After the series of scams being unearthed, the country needed an ‘Anti-Corruption mass agitation’ against the current regime. The principal opposition BJP, having lost part of its credibility for its shielding act of Yeddyurappa, was in no position to lead a mass movement against the corrupt government of the day. Such circumstances warranted an apolitical and credible leader to come out and lead the common people of India and channelise their anger. Anna Hazare, an army Jawan turned social activist, has assumed the space of that leader as he launched his fast-unto-death for the enactment of the Jan Lokapal bill. For those who are still unaware about this issue (I don’t expect readers of this blog being so unaware), here are some basic ideas about this particular issue.The objective of the current fast-unto-death by Hazare at the Jantar Mantar is to press the govt., buried deep in the corruption charges, to enact the Lokpal Bill which has been in the freezer for last 43 years. Hazare is being supported by Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh and activist Arvind Kejriwal. Their demand is to form a joint committee by the govt. involving both the politicians and civil society members to discuss and later enact the Jan Lokpal Bill designed by former justice of the Supreme Court Of India, former Solicitor General of India and the present Lokayukta (ombudsman) for Karnataka State Santosh Hegde and ace lawyer Prashant Bhushan. The govt., expectedly, doesn’t want to form any such committee to enact these laws. In the mean time, thousands of people across the country have pledged their support for Hazare’s cause and have been observing peaceful agitations, relay-fasting at Jantar Mantar and at their places too.
There are a few points to note. Hazare’s movement isn’t against this govt.’s involvement in many corruption scams. This movement has a very narrow focus on the enactment of the much delayed Lokpal Bill. In fact, Hazare and his supporters want the Lokpal Bill of 1968, which has been yabled eight times in the parliament but never approved, to be replaced by the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by Mr Hegde and Prashant Bhushan. Another important point in this whole issue is the way Anna has adopted. Fasting till death to pressurize an elected govt. to succumb to one’s demands is no less than black-mailing. Many a times such measures lead to nothing concrete as recently seen in the Telengana issue. A popular blogger Offstumped too has described the current agitation as “misguided”. Offtumped writes,
There is no other blunt way to say this – Anna Hazare’s fast is misguided. A fast against corruption is as pointless as a fast against cancer. It has immense mass appeal as it builds on the twin emotions of anger and sympathy. But it is utterly inconsequential when put to the outcomes test.
Neither the Lokpal Bill nor the Janlokpal Bill will solve systemic issues that breed corruption. The premise that an Independent Ombudsman descending from heaven will deliver against corruption is fantasy.
… issue with this fast is the legitimacy it grants to interventions based on civil disobedience that attempt to short circuit the difficult task of fighting and winning elections, building public and political consensus for reforms and on following due process.
While I agree that the fast is somewhat misguided and narrow focussed, the fast and the agitation ais no less important. The main reason being the platform it gives to channelise the anger among the people against the corruption. The overwhelming support that common people of India have given to Anna’s fast shows the anger among people. There was no mass protest against the govt.’s involvement in scams even if almost every one in this country was visibly angry. While internet forums (most popular place in current times to have discussions on any topic) were flooded with people posting furious comments against the corruption, there was no visible reaction in the real world. Opposition’s actions were seen as political opportunism. The choler of people was settling down due to lack of any real form of crusade against the corruption. Lack of a mass leader was the reason behind lack of any movement against corruption.
While Hazare and his supporters are initially focussed on the Lokpal Bill, when more people join in and it becomes a true mass movement, people will decide the next course of action. As exemplified by the Egypt’s recent revolution, people can collectively take the leadership after initial sparks, Anna Hazare’s fast in this case. What has helped this movement is the way Hazare took the Prime Minister and senior politician Sharad Pawar head on. Hazare has accused PM of misleading people and also openly said that corrupt politicians like Pawar leading govt.’s committee against corruption shows the true face of govt.’s willingness to act against corruption. For people already disgusted with the govt.’s lip service against corruption, Hazare’s such direct accusations will sound like roar for a change making more aam admi joining the cause of fighting corruption.
The effectiveness of this movement lies in how this gets expanded in the future. Hazare’s fast must act as the initial spark (that is the importance of this ‘misguided’ fast) and then the people of India must lead the movement (a revolution by that time). If this movement gets expanded to a mass revolution against corruption, then, in all probability, this will be the Indian Jasmine revolution.