Lok Pal Bill : An Alternate View – A 2 part video of the NCPRI Press Conference of 20 August 2011 at Press Club of India, New Delhi
ncpri press conf part 1
ncpri press conf part 2
Lok Pal Bill : An Alternate View – A 2 part video of the NCPRI Press Conference of 20 August 2011 at Press Club of India, New Delhi
ncpri press conf part 1
ncpri press conf part 2
BJP’s Team B
The mask is off. Team Anna and his lieutenants are batting for the BJP
by Dhirendra K Jha
On 30 October last year, when Mohan Bhagwat claimed that Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement was actually supported by the RSS, the remark conveyed palpable nervousness and attracted criticism from Team Anna. Three months later, as Team Anna launches its voters’ awareness campaign in UP, there is not even an attempt to keep its secular mask intact.
The mask, in fact, fell off at the very first stop that Team Anna made in the state to remind prospective voters of their duties in the upcoming Assembly polls. It happened on 2 February at Fatehpur subdivision of Barabanki district, the spot that marked the beginning of the voters’ awareness campaign in the state by the lieutenants of Anna Hazare, and repeated itself through much of the first leg—four rallies, the last on the evening of 3 February at Basti—of Team Anna’s campaign. Kiran Bedi led Team Anna through this leg of the campaign, and the dais was set directly, in three out of four places, by the RSS.
To begin with, the public meeting at Fatehpur was a typical RSS show. Rakesh Kumar Premil, the man who led the local group organising the entire event, has been a prominent member of the local unit of the Sangh Parivar. “Hindus must be aroused to fight against corruption,” he told Open. Premil is known in Fatehpur for his aggressive Hindutva ideology. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was president of the Shiv Sena’s Fatehpur unit. Later, he formed an NGO, Manav Utkarsha Sewa Sansthan, and started working under this banner. The banners of this NGO were prominent at the Mahadev Talab ground, where Kiran Bedi, Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh, Gopal Rai and some other members of Team Anna addressed their first public meeting. Ably assisting Premil was Ram Kumar Yadav, a local quack who is also the president of the Fatehpur unit of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the farmers’ wing of the RSS.
According to Premil, about 50 volunteers from outfits like the Manav Utkarsha Sewa Sansthan, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh and Rashtra Bhakta Vichar Manch, with known if not professed leanings towards the RSS, worked day and night for almost a week to make this event a success. Some of the volunteers, who had come all the way from Agra, belonged to Jai Kali Kalyan Samiti, another NGO with professed Hindutva leanings. No less significant was the role played by teachers and students—they were present in numbers to swell the crowds—of various branches of Saraswati Shishu Mandir, schools run directly by the RSS in and around Fatehpur, as well as those controlled by Sangh sympathisers, including Sai Usha Montessori High School, Glorious Public School and Rabindranath Tagore Senior Secondary School.
If the RSS set the stage at Fatehpur and gathered the crowds, the speakers of Team Anna did the rest. Though members of the Team asserted that they had not come to tell voters who they should vote for, their categorical attack on “corruption” in the Congress, “criminalisation” of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and “misgovernance” by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and high praise for the BJP government in Uttarakhand for bringing in a “really strong Lokayukta Bill” in the state left no doubt in the minds of listeners who they were being asked to vote to the new UP Assembly.
Also, while members of Team Anna spoke, their volunteers distributed a leaflet—containing a 13-point ‘letter of oath’—to prospective voters. The ‘letter’ is an exhortation to the electorate to obtain 13 pledges from the contesting candidate before committing their vote. The first pledge in the ‘letter of oath’, quoting Swami Vivekanand, invokes an idea of India that today only the RSS will endorse: ‘…that I am a citizen of India and every citizen is my brother. Indians are my life and Indian gods and goddesses my divinities. India and its society are the swing of my childhood, the garden of my youth, my sacred heaven and the Kashi of my old age. The soil of India is my highest heaven. My welfare lies in the welfare of India. And this whole life I will chant, day and night—O, Gaurinath, O, Jagdambe, make me more humane and take away my weaknesses and unmanliness.’ It is inconceivable for a non-Hindu to take this oath.
