Hazare, Indian State and Civil Society

In Perspective on September 2, 2011 at 11:17 am

From: HardNews, August 31 2011

‘End justifies the means’ is a Brahmanical fallacy that must be discarded for the sake of logic itself. Fanaticism of all kinds needs to be shunned at all cost or else democracy may be endangered.

by Umakant

43 years, eight Lokpal Bills under seven Prime Minister and no consensus tells us a lot about the level of consciousness in our society on the need to fight corruption of several kinds. The current Lokpal Bill is the ninth attempt and quite interestingly three other versions have surfaced. Framing up a piece of legislation is the prime responsibility of the Government of the day and the Parliament. It is perhaps for the first time that social activists and other civil society leaders have presented their version of the Draft Bill and have been insisting that it should be accepted or else there could be serious consequences. There are several questions that need to be raised or perhaps clarified. Hazare has ended his ‘epic fast’ after high voltage political drama that was enacted by the UPA Government and the Bhartiya Janata Party in which other Members of Parliament belonging to different Political Parties also became co-partners in a consensus making exercise, but the ‘tamasha’ may continue in near future as Hazare himself said it is a half won battle!

Kisan Baburao Hazare​ alias Anna Hazare​’s fast and the Caste Hindu’s cacophonic support for him, which was fully backed up by the Corporate Sector (at least some if not all) is symptomatic of the malaise that afflict Indian society and polity. The excuse may be the need to fight for ending corruption, but the subtext and perhaps the hidden agenda seems to be much larger than what actually meets the eye. Calling politicians and the Government as traitors who have looted the country and instigating people not to tolerate the Government also tantamount to asking people to revolt and change the system perhaps through direct action and not through participation in the political process itself could be termed as quick fix solution to myriad problems that has been bestowed upon the country.

The quick fix solution has a potency to turn into full blown lawlessness and fascist in the longer run if situations do not improve as per the desired expectations. Let no one remain under an illusion that it is a non-political agitation that Hazare and his team have started. The politics of intolerance and hardening of stance to force the government of the day to accept their demand, euphoria, self glorification and mass frenzy that was created through a well crafted media manipulation which in itself is a dangerous sign that should force all the right thinking people to remain alert or else the country could slide into anarchy like situation. Self righteous, puritanical and at best a demagogue, that is how the Hazare phenomenon could be explained.

A society bereft of icons always looks into its past for an inspirational leader. Projecting Hazare as a “Second Gandhi” and his epic fast as “Second Freedom Struggle” fits into a kind of political game that disenchanted social elites like to play. Lampooning politicians and holding them responsible for the country’s ills is an escapist and passing the buck kind of arguments that is happily flaunted by the elites/caste Hindus of this country. Likening the Government of the day to ‘Baanjh’ (an infertile woman) who cannot understand labour pain of a pregnant woman, in the same way this Government also cannot understand the pain of the poor people, crosses all the limits of indecency that is not expected from a messiah. Branding all politicians as ‘Anpadh’ (illiterate) and ‘Ganwaar’ (rustic) by a Bollywood actor and slanderous slogans by the maddening crowd assembled at Ramlila ground were regular feature in the theatre of the absurd on play mode since August 16, 2011.

‘End justifies the means’ is a Brahmanical fallacy that must be discarded for the sake of logic itself. Fanaticism of all kinds needs to be shunned at all cost or else democracy may be endangered.

There was a tactical shift in the form of tokenism from the first round of agitation in April 2011 at Jantar Mantar to Ramlila ground in August 2011. The life size photograph of Bharat Mata (Mother India) was replaced by M.K.Gandhi’s huge photograph that formed the background at the stage on which Hazare continued with his fast at Ramlila ground. This tactical move was perhaps necessitated to make this agitation more broad-based and invite less criticism from those quarters who would otherwise feel uncomfortable with Mother India kind of communalist propaganda. Another notable change in the second phase of agitation was non-presence of RSS leaders like Ram Madhav at the protest venue, who was a regular visitor at Jantar Mantar agitation site.

This was also a part of strategic and tactical move by Hazare and his team to show that anti corruption agitation has nothing to do with communal organisations like RSS and is also not controlled by them. Hazare feels so much angry at being linked to RSS that he reacts by asking those people to be sent to mental asylum who dares to question him on this count. But the scene at Ramlila ground had its own story to tell. The day would usually start with singing of Bhajans, chanting of Gayatri Mantras, blowing of conch, performing yajna and pooja, all of which symbolises the stranglehold of Brahmanical religious practices. The tactical shift in the form of another tokenism was also visible on the day Hazare ended his fat at Ramlila ground on August 28, 2011. To stave off mounting criticism of being anti- Dalit and anti- Constitution, he mentioned Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the need for working well within the parameters set up by the Constitution.

The mishandling by the current UPA Government of the agitation started by Hazare and his team also demonstrated its arrogance as well as its callousness. Faced with embarrassing situation it tried to rope in Maratha caste leaders from Maharashtra to convince Hazare to get ready for negotiation with the Government. A model turned spiritual godman, Uday Singh Deshmukh aka Bhaiyyu Maharaj, who is alleged to have links with powerful Maratha politicians, education and builders mafia and also has received letter of appreciation from right wing politicians like Narendra Modi​, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Raj Thakre and others, offered his services to meet Hazare and broker peace between the two sides. And finally it was also Vilas Rao Deshmukh, the Union Minister and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, a Maratha by caste, had to be engaged to establish Government’s direct contact with Hazare, another Maratha by caste, and not through his deputies like Arvind Kejriwal​ or Kiran Bedi. Subsequent crisis resolution initiatives by the Government reflected its non-sincerity. This was clearly an example of abject surrender of a Government caught in a helpless situation.

It is quite disconcerting to note that in the debate on the need to fight corruption no mention is made about the caste system. Is caste system not the most corrupt institution? Has Kisan Baburao Hazare attacked caste system and termed it as the most corrupt system? It is no wonder then that Youth for Equality, Manuwadi Krantikari Morcha, Khap Panchayats and other groups and individuals with similar kinds of anti-reservation and anti Dalit attitudes have been enthusiastically participating in large numbers in protests organised under the banner of India against Corruption. There are questions that warrant answers on the issue of people’s mobilisation itself. Is majority always right? Even if we accept the fact that Hazare has managed to ignite the passion of a large chunk of India’s population, could we accept it at its face value? Do numbers always grant legitimacy? Playing with people’s sentiments may prove to be quite dangerous in the longer run if not checked at the earliest.

It also needs to be asked after all who are the stakeholders in this agitation for bringing strong Lokpal like institution to address corruption related issues. Do Dalits or for that matter OBCs, Women and even Minorities along with other disadvantaged sections of Indian society qualify to be a stakeholder in this process? Institutionalised impunity and lack of accountability have become a hallmark of our political and criminal justice administration system over the years. Instead of an all powerful and overriding Lokpal body, which could be prone to become a threat in the future for our body politic, we must force our Government at the Centre and also in the States in a peaceful, rational and democratic manner, to develop functional and effective institutions and service delivery mechanisms with adequate checks and balances. It must be acknowledged that laws do not operate in isolation, they certainly operate in a socio-cultural and religious milieu which is quite iniquitous and reactionary. It is a sad reality that corporate corruption which runs into billions of rupees is not on their agenda. It is astounding that voices asking for strong policy measures against corporate corruption still remain on the fringe. Is it not true that political democracy would always remain meaningless without moral, social and economic democracy? What more could we say now? “India is indeed incredible, but only in its paradoxes”!

The writer is an independent researcher and human rights advocate based in New Delhi.


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