0-----0

Posts Tagged ‘Hindutva’

RSS and BJP using Hazare movement as a new vehicle for undermining democratic institutions

In Commentary on December 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm

From: tehelka.com, 21 December 2011

Ramped up, yet no harbinger

Ram Puniyani examines RSS and its tenets of Hindutva that have found a new shoulder

THIS DECEMBER, the Babri demolition anniversary completed 19 years. On the occasion, many Muslim groups demanded the reconstruction of the masjid, a demand which is just, but mired in complex legalities as it involves diverse players. Once again it calls for the redefinition of Hindutva, which is not a religion of Hindus – Hinduism is. Hindutva is the politics of RSS; it is politics with sectarian vision. This is the vision of the affluent upper caste-elite aiming to abolish democracy. Their aim is to bring in a nation on the basis of a Hindu religion where the upper crust of society can rule as per the norms prevalent in the feudal society. The birth based hierarchy is presented as a glorious tradition in modern form and language. Babri Masjid was not just the demolition of a national monument; it was also the beginning of a phase of politics where the communal undercurrents of Indian politics surfaced amid the political scenario in the country. It was a signal for minority violence. It was a blatant insult for what the Indian Constitution stands for. It was also the first major step for communal parties that allowed them to occupy the seats of power at the Centre.

After the initial sacking of the BJP-ruled states, the polarisation caused by demolition and post-demolition violence rose to frightening levels. The communalised BJP that until then was at the margins of the political structure came to the fore as a major Opposition party. Its parent organisation, the real controller of Hindutva politics, RSS, started becoming more respectable and social thinking was further vitiated with the bias against minorities.

In due course of time, the other minority, the Christians were also brought under the firing range of the communalists. It led to the ghastly burning of Pastor Graham Staines, which was followed up by more attacks on Christian missionaries working in adivasi areas. All this culminated in the horrific Kandhamal carnage.

For the first time the BJP, inherently committed to the anti-democratic notion of Hindu Rashtra, came to power at the Centre in 1996, even as other parties initially refused to ally with it to share the spoils of power. But that changed soon enough, and other political parties, obsessed with power opportunism shared power with those accused of the Babri demolition. The coming to power of BJP at the Centre opened the floodgates of the political space. Soon enough, parties under the aegis of RSS, like the VHP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram received encouragement. The state apparatus and police bureaucracy were further communalised. Education was communalised with a hint faith-based promotion, and at the cost of scientific temper and rational thought.

The success of RSS propaganda is not that it targets the minorities. Its bigger success lies in instilling fear in the mind of the majority, of the threat that minority creates. There is a ripple effect of this process and then a section of ‘middle of the road elements’ also start turning over to support the Hindutva parties. Karnataka opened the floodgates of BJP for its entry into South.

The Babri demolition led to multiple processes; denial of justice to victims of violence became structural, and the minorities started being relegated to second class citizenship. The demonisation of minorities has gone to extremely bad levels. This process of demonisation of Muslim minorities later started being created around the issue related to terrorism. US media coined the word Islamic terrorism, and the politics for control over oil resources was taken to absurd ideological manipulation and a religion and a religious community were subjected to immense profiling. In India too, the propaganda against Muslims was taken to worse levels with the global phenomenon of terror, falsely and cleverly attributed to teachings of Islam.

NOW, RSS-BJP politics is entering the new phase. Having reached the acme of anti-minority polarisation, it has found the Hazare movement as the new vehicle for its politics of undermining democratic institutions to bring in a parallel authoritarian structure where the Lokpal plays the big brother. Though this sounds innocuous and is presented as a step to solve the problems, this is likely to create a new institution beyond the control of democratic norms. A few people and groups who are calling the shots and asserting that they are ‘The People’, ‘Anna is above parliament’, will rule through various proxies. This Hazare movement has polarised the social layers according to those who look at either identity issues (Ram Temple) or symptomatic issues (corruption) as the major issues while undermining the problems of Dalits, minorities and other deprived sections of society. Identity issues or matters focussed around symptoms, which are meant to preserve the status quo of political dynamics, is what politics in the name of religion desires.