The remaining 12 points in the ‘letter of oath’ are no less absurd, if not so religiously charged. They prod voters to obtain a commitment from contesting candidates that they would never sit in an AC room and remove ACs from their residences, that they would never travel in a luxury car but always in hooded jeeps, that they would never keep a driver and would drive their jeeps themselves—and, surprise, surprise, would always support the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill. There are many other points in this one-page ‘letter of oath’ that point to a simple thing—the anti-corruption agitation of Anna Hazare has gone nuts.
It was hard to miss the farce at Fatehpur. Nearly half the 2,000-odd present at the Mahadev Talab ground were children, most of them from local Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, who had come in their school uniforms and are clearly not yet eligible to vote. When Kiran Bedi, speaking after other members of Team Anna had delivered their speeches, asked “voters” in the crowd to raise their hands, the ones that shot up instantaneously belonged to schoolchildren. Those who might be eligible to vote didn’t even get Bedi’s instructions immediately, and by the time they realised this, it had become too awkward to obey. Bedi, apparently unfazed by all this, went on: “See, how voters are responding to Anna’s call. Now all of you stand up and swear with me that we will never vote for the corrupt.” This time nearly everyone responded, but the schoolkids were again the most eager.
That was the first voters’ awareness rally of Team Anna, which left Fatehpur as soon as Kiran Bedi had finished her monologue around 2.30 pm on 2 February. The next destination was Gonda, about 140 km away from Fatehpur. Here the meeting began at 4 pm at the Ramlila Maidan in the heart of town, though the cavalcade of Team Anna reached slightly behind schedule. The farce was repeated here too. So was the silent message, though members of Team Anna continued to maintain that they were not foisting a political choice on prospective voters. As in Fatehpur, the organisers of the event at Gonda too had among them a generous peppering of the Hindutva brigade. The chief organiser of Team Anna’s voters’ awareness rally at Gonda, Dr Dilip Shukla, is a known RSS face in the area. Once again, the lieutenants of Anna Hazare set about their task in earnest—ripping apart Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Digvijaya Singh and many others, besides SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP leader Mayawati. Once again they maintained a calculated silence vis-à-vis the saffron party. When they spoke of the BJP, they didn’t fail to mention the “strong” Lokayukta Bill brought in by the BJP government in Uttara khand. And as they concluded the meeting, once again, they left no doubt in the minds of those present who Team Anna would have them vote for.
By the time they reached the Gulab Bari ground at Faizabad, around 1 pm on 3 February, Team Anna’s language had acquired the subtlest change in inflection. Here, they started off with the need to change the present system so that farmers, labourers and the unemployed could get their due, before returning to the familiar theme of bashing every other party save the BJP. Praise for the Uttarakhand BJP government’s “strong” Lokayukta bill was now a little subdued; there was mild criticism too of the party’s UP state unit for not yet promising voters that they would follow Uttarakhand’s example. But only the envelope had changed, the message hadn’t—by the time the Faizabad leg concluded, Team Anna had left voters here in no doubt which way they leant. ‘Don’t vote for the BJP till it promises you a strong Lokayukta in your state’ was another way of saying ‘vote the BJP if it does’.
The reasons for Team Anna’s restraint in Faizabad are not hard to figure. Unlike in their previous stops at Fatehpur and Gonda, the rally at Faizabad was organised mainly by those who have for long been associated with the Left and Dalit politics in the region—names like Gopal Krishna Verma, who led the group that organised the rally at Faizabad, and team members Arvind Murty, Nitin Kumar Mishra and Vinod Singh, among others. The presence on the dais of Tariq Sayeed—a senior member of the local intelligentsia and head of the Urdu department of KS Saket PG College, Ayodhya—who presided over the public meeting at Faizabad, may have been a deterrent for members of Team Anna and forced them to be less deferential to the BJP than in the previous two meetings.
Their restraint notwithstanding, most members of Team Anna were silent on the threat of communalism. Only one of them, Mufti Shamoom Kazmi, underlined the need to fight communal politics. “Ayodhya means the place where no one fights, but some politicians of a particular party have tried to damage Hindu-Muslim unity in the name of religion. We must not forget that we can fight against corruption only if we remain one irrespective of our religious identities.”
Here, too, Kiran Bedi created a flutter on the dais when she elbowed out stage manager Arvind Murty, who wanted to call speakers to the mike in a prearranged order. Bedi had ideas of her own, and when she grabbed the mike, Murty left the dais in a huff. She proceeded to hold forth for half an hour, and by the time former MP Ilyas Azmi, who was supposed to speak before her, began his address, the crowd had begun to recede.
In Basti a few hours later, the last stop of the first leg of the campaign, the Anna anthem had been restored to its original fervour. Gone was the aberrant restraint of Faizabad, most apparent in the speeches of Bedi and Sisodia. Only three speakers of Team Anna—Sanjay Singh, Manish Sisodia and Kiran Bedi—spoke here, and the meeting was wrapped up in less than an hour because some of the Team’s leading lights had to catch a train to Delhi. “Rahul Gandhi says UP has been looted for the past 21 years. He says if you give him a chance, he will change the state in the next five years. Fact is, the Congress is in pain because it has not been able to loot UP for the past 21 years. That’s what they want to do now.” That was Sisodia. Bedi made a shorter speech here (remember she had a train to catch), signing off with the now familiar reference to the BJP government in Uttarakhand and its “strong” Lokayukta Bill.
As for the organisers of the rally at Basti, the presence of the Sangh Parivar was even more obvious here. Harishchandra Pratab Singh, an advocate and a key figure in the local committee, has been district convenor of the Shri Rama Janmabhoomi Mukti Sewa Samiti formed in the late 1980s and was one of the leaders of its karsewak wing. He is a well-known Hindutva face in the district.
Even the four-page message of Anna Hazare, distributed at all four stops, has a clear pro-BJP bias. Anna’s message is a litany of charges, framed as questions for Rahul Gandhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati. For the sake of form, the tail-end of the message has some questions for the BJP too, but they sound more like exhortations to repeat what Team Anna sees as the party’s stellar performance in Uttarakhand. There’s not a mention, for example, of the corruption of the BJP government in Karnataka, nor its communal record in Gujarat. So, while the pamphlet names P Chidambaram and Mulayam Singh and Mayawati, it bestows no such honour on former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa or Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
When Anna Hazare sat on his first indefinite fast at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar in April last year, his proximity to the Sangh Parivar was on show. Hindutva symbols were a feature of the stage decor. Understandably, it drew flak from people then close to the movement but not similarly inclined politically. When it still seemed important to take these people along, as in Anna’s next show at the Ramlila Maidan, his lieutenants tried to play down this association—Gandhi had now replaced ‘Bharat Mata’ as stage backdrop. In UP, Anna and his henchmen were back to home base. In the days to come, as the political battle rages in the state, Kiran Bedi and her cohorts may continue to make a great deal of sound and fury. But it won’t amount to much except this: Team Anna’s transformation into Team B of the BJP is complete.
The Megalomania called Team Anna
by Amit Sengupta
It’s time to dump Anna and his Sancho Panzas into the garbage can of history
The irony is that if the Lokpal bill drafted by Team Anna is accepted in toto, even then they will find some stupid detail to oppose it lock, stock and barrel. They will find some other technical reason to flex their muscles. They have become addicted to this aggressive posturing in front of television cameras which love them. The corporate driven TV channels love them because this Lokpal Bill is stunningly status quoist. It promises change but this change is a farce; it is a recipe for yet another huge monster of a bureaucracy and police system which will be equally oppressive. It does not touch the poorest of the poor, the landless, homeless, exiled, marginalised people of this country. It has nothing to do with the countless struggles against displacement at the margins for basic survival against big corporates backed by the mighty Indian State. Besides, it blocks all radical movements for authentic social and political change, especially against the fat cats of the new economy.
