Archive for August, 2011


I know that many of my students are aghast that I speak in favour of Anna Hazare’s movement. They believe the man is crooked, cantankerous, slightly unhinged, and totally eccentric. They also believe he is encouraging a revolt and is hell-bent on destroying democratic institutions such as the parliamentary system of governance. I completely respect their views and admire their stand on this whole movement. They are also quite surprised to see me talking a different language and not one of cynicism!

They believe that Hazare, through his agitation, is looking to usher in a sort of parallel government – something akin to what happened during the French Revolution with Hazare becoming something of a Madame DeFarge, the fictional character from Charles Dickens’ epic ‘Tale of Two Cities’. So why am I supporting this man and the movement? Okay, so here’s the truth. If it had been Mickey Mouse instead of Anna Hazare orchestrating this anti-graft movement, I would still have supported it. Why? Here are a few reasons.

1. In general, I dislike politicians. They have reduced this parliamentary system of democracy to something that we normally flush down the toilet every morning. Which parliamentary system allows MPs to be so easily be bribed to vote for or against a party? Where a government is stopped from functioning for almost a month by MPs who stage walkouts? Where crores of rupees are spent in inquiries which yield zilch; Where MLAs destroy furniture and beat up their colleagues? Where investigative agencies are instructed to protect the guilty instead of uncovering the truth; Where the prime minister defends the same crooks? Where reforms meant for the people have made the poor more impoverished, and the rich even richer; Is this is the ‘parliamentary democracy’ some people wish to preserve, and citizens don’t have the right to question?

2. I dislike the Congress Party. The people who have been a part of this 100 plus years old party have very subtly and covertly destroyed every tenet of democracy so carefully nurtured and put in place by the founding fathers of Independent India – all in the name of parliamentary democracy and good governance. Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and others must be turning cartwheels in their graves watching this rape and subversion of parliamentary democracy. Where Nehru encouraged debate and welcomed criticism, today’s politicians send out hit-men to silence critics. The person who set the ball rolling in this respect was Indira Gandhi. She hand-picked politicians who would always vote for her; chose committed judges – committed only to her; destabilised State governments that did not toe her line; encouraged charlatans in sadhu’s robes…I could go on. And that has continued to date.

3. This is the proverbial last straw – the petty corruption that is around us. Forget the corruption of the politicians and look at what we face every day. From bribing to get a learning licence to bribing an I-T official to bribing to get a ration card. Then there is the crumbling infrastructure – bad roads, lack of power, water etc – which gets worse every year. And while we fret and fume, we read about politicians sitting in the State and national capitals who acquire huge mansions, properties and luxury cars, just a few years after getting elected. But we don’t have the right to question them or the officials on how our money is being utilised.

If the government was honest would people have cared to listen to someone like Anna Hazare? Can one blame the common citizen for backing him? Not everyone may have read the Jan Lokpal Bill or the government’s version of it, but it doesn’t matter. I’m pretty sure not all of the 540 + MPs have read it either. At the end of the day, the end justifies the means. Respect for a system, be it the law or parliamentary system of governance, has to come from both sides. When the politician doesn’t respect it, can he expect his electorate to do so? So far this movement has been peaceful and that is what is worrying the government. There is no provocation from the protesters, so how can the police resort to the lathi? This agitation may fail, but if it can achieve even 30 per cent of what it has set out to do, I think the people of this country would have won a resounding moral victory.

And, finally, before accusing Hazare of resorting to blackmail and destroying democracy, and criticising those who back him, people should look really hard at their own lives. Before taking the moral high ground and accusing others of being morally bankrupt, they should ask themselves: Have they not resorted to threats, blackmail and agitations in their quest for, what they presumed, was justice, when all avenues of discussion and dialogue had failed? Have they not criticised institutions and reviled those who headed them? Think real hard before answering this question.

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According to Wikipedia “A protest is an expression of objection, by words or by actions, to particular events, policies or situations. Protests can take numerous forms, from individual statements to mass demonstrations.
Where protests are part of a systematic and peaceful campaign to achieve a particular objective, and involve the use of pressure as well as persuasion, they go beyond mere protest and may be better described as cases of civil resistance or nonviolent resistance.”

So which one of the definitions would best fit what happened in Delhi and other parts of the country today? And why did the UPA Government react in the only way it knows – with brute force? Because someone, in this case, a septuagenarian, had the guts to stand up and ask the government some very uncomfortable questions and demand accountability? What did he do wrong?

The UPA’s rabid reaction didn’t surprise me at all. Right from the time of the dictatorial India Gandhi, the Congress has never been known to tolerate dissent, be it from their party or from the people. And what happened today in Delhi and the rest of the country have only confirmed this view.

What I’ve also been hearing lately is that while Anna Hazare’s demands are justified, his methods are wrong. I beg to differ. If a worker doesn’t like his job he has two options – swallow the crap and continue to work, or protest. Which of these is the wrong method and which the right one and at which point of time do we decide which form of protest to adopt?

So, since Hazare or his fellow protestors aren’t employed by the government of India, they chose the last option of peaceful protest, which is their fundamental right, according to the Constitution. And then they never threatened violence nor did they ask people to resort to it. So what was the government worried about? I guess Messrs Singh, Chidambaram and the rest believed they could do to Hazare, what they did to Ramdev. Unfortunately for them, Hazare is not Ramdev. He doesn’t have an ashram built with dubious wealth and he wasn’t going to flee the place dressed in a salwar kameez!

I’ve also heard quite a few people say that he should contest an election, be a part of the system and then usher in change. I beg to differ, again.

Since 1947, elected representatives have always taken a solemn oath to serve the people, the country and the flag. Till around 1960 that is what they did. After that things went steadily downhill. Now the 542-odd MPs are doing everything to subvert the very process, they have sworn to protect. So let’s forget about being a part of the so called system. It hasn’t worked in decades and even two dozen Anna Hazares will fail to bring about an improvement in a system that is rotten to the core.

And then, it wasn’t as if Hazare and his group just got up on August 16 morning and decided to launch an agitation. They had gone through all the due democratic processes, like discussions, meetings etc and only after the government threw out their recommendations that they decided on this form of protest. All they wanted from the government were answers and a commitment. Answers to why it was unable to control corruption; Whether the people who were being accused of corruption were questioned about the source of the ill-gotten wealth; to explain who were the Indians with foreign bank accounts; how much was the figure supposedly stashed away in foreign banks; demand accountability with regard to the Jan Lokpal Bill.

For all these questions, they got no answers. On the contrary, the defiant government built a protective wall of silence, and selectively released information that did not, in any way incriminate itself – till the courts stepped in and asked the government to clean up its act. Even then the government refused to cooperate – till the courts again stepped in. Only then did they get moving and put people like A Raja and Suresh Kalmadi behind bars.

One may agree or disagree with Hazare and his ways. But one cannot disagree that it was brought on by the attitude of this government, which has been one of total condescension against any form of criticism. As if they believe they are answerable to no one – not even the courts. What is shocking is the sanctimonious blabbering of Chidambaram, Tewari, Sibal and Co. about disturbing the peace, breaking the law etc. Could they tell us how they allowed Mamata to sit in protest against the Singur land acquisition? Wasn’t that against the law?

This agitation and the government’s ham-handed response has proved to the people of this country that it’s time for this ineffectual government led by an ineffectual prime minister to pack its bags and look for alternate employment.