Since the Ram Temple appeal is fading, those for sociopolitical status quo have jumped on the anti-corruption bandwagon. This is a shrewd move. Marginalised sections feel left out from ‘I am Anna’, ‘We are the People’ type of assertions, the message is that only ‘shining India’ will have say in the shaping of a nation, while the deprived India, will be permanently on the margins.

In a sense, the RSS-Hindutva politics is constantly changing its strategies to communalise, polarise the society and to distract social attention from core issues. While initially, the rath yatras and communal violence played their role in polarising the nation along religious lines, now the issue of corruption is being used to further strengthen the hold of politics aimed at retaining social inequalities.

Ram Puniyani is a communal harmony activist based in Mumbai

What is the Real Goal of the Anna Movement? (Rohini Hensman)

In Perspective on November 7, 2011 at 7:29 pm

From: sacw.net – 7 November 2011

by Rohini Hensman

Many people including members of Team Anna have expressed reservations about the way in which their campaign has been developing, and some have even resigned. This raises questions about the real aim of the leadership around Anna. Is it really what it is proclaimed to be?
[. . .]

FULL TEXT AT: http://www.sacw.net/article2373.html

Anna is the icon of banal Hindutva (Jyotirmaya Sharma)

In Commentary on October 18, 2011 at 5:57 am

From: Mail Today,17 October 2011

Anna is the icon of banal Hindutva

by Jyotirmaya Sharma

The ethical compass of his followers is skewed

DOES ANNA Hazare have an ideology? Despite the surfeit of emotion that Hazare generates, this is a legitimate question that ought to be asked, understood and answered. That he is no democrat in the sense the word ‘ democracy’ is normally understood is a foregone conclusion, something that even his most vocal admirers would admit. He brings to debate and discussion the rigour and predictability of a military drill. His model of rule, governance and statecraft is that of undiluted paternalism, something even his secret admirers would admit.

That he is medieval in his outlook, one who would like people who he doesn’t like to be flogged in public, hanged in public and humiliated in public, is no great secret waiting to reveal itself. His world is a simple world that divides people into friends and foes and proceeds to pass moral strictures against his foes.

Character

Neither is he too bright: calling actions evil can be polarising, but he calls people evil which is polemical and arrogant.

He does not have the mental facility to focus on actions rather than the agents of such action. He feels he has neither the capacity for error nor the capacity for self- deception. For him, rhetoric is a substitute for explanation and not a demand for explanation.

Hazare doesn’t think twice before abusing words like ‘ evil’ and ‘ corruption’. The excessive use of the words stifles thinking rather than promoting it.

By demonising the idea of corruption, he has managed to externalise the idea altogether as something other people do. And by other people, he simply means those who do not agree with him or do not attend his rallies. The poison of his rhetoric poisons our lives; it undermines our trust in people and institutions and robs us of our freedom to debate and dissent. He is a non- violent terrorist: he does not bother about collateral damage in carrying out his mission.

Having said all this, the question still remains whether Hazare belongs to the Hindutva camp. Notwithstanding Digvijaya Singh’s relentless rhetoric on this question, or Mohan Bhagwat’s open avowal of support, or Hazare’s own disagreement with Prashant Bhushan on the Kashmir issue, the question of Hazare’s seeming affinity with the Sangh Parivar needs careful analysis. One doesn’t have to belong to the RSS or the VHP or the Bajarang Dal or the BJP to be formally part of the Sangh Parivar.

Analysts have often categorised Hindutva into ‘ hard’ and ‘ soft’ varieties. It is, therefore, important to understand that there are people who have formal allegiance to Hindutva as represented by institutions and organisations mentioned above, but there are those who might vote for the BJP not because of an ideological position that they take but because of resentment towards a particular party or dispensation.

Going beyond the categories of ‘ hard’ and ‘ soft’ Hindutva, there is a third, and as yet not discussed, category of Hindutva.

This is ‘ banal Hindutva’. Its features are a love for abstractions rather than action, self- righteousness over self- improvement, inflamed nationalism, easy judgement, moral sanctimoniousness over moral understanding and a gnawing sense of inferiority and victimhood.

