The nation has witnessed a huge spectacle from a section of visible population with Anna Hazare’s fast for getting the Jan Lok Pal bill being drafted and implemented. His fast unto death was an event in which not only we witnessed the ‘Tsunami of Sentiments’ but was also used by media to create an atmosphere as if it a ‘second freedom struggle’. While one can see that the dissatisfaction of the people from the system was overflowing, one also registered that this is a response to the massive corruption scams which have been unearthed during last few years. While Government succumbed to the mass pressure and the media projection, the whole episode also raised many a questions about the message which the fasting and Jantar mantar protest gave.
In the whole event, the backdrop was provided by Hindu imagery of India as Bharat mata, a Goddess. One hoped that such issues needing of worldly grounding can have icons like Gandhi as the central projection. Gandhi as the central backdrop of the movement would not only have given a correct moral message but also had been equally welcoming to all the citizens of the country irrespective of their religion. Gandhi as the backdrop would also have reminded the leaders that corruption cannot be isolated from other political dynamics which is leading to gross injustices to the poor and marginalized of the society.
Unfortunately the criticism of elected leaders and the doubting of the democratic system itself were taken to the cynical extremes. People writing on their hands that ‘Mera Neta Chor Hai’ (My leader is a thief) was one such example where the attempt to denigrate the elected representative along with the electoral process could be discerned. One concedes that there are serious flaws in the electoral system, the money power, muscle power and Corporate influence, but to paint all the leaders in the same brush shows the warped understanding of a section of leadership of Jantar Mantar movement. At the same time all the voters were insulted by stating that people cast their vote just for the goodies they get in advance as if these goodies are the core deciding points of election. Surely our electoral system needs serious reforms but this type of projection also needs to be seriously questioned.
Then we have the issues of leadership of the whole event. We saw Anna Hazare as the Supreme commander with associates like Baba Ramdev trying to moralize the nation in the politics which is not so hidden by now. Baba Ramdev is a partisan of a particular type of politics which bases itself on religion and Baba in the clothes of a yogi is playing the role, which does not promotes democratic values. Baba was accompanied by RSS leader Ram Madhav. Sri Sri Ravishnker was also there. Both these Godmen are for the construction of grand Ram Tmeple at Ayodhya, and that should be enough to tell us their political leanings. Others in the core committee surely have more objectivity but one does not know as to how much influence they could exercise on the tilt being given by Annaji, Ramdev, Ravishanker and Company.
Anna Hazare, in the centre of the whole event also projected his pro right wing politics by praising Narendra Modi. One learns that Annaji has worked in his village in an authoritarian way, keeping the caste and gender hierarchical notions intact in Ralegaon Siddhi. His praise for Modi does let the cat out of the bag. Narendra Modi has successfully created and image of honest administrator but those who know the state better like Malika Sarabhai, Chunibhai Viadya, Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah have pointed out that in Gujarat the villages are suffering the rot, poverty levels are abysmal, people are migrating to cities in large numbers and their lands are being given to the coterie of Industrialists who are in the good books of Modi. Lakhs of villagers are yet to get the compensation for the land which has been taken away from them. The very definition of corruption needs to be looked at while talking of Gujarat, as Industrialists are plundering with both the hands and state exchequer is the major victim of Modi’s policies. Instances of this abound, the massive subsidy to Nano being one major example.
Same Narendra Modi not only refused to appoint the Lokayukta in his state and there are multiple unadvertised scams which are away from the media glare. There are criminal accusations against this person who has been called as the Nero by the Supreme Court, and who is authoritarian to the core. With such a role played by Modi in the Gujarat carnage, with blood on his hands, if someone can praise his work, it is not out of naivety, and it is part of the political agenda of that person. Same Anna Hazare had praised Raj Thackeray, the architect of violence in the name of language. As per Annaji, Raj Thackeray’s ideas are correct but violence should not be resorted to, forgetting that violence is a just an outcome of these political formulations which Modi and Thackerays have.
The massive mobilization and channelization of middle class angst is at one level indicator of the deeper levels of frustration in the system. In this whole upsurge there was a spontaneous expression of dissatisfaction and also a planned mobilization all across to take advantage of the situation to enhance the politics of those who have rode on the wave of section of society mobilized earlier also. One recalls that Jaya Prakash Naryan’s movement was much more broad based still it came to be controlled by the RSS, and its Swayamsevak Nanaji Deshmukh became the central person. The JP movement, irrespective of its noble intentions gave respectability to the organization, whose member had killed Father of the nation, and which till that time was looked down upon. Same way V.P.Singh’s tirade against corruption was swept away by the politics of those who were out to demolish Babri Masjid. Sitting on the waves of anti Corruption movement, both time RSS and its political progeny became stronger to the extent of becoming the second largest party in the country.
Ironically in the whole episode while the ruling party and politicians as such were being humiliated the other component of the corruption phenomenon, the Corporate World and the industrial houses were really the beneficiaries of the way anti corruption drive was projected. Corporate World got exonerated by default, of all their crimes of getting around their ways through corrupt route. During earlier decades when the economy was controlled by state, the so called license-permit raj, it was said that corruption is due to state control of economy. Now with globalized economic scenario, the corruption has gone up to unimaginable levels, and the role of Industrial Houses as being the equal party to the game remains hidden from the scene.
Corruption is the big scourge to the system. We do need to look beyond the leaders and parties to realize that Corruption is primarily due to lack of transparency of the system, lack of accountability of the elected representatives and the very nature of our economic system and injustices inbuilt in the social system. While one lauds the tremendous response to the anti corruption movement, one can just hope that the sectarianism of Anna Hazare should be totally bypassed and the religious tilt of the imagers should be done away with. One hopes that while working on the Lok Pal Bill, the collective leadership of the movement will take note of these points to ensure that this movement does not meet the fate of two similar earlier one’s and that Right wing divisive forces are kept at bay.
Ram Puniyani was a Professorof Biomedical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Powai and works keenly on social issues. He is the author of three books including Communal Politics: An illustrated primer.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy.