IN­DIA

Anna Hazare will have to dis­tance him­self to­tally from the BJP and its lead­er­ship and for­mu­late a strat­egy that will en­hance the scope of his move­ment from just the Lok­pal Bill to a more com­pre­hen­sive and sub­stan­tive agenda.

Southasia - - Contents - By Seema Mustafa

Hazare’s anti-cor­rup­tion move­ment needs to re­visit its agenda.

There is a huge de­bate on in In­dia these days. Not on cor­rup­tion and how it can be tack­led but whether Anna Hazare, the age­ing Gand­hian who forced Par­lia­ment and the govern­ment to lis­ten to the voices of the streets, is independent or a sup­porter of the Hindu na­tion­al­ist RSS and whether he and his team are hon­est or have taken money from all sorts of du­bi­ous sources. The re­sult is that the govern­ment is sit­ting pretty amidst the chat­ter, hop­ing it will not have to strengthen the Lok­pal Bill (against cor­rup­tion) in any mean­ing­ful man­ner.

The UPA govern­ment through a se­ries of ill thought out steps cat­a­pulted Anna Hazare to the national, and in­deed in­ter­na­tional, stage. First he was tar­geted vi­ciously by Congress spokesper­sons. Then, he was de­nied per­mis­sion to sit on fast at a ground of his choice. Third, he was ar­rested in the early hours of the morn­ing and taken to Ti­har Jail in Delhi, hous­ing politi­cians ac­cused of cheat­ing the ex­che­quer of thou­sands of crores of ru­pees. A mur­mur of dis­gust and anger swept through In­dia, gath­er­ing deci­bels along the way. By the time Hazare was re­leased, In­di­ans across the coun­try had been gal­va­nized into ac­tion and even as large crowds gath­ered at Ramlila grounds await­ing his ar­rival, si­mul­ta­ne­ous protests broke out in all cities and smaller towns.

It was a wave of anger against the govern­ment and Hazare, at the age of 74 years, be­came a national hero. The crowds, poor and mid­dle class, thronged the Ramlila grounds day and night in sup­port, giv­ing him the sup­port to carry on. Par­lia­ment agreed to his de­mand, and held a spe­cial dis­cus­sion where the ‘sense of the House’ was in sup­port of a strong Lok­pal Bill, in­clu­sive of the salient fea­tures in Hazare’s Jan­Lok­pal Bill. There was cel­e­bra­tion in the Hazare camp, and he broke his fast the next morn­ing warn­ing that he and his team would keep a close vigil on the per­for­mance of the govern­ment and other po­lit­i­cal par­ties on this is­sue. Hazare had be­come Hazareji.

It is clear that the strug­gle is not over, and these few weeks are at best a much-needed re­prieve for the Move­ment against Cor­rup­tion. Congress sup­port­ers have been work­ing over­time to pil­lory Hazare, and brand him as a Hindu na­tion­al­ist. It is true that he has worked with the RSS in his vil­lage, and is def­i­nitely

not very lib­eral in his thought pro­cesses. At the same time he is not a com­mu­nal man, just some­one who has waged a war against cor­rup­tion for years with­out both­er­ing to think out the is­sue in all its di­men­sions. He will thus be far sharper in his at­tack on A. Raja (former Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter fac­ing cor­rup­tion charges on the 2G scam) than on Naren­dra Modi, the Gu­jarat Chief Min­is­ter who presided over the mas­sacre of thou­sands of Mus­lims and has still to be tried for it.

It is this last at­tribute that has si­lenced many in­tel­lec­tu­als and the more aware sec­tions of civil so­ci­ety who would have other­wise had no quar­rels with Anna Hazare. It is clear that given the piv­otal role he now has in national af­fairs, he and his team will have to for­mu­late a view on the im­por­tant is­sues of com­mu­nal­ism and casteism. Cor­rup­tion can­not only be fis­cal, it has a far wider par­a­digm and Anna Hazare will have to clear his thought pro­cesses on these is­sues. He can then fo­cus on fis­cal cor­rup­tion with a greater im­pact, and with a more in­clu­sive agenda that will have sub­stance and depth in­so­far as the poor and op­pressed of In­dia are con­cerned.

Cor­rup­tion has, no doubt, eaten into the vi­tals of so­ci­ety with bribes be­com­ing part of a sys­tem that re­fuses to func­tion with­out greas­ing its fists. The Jan Lok­pal Bill can an­swer only a small frac­tion of this cor­rup­tion, with the story as al­ways ly­ing in good, ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion. There is a dan­ger of the pro­posed Lok­pal be­com­ing a huge, wieldy, bu­reau­cratic struc­ture and thereby de­feat­ing the very pur­pose for which it was set up. That is if it comes into ex­is­tence at all, as there are pow­er­ful forces within the govern­ment and out­side op­pos­ing it. Be­sides, as one of those op­pos­ing the Bill said the other day, how many fasts can Hazare sit on?

For the mo­ment, how­ever, cor­rup­tion has come cen­tre stage and

As­pi­ra­tions are huge and Hazare just might not be able to fit the role to carry the move­ment for­ward in the same, sure man­ner. He will have to grow large feet and at the mo­ment his state­ments do not in­spire a great deal of con­fi­dence.

at govern­ment of­fices, clerks and of­fi­cers are find­ing it just that lit­tle bit more dif­fi­cult to ask for bribes. There is an aware­ness that by it­self cre­ates a level of ac­count­abil­ity that has not been seen on the is­sue of cor­rup­tion in In­dia for sev­eral long years now. Young peo­ple who formed a huge part of Hazare’s sup­port base are par­tic­u­larly vo­cal these days, and en­thused about the suc­cess of the move­ment.

But the as­pi­ra­tions are huge, and Hazare just might not be able to fit the role to carry the move­ment for­ward in the same, sure man­ner. He will have to grow large feet and at the mo­ment his state­ments do not in­spire a great deal of con­fi­dence. One would have ex­pected him and his team to have moved ahead, re­gard­less of the govern­ment’s ef­forts to mire them in petty lit­tle con­tro­ver­sies, and to start pre­par­ing and speak­ing of the next phase. Un­for­tu­nately, Anna Hazare him­self has been hurl­ing abuses at the Min­is­ters that does not dig­nify the move­ment, and while the peo­ple have cer­tainly given him the space to speak his mind, he must en­sure that this is en­larged not re­duced.

To start with he will have to speak less, to dis­tance him­self to­tally from the BJP and its lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing Gu­jarat’s Naren­dra Modi whom he had praised at one point, and for­mu­late a strat­egy that will en­hance the scope of his move­ment from just the Lok­pal Bill to a more com­pre­hen­sive and sub­stan­tive agenda. Anna Hazare must pub­licly em­brace sec­u­lar­ism, as while this is not in his di­rect sights at the mo­ment, he and his team must surely know that cor­rup­tion can­not be fought suc­cess­fully with­out sec­u­lar­ism. The two are to­tally in­ter­linked.

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