Type

It manifests in the form of the person who regularly violates traffic lights, spits in public places, raves and rants about the state of education in India and then sends his children abroad, speeds in his car as if there was no tomorrow and yet complains of the fast life in the West, bribes his way through in life but gets tearful when Vande Mataram is sung.

This sort of person does not have the application or the courage to question seriously the status quo, nor does he have the tenaciousness required to join a political party and work for a cause or an ideology.

He wants a comfortable existence, dislikes disorder of any kind, finds dissent and debate in his own circles to be a waste of time, and is happy to fit several air conditioners in his own home while signing petitions to save the ozone layer.

He is a misogynist at home but a serious champion of 33 per cent seats for women in Parliament.

He relentlessly speaks of India’s great Hindu traditions but knows no more than what he gleaned from Amar Chitra Katha comics. He swears by Hindu tolerance yet makes no effort to have a Muslim or a Christian friend; more so, he secretly detests them.

Being afflicted by this moral and ethical schizophrenia, he hides behind the rhetoric of the eternal Hindu civilisation, the dream of making India, which for him means Hindu India, an economic and military superpower, being the number one side in cricket and tracing the origins of all things good and noble to India. If confronted with questions of violence, cruelty and hypocrisy in India, he blames it on Western education, Christian missionaries, the Taliban, Pakistan, America, the rise in population, democracy, the Left and the intellectuals.

Hazare is the leader of ‘ banal Hindutva’.

He has no moral centre and his scruples are his misunderstandings. He typically is the kind of person described so eloquently by Hannah Arendt in her account of Eichmann’s trial: the pathetic, selfserving individual, who attains to a position of power and influence by accident.

Fallout

He is not demonic but just spectacularly mediocre. And he attracts a sizable number of those who are either his kind, or, if they are not necessarily mediocre, are just plainly opportunists, who find a state of political and moral anarchy convenient for their own ends. He is attractive because he does not challenge anyone intellectually or morally. All he asks anyone is to bask in his moral superiority.

Like Krishna asking Arjuna to suspend everything and come unto him, Hazare too wants us to suspend judgement and follow him.

Will ‘ banal Hindutva’ replace the more formal versions of the Hindu nationalist ideology? The answer is that it is unlikely.

What Hazare is knowingly or unknowingly doing is to become the informal recruitment centre for the harder versions of Hindutva. By making ‘ banal Hindutva’ honourable, Hazare has begun the process of making the harder versions of Hindutva more acceptable and legitimate.

The collateral damage, as stated earlier, will be Indian democracy. But does he care?

The writer is professor of politics at University of Hyderabad

WRITE TO THE EDITOR letters@mailtoday.in or editorsoffice@mailtoday.in

What Anna Hazare's new plans mean for democracy (Yogi Sikand)

In Perspective on August 29, 2011 at 7:02 pm

From: Rediff.com, August 29, 2011 16:06 IST

That the political philosophy of Anna Hazare closely resonates with the overall anti-democratic Hindutva ethos owes, in part, to the Brahminical worldview that they share, says Yogi Sikand

Much to almost everyone else’s relief, Anna Hazare has finally called off his fast. However, he has now announced that his struggle for the Jan Lokpal was just a precursor to more campaigns which he soon plans to launch, including to change the country’s electoral laws and education system.

What drastic changes in these sectors he proposes remain to be seen, but they would obviously be entirely in keeping with the man’s overall political philosophy. Little has been written about that philosophy, however, although sections of the Indian media have been aggressively promoting Hazare as the next MK Gandhi, and even as the ‘voice of India’.

Probably the best way to understand Anna Hazare’s political vision is through an examination of his experiments in seeking to transform his home village of Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra. Some months ago, noted activist Mukul Sharma penned a detailed article in the popular web-magazine kafila.org wherein he described in detail Hazare’s methods and approach to village development. The article was based on Sharma’s years of field research in Hazare’s ‘model village’.

Although Sharma concedes that under Hazare’s leadership the village has witnessed considerable economic development and has done wonders in protecting the environment, he notes that this was made possible through a system of moral enforcement that is deeply authoritarian — some would even call it dictatorial. Though Hazare was able to use his charismatic authority to bring about noticeable economic and environmental changes, his methods and approach appear deeply problematic from the point of view of democracy, liberty and equality. Sharma notes that Hazare ‘holds absolute power and command in his village’. And that power, he explains, does not hesitate to employ ‘coercion and possibly suppression’, if moral suasion does not suffice, in order to have its objectives fulfilled.

