independent India.”

Each party is, of course, hoping that forceful criticism of the ruling dispensation in the States will help overthrow those governments. After all, didn't the anti-corruption crusader, Anna Hazare, too fast at Delhi's Jantar Mantar to combat corruption? Listening to these netas' ‘impassioned pleas and fiery crusades' against corruption, at some point, Anna Hazare himself might start wondering what the fuss was all about!

Response may be sent to rasheeda@thehindu.co.in and blfeedback@thehindu.co.in

Published on December 14, 2011

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