Hence, everyone is happy: the upwardly mobile urban classes (beneficiaries of neo-liberalism – untouched by corruption?), the upwardly mobile media backed by the corporates, the upwardly mobile corporates, backed by the politicos, and of course, the upwardly mobile Team Anna, backed by miscellaneous and dubious big funders and sundry NGOs with deep pockets. You can see this fantastic, parasitic symbiosis every moment of this ghastly public spectacle. The daily farce which follows the ritualistic nightmare.
When small timers with shallow visions and transparent political opportunism, turn megalomaniacs, and the TV channels love it, the entire country has to suffer their bouts of hysterical, low brow, morbid melodrama. This is because, as many observers believe, beyond the belligerent, dogmatic and arrogant posturing, the one-dimensional agenda is fascist and negative, driven by sinister political forces working on a Rightwing Hindutva putsch; propelled by corporate, World Bank and Ford Foundation lobbies to delegitimise radical struggles and legitimise the NGOisation of Indian politics in the name of good governance.
Consider the fact that for this motley bunch of aggressive and self righteous publicity seekers, who are obsessively on television doing ritualistic press conferences (cut the TV off, and their movement is over and gone!), there is no big picture agenda stalking the fragmented, in-egalitarian, unhappy Indian landscape other than the Lokpal. The Lokpal itself is definitely draconian, a Stalinist piece of totalitarian super structure, with yet another manufactured Frankenstein’s monster of a gigantic Kafkaesque bureaucracy, reflecting no progressive social transformation of Indian society, administration, or politics. Besides, this obsession with corruption has a skewed schizophrenic compulsive disorder. As if, it is a neutral category, untouched by all the inherited contradictions of contemporary society, outside the angst and anger of the invisible Indian terrain.
Not even the bitter cold which hits the poor the most touches these Lokpal loyalists. Not the cold wave deaths of the poor, undernourished and homeless. Not even the death of so many people in the AMRI hospital hell fire, could touch their obsessed souls – not a word of condolence seems to have been uttered in that grand Jantar Mantar show soon after. Tens of thousands of farmers have committed suicide, millions of children are malnourished and suffering, 78 per cent people of India live on Rs 28 a day, the public distribution system is in shambles while food grain and potatoes rot on the streets, even while thousands of homeless survive and die on the streets of frozen Delhi – but nothing touches the chords of compassion or feeling of these high moral ground Lokpal lovers.
CPI leader Abhay Sahoo is once again in jail for almost a month – last time he was in jail for two years – but not a whimper of protest can be heard from the Hazare camp. They just don’t care. It’s not in their mental horizons. The anti-Posco agitators have been bulldozed by private militias with guns and bombs, emaciated children and women have spread themselves on the ground against the siege by paramilitary forces, big industrial and multinational lobbies have manipulated the Orissa government to buy off huge tracts of beautiful, fertile, forest land with water bodies and streams, destroying habitat and homes, but Team Anna is least bothered. All they want is Lokpal.
Relentless struggles and fasts by thousands first at Jaitapur and then at Koodankulam against nuclear reactors makes no sense to them, they care two hoots. Because, if they sit on even a one day 10 to 5 farce of a fast, 200 cameras are chasing them 24×7. Nor do they care two hoots for the starvation deaths, the jobless on the streets, the struggles against bauxite mining in Kashipur and Niyamgiri (with Vedanta, still looking for this treasure island), or the struggles of thousands of forest workers and forest people for their indigenous rights.
Dark irony, Team Anna loyalist Medha Patkar was refused permission in Jantar Mantar one day before Team Anna hosted the grand TV public spectacle. She and others were wanting to protest against the AFSPA in solidarity with Irom Sharmila, after one decade plus of indefinite fast – unlike the short and sweet (like glucose? Or, is it electrol?) Anna Hazare fasts, his healthy, prosperous paunch not growing any lesser in inches. Medha should know the irony. She had overnight become the blind follower of Hazare, lured by the crowds and TV cameras, proud to be called part of Team Anna, dumping the great legacy of the 25 year-old struggle and satyagraha of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. She should know. Not one word in solidarity was uttered in Jantar Mantar either for her or Irom Sharmila. Not one word of protest. Team Anna eats, sleeps, threatens only Lokpal.