Hazare, Sharma writes, likens this power to a mother who is (supposedly) entitled to slap her child, for his own good, when he makes a mistake, and whose right to do so is unquestionable. Thus, force is seen as ‘an integral part of an environmentally sound and socially harmonious society’. In Ralegan Siddhi, Anna Hazare, so Sharma tells us, has resorted to such force for what are widely perceived as noble purposes. Sharma speaks about villagers consuming liquor being tied to a pole in front of the village temple and flogged; of a Dalit denizen of the village being scolded by Anna Hazare and apologising to him for installing a dish antenna in his house and watching cable television; and of others being forced to adopt family planning.

Yet, the principle itself is deeply problematic, for others can easily use it as a cover-up for a fascist dictatorship that arrogates to itself the right to choose what is good for others. For the historically oppressed castes, Sharma notes, this forced acquiescence ‘can be highly Brahminical and hegemonic’. Thus, Anna and his men drove — Sharma here speaks of ‘constant hammering’ — the Dalits of the village to give up non-vegetarianism, which they castigated as ‘dirty’.

Sharma further elaborates on the political philosophy that characterises the relationship between Hazare, as the arch-typical village patriarch, and the denizens of Ralegan Siddhi, his devoted followers. This relationship is based, Sharma says, on a belief system where the latter ‘consider it their natural duty to obey, and the exercising person thinks it a natural right to rule’. Needless to say, this conduces to hero worship and blind following, for whatever the leader says. Needless to say, a fascist would find this logic eminently suitable.

Military metaphors are deployed to characterise this relationship between what can be regarded as a benevolent dictator and the masses. Sharma quotes a former village sarpanch as declaring: ‘Whatever Anna says, we do. The whole village follows his words. Anna’s orders work like the army.’ Others go so far as to elevate Anna Hazare to divine status, whose every word is thought to be absolute and binding, and in the face of which no dissent can be conceived. Thus, Sharma quotes another denizen of Hazare’s village as saying, ‘Annaji is like God. Whatever work he will assign, I will fulfill. Annaji has become my nature, my habit. He is my heart.’

Fascist paternalism is based on the notion of the infallible leader, who is attributed with supposedly divine or infinitely superior wisdom and foresight and is thought to know the best for his people. Accordingly, his word is the unquestionable law. ‘Unity’ under the ‘benevolent, all-powerful’ leader is constantly stressed, even through the use of force, if necessary. Everyone must unite and commit themselves to implement the leader’s will, for this is said to be for their own good. ‘Unity’, compelled and privileged in this way, brooks no dissent.

Uncanny shades of this are clearly evident in Sharma’s description of the Ralegan Siddhi experiment, where he notes the enormous stress on ‘a common will, an all-pervasive concept of unity’, which ‘can be created through logic and/or coercion’.

A crucial political implication of this stress on village ‘unity’ under Hazare’s leadership is the dismissal of the worth of electoral democracy, through which competing interest groups and factions jostle with each other for power. Thus, Sharma notes, in most of the villages under Anna Hazare-inspired programmes, ‘elections are not welcomed’. There have been no elections to the gram panchayat in Ralegan Siddhi since the last 24 years. No elections have been held in cooperative societies as well. Instead, the representatives are nominated.

Hazare defends this on the grounds that elections ‘bring party politics and divide the people’. ‘Anna Hazare’, Sharma notes, ‘takes every possible opportunity to sharply question electoral and party politics. […]There is no space for formal structures of democracy here. In the village, there is no poster or pamphlet allowed during the state/national elections. No direct election campaigning can take place.’ Political parties are not allowed to set up their units in the village.

Given this obvious visceral hostility to party politics and electoral democracy that are seen to undermine the so-called ‘unity’ of the village, and the preference, instead, for nominating leaders through supposed consensus, the implications for democracy, particularly as far as the religious minorities and the historically oppressed castes are concerned, of the campaign that Hazare has now threatened to unleash at the all-India level for changes in the electoral laws, urgently deserve detailed attention.

The mythical and romantic conception of the ‘unity’ of the village that Hazare repeatedly invokes clearly ignores and probably deliberately seeks to paper over internal caste-class contradictions. This has important implications for the subaltern classes/castes, whose voices for justice and equality can easily be critiqued as threatening to fracture this presumed ‘unity’. The logic of such ‘unity’ can easily be co-opted to justify Brahminism and continued ‘upper’ caste hegemony — which explains, to a large extent, why Hindutva forces have begun backing Anna Hazare in a big way and, on the other hand, why Dalit groups have clearly denounced his movement.

That the political philosophy of Anna Hazare closely resonates with the overall anti-democratic Hindutva ethos owes, in part, to the Brahminical worldview that they share. Thus, Sharma notes the centrality of Brahminical Hindu beliefs and institutions in Anna Hazare’s overall project. Hazare began his village development work along with the rebuilding of the village temple, which has been at the centre of his activities.

The renovation of the dilapidated village temple in his village ‘proved the best way’ for Anna Hazare to achieve a ‘sense of collective identity’, Sharma writes. This ‘gave people an emotional unity, a sense of oneness, of an inner self with God.’ Decisions taken at the temple, where village meetings were held, were ‘believed to have the sanction of God’.

The image of Ram, key Brahminical icon, appears central to Anna Hazare’s political vision, just as it is in the Hindutva imagination, indicating much shared ground.

‘According to Hazare’, so Sharma writes, ‘Lord Rama set an ideal before every citizen of how to conduct everyday life by his own example.’ Hazare also considers it ‘possible to reincarnate a familiar, earthy God by a legitimate authority.’ Can such a God-like ruler at all tolerate any sort of dissent? The punishment that Shambukh the Shudra saint had to face in Ram Rajya for daring to dissent against Brahminism by engaging in deep meditation or tapas and thereby transporting himself to devalok, the realm of the gods, was to be beheaded by none other than Ram himself, so Valmiki authoritatively tells us.

Anna Hazare’s authoritarian political vision thus has crucial implications for the Dalits and other oppressed castes, who are increasingly seeking to fashion electoral democracy into a potent tool to resist centuries’-old Savarna Hindu hegemony and to win, in however limited and flawed manner it may be, their rights. The enormous stress that is placed on ‘unity’ (whether at the village or national level) in Anna Hazare’s discourse can easily be deployed as a means to denounce and crush Dalit dissent or struggles against caste Hindu domination — in the name of upholding ‘unity’. Anna Hazare himself might not do this, but who is to stop others, inspired by his political vision, from doing so?

The denigration of electoral democracy, and, in its place, the glorification of the benevolent leader as divinely-inspired hero, and the imposition of social ‘reform’, reflecting Brahminical norms, all of which Sharma observes are central to Anna Hazare’s political project, have a crucial bearing on the struggles of Dalits and other oppressed communities for social justice. It is true, as Sharma points out, that in Ralegan Siddhi Anna Hazare has been decrying untouchability and that ‘there have been several efforts on his part to do away with the ban on Harijans’ entry into the temple and to allow them to take water from the same well’ (We are not, however, told if these efforts have succeeded).Hazare has also made it a point to involve the Dalits of the village in committees formed to run the village affairs and to take part in several village functions and festivals. In many economic programmes, they have been chosen to be the first beneficiaries.

Yet, Sharma notes, despite Hazare’s efforts to soften the rigours of caste in Ralegan Siddhi, its impoverished Dalits continue to remain heavily marginalised. Sharma revealingly quotes a landless Dalit inhabitant of the village as saying: ‘We do not call Ralegan Siddhi a village. We call it a family in which Annaji is the headman and we are the people who provide service to the family. Here Hindus mean Marathas only. We Chamars and Mahars are never called Hindus. How can we claim that everybody is equal here? People who have land or jobs in the military have a different level of development. There is a lot of difference between them and me.’

Sharma refers to another Dalit from the village, who was injured in police firing in the course of an agitation but who was taken care of by Anna ‘like a mother.’ He and other members of his caste, Sharma says, ‘are now free from the clutches of moneylenders and he is a devotee of Anna.’