Next week, at least six thousand tribals and forest people from all over remote parts of India marched from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar in Delhi. They protested on the streets. They held a day long discourse at Mavlankar Hall in Delhi discussing the minutest details of local issues and the Forest Rights Act, and how it is not being implemented, and how their voices are not recognised by the establishment. Not one word was reported in any of the media channels. The papers largely ignored them. The media reports only Lokpal and Team Anna’s rhetoric. This is journalism par excellence.
The fact is, obsessed with this status quoist, Kafkaesque Lokpal movement of Team Anna, the media has yet again completely and continuously obliterated all the marginalised struggles and contradictions of grassroots India, often led by the poorest of the poor, or tribals in remote forests. For instance, the torture and brutalisation of Soni Sori by the Chhattisgarh police has been totally ignored by the media.
The Hazare camp has never cared one bit for mass human rights violations, anyway, as in the Gujarat genocide, or the fake encounters by Narendra Modi’s notorious, communalised police. They have not been ever, or now, part of the difficult secular struggle against the fascists who led the Gujarat genocide. You will not hear them say one word against the mass murders of 2002; it is outside their consciousness. It does not touch them.
Great sacrifices all over India, hard, protracted grassroots struggles, police repression, atrocities by goons of corporates, long campaigns, repeated fasts, arrests, prison terms – nothing touches this media empire and this big funded NGOs led by Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, with the able help of the super rich family kingdom of lawyers with huge assets and properties. Indeed, that is why, Kejriwal and Bedi have no qualms in taking support of millionaire film stars and businessmen (are they all clean?). They find nothing wrong in accepting funds from the likes of Vedanta, blacklisted in several countries, as a notorious mining mafia. So what’s wrong in taking money from sundry corporates, Ford Foundation, rich businessmen, film stars — even if they have a sinister agenda? For a corporate driven media, run by the logic of profit and big capital, this is a made for each other instant therapy. That is why they are so compulsively obsessed with each other.
Besides, the last time, the RSS came out in solid support of the Lokpal movement, in thousands. They were all over Ramlila Ground and other points across the country, surely, marching along with all those who were disgusted with the corrupt and disgusted regime of UPA II. ABVP, the Sangh Parivar’s students’ group was actively involved. The RSS and VHP top leadership testified to this ‘invisible’ politics – the point was to destablise the Congress-led government at any cost. Hardnewsreported with evidence from ground zero on a sustained basis on the prominent RSS role in the movement. This was proved in the days which followed also.
Predictably, as we can see now, and as was witnessed then, there was not one slogan shouted against Narendra Modi, or the corrupt BJP symbols of Yeddyurappa, the Bellary mining mafia, or Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank. In fact, the show began with established RSS slogans and songs at Jantar Mantar.
The partisan politics in Hissar, whereby Team Anna had no qualms in backing other corrupt and notorious candidates just to defeat the Congress, is going to be reproduced across the country. This is a clear indication that Anna Hazare is unilaterally a closet RSS and Hindutva protagonist, by hook or crook. His limited and shallow world-view, his sinister body language, his aggressive posturing and low level, street level language, his muscle flexing, his constant threats, his myopic vision and lack of education and refinement, everything suggests a ready made product from the fascist school of thought. Hang the corrupt in a public square, he will say. Flog the drunkards, he will say. Picket outside Sonia and Rahul Gandhi’s house, he will say. His entire world has become a world of threats. With the media lapping it up. They love this fascist. More morbid the better.
His every gesture reflects a complete negation of Gandhian values or ethics. His love for the poor is a farce. He is a feudal status quoist with unfulfilled militaristic instincts. He is a small timer fascist who has become a TV icon in a realm of a totally mediocre and partisan media looking for quick fix solutions, thoroughly compromised in terms of absence of journalistic ethics or values. Indeed, he is nothing but a street smart politician, with crude native cunning, working at the behest of sinister forces, covertly and overtly, without a tangible ideology, a sense of history, a knowledge system or political vision.
Gandhi would have laughed at him. Indeed, instead of glorifying him, he should be dumped into the garbage can of history. Along with the entire reactionary, publicity seeking Megalomania called Team Anna.