Yet, even this man remarks: ‘We have food, clothing and house now. But that is all. There is nothing more to it than that. Shoes are for feet and will always be placed there. We will never be able to go ahead beyond this point. The village ethos is like this.’

Yet another Dalit denizen of this supposed model village, a landless labourer, relates:

‘I was poor before and am poor now. We were starving in the past and the situation has not changed for me. I cannot even afford the education of my children. I cannot even open my mouth. Whatever is said in this village, it has to be followed.’

Anna’s reformism thus clearly has its limits as far as the Dalits are concerned. Reforms to mitigate the brutality of life for Dalits in village India may be acceptable to an extent, but not such as might threaten the ‘unity’ of the village or the hegemony of the dominant castes. This, it would readily appear, is distinctly at odds with the Ambedkarite approach to Dalit empowerment. Not surprisingly, therefore, Sharma finds that in Ralegan Siddhi, the Dalits are ‘largely still tied to their traditionally given status and occupation. Simultaneously, possession of land, utilisation of water, labour relations and wages, and other forms of power exist and work against the Dalits. Notions of Dalits being “dirty” still prevail. And the village republic works in such a way that broader values and codes assigned within it are never challenged.’

That this is the case in Hazare’s ‘model village’ is hardly surprising, because, following Gandhi, Hazare himself seems to believe that the caste system is in itself unproblematic. Thus, he declares: “It was Mahatma Gandhi’s vision that every village should have one Chamar, one Sunar, one Kumhar and so on. They should all do their work according to their role and occupation, and in this way, a village will be self-dependent. This is what we are practising in Ralegan Siddhi.’

Anna Hazare has, so the newspapers say, announced plans for a new mass movement — this time for changes in the country’s education system and electoral laws, although the media has not highlighted what exactly these would entail. But, clearly, given the critical implications of his overall worldview for electoral democracy, secularism, social justice and Dalit empowerment, not everyone will be enthusiastic about the changes he dreams of imposing on the rest of the country.

Yogi Sikand

Towards an Informed Pre-Legislative Debate on the Lokpal Bill (Kalpana Kannabiran, Rohini Hensman, Sumi Krishna)

In Perspective on August 29, 2011 at 11:03 am

From: sacw.net – 22 August 2011

Each State Party shall, in accordance with the fundamental principles of its legal system, develop and implement or maintain effective, coordinated anti-corruption policies that promote the participation of society and reflect the principles of the rule of law, proper management of public affairs and public property, integrity, transparency and accountability.

— UN Convention Against Corruption Article 5(1)

The anti-corruption campaign led by Anna Hazare and his team has evoked a very mixed response from the Left and feminists, between those who rule out any association with the movement and those who want to be part of it. The campaign has also drawn unequivocal support from the right wing Hindutva forces (Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shanker for instance). Like the anti-nuclear struggle in Jaitapur and a few others, this campaign has been backed by ideologically and politically oppositional formations. While this might be reason for some discomfort, it is ultimately the goal of the protest that determines participation, even if this means the coming together of the Left and the Right. We believe, however, that there are other key issues that need to be debated on an anti-corruption platform. It is necessary to disentangle different strands of argument that figure in this discussion.

We support the fundamental right of the campaigners to the freedom of association and peaceful assembly to voice their opinions and engage in peaceful protest. We unequivocally condemn the arrest of Anna Hazare. We believe that preventive detention of conscientious protestors does irreparable damage to the fabric of democracy and undermines the spirit of the Indian Constitution.

That said, it is necessary to examine the goals of Anna Hazare’s campaign. On the face of it, this is a stand against corruption and a rejection of the government’s draft Lokpal bill. But clearly, it is not as simple as that. From the large-scale corruption that has ripped through the country recently to the petty corruption that has tortured all of us at one time or another, the phenomenon is a blot on public life that should certainly be eliminated. Instead, the government bill threatens draconian measures against persons making false complaints – which include imprisonment and compensation to public servant against whom such complaint is made (Section 50). This jeopardizes the security of whistle-blowers and is just one example of the government’s lack of seriousness in tackling the problem. But – and this is a big ’but’ – rejection of the government draft and enactment of strong anti-corruption legislation is not all that the Hazare movement is demanding.

What Anna Hazare and his colleagues are also demanding is that their particular draft – the Jan Lokpal Bill – be adopted by parliament without discussion or debate, without substantial criticism or revision, without looking at alternative drafts. And that this be done within a couple of weeks in the backdrop of Anna Hazare’s indefinite fast. Even if the Jan Lokpal Bill were flawless, this haste would be unacceptable. And the fact is that in its present form this is a flawed document. It seeks to set up an unelected body that would have power over the legislature, executive and judiciary, in theory with the mandate to root corruption out from governance structures. But given the tendency for power to corrupt, and for absolute power to corrupt absolutely, there is no safeguard against the very real possibility of a corrupt Jan Lokpal. In that event, according to the bill, there could be an appeal to the judiciary. But with the Lokpal overseeing the judiciary, what is to prevent a corrupt Lokpal from removing honest judges who might challenge their corruption? Or from removing honest politicians or bureaucrats who stand in the way of the corporations or NGOs it favours? It cannot even be voted out of power by a frustrated public! Not only will it be a failure to root out corruption, it will also strike a fatal blow against democracy.

Indeed, the proclamation by a member of Team Anna that ’Anna is India, India is Anna!’ with its disquieting echoes of both Rudolf Hess (’Adolf Hitler is Germany and Germany is Adolf Hitler!’) and Congress during the Emergency (’Indira is India and India is Indira!’) inadvertently reveals the profound authoritarianism that drives this agenda. Likewise Anna’s views on the death penalty, his response to a question at a televised press conference (on 21st August at Ramlila Grounds) that the people who had voiced specific criticisms should go to a mental hospital, and Team Anna’s rejection of a public consultation on the Lokpal legislation. The idea that one person can represent the interests of a nation divided by class, gender, caste, ethnicity, language and so much else is little short of grotesque. Even when Team Anna advocates a referendum as the way to resolve the issue, it is clear that the referendum will have only two choices: the government draft or the Jan Lokpal Bill. This is far from being a democratic procedure, not only because the vast majority of people supporting the Jan Lokpal Bill have no idea what it contains, but also because such a procedure leaves no room for a third alternative, much less agreement over some provisions and disagreement over others.

By contrast, the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), which waged a sustained grassroots campaign for the Right to Information Act, has put forward a multi-pronged approach to tackling corruption through ’collective and concurrent’ anti-corruption and grievance redress measures. The NCPRI’s basket of measures would establish a much more decentralised approach to the problem of corruption. Its proposals tackle a wider spectrum of issues than the Jan Lokpal Bill, while avoiding the massive concentration of power that constitutes a threat to democracy.

– Separating grievance redressal from anti corruption mechanisms and establishing a new multi-tiered, decentralised grievance redress structure to tackle day-to-day grievances swiftly at different levels.

– Establishing a National Lokpal to tackle corruption at the top – the Prime Minister, elected representatives and senior bureaucracy and all other co-accused including the private and the social sector

– Strengthening the Central Vigilance Commission to tackle corruption at the middle level

– Strengthening and passing the Judicial Accountability Bill, now in parliament, while maintaining its independence from the executive

– Strengthening the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill now in parliament,

The NCPRI has consistently pushed for a public debate on the legislation before it is debated in parliament. A pre-legislative process and debate was indeed initiated, with the draft being prepared by and presented to a wide cross-section of people across the country, and revised several times in response to comments and concerns. Public participation in the framing of legislation and how this is facilitated are critical aspects of the working of democratic systems. This requires extensive local consultations with reasonable time frames and without inordinate delay. It also requires democratic mechanisms to prevent the consultation process being captured by particular sections of society.

Feminists and other progressive people of various hues who want to engage actively with a campaign against corruption should insist that a robust pre-legislative debate is non-negotiable. We should participate and determine the terms of the debate, with the support of an informed and inclusive media, rather than recede into a docile presence on media screens, with anchors determining the terms of the debate and cameras doing a head count. Instead of allowing our presence to be used by the media as evidence of ’civil society’ support, progressive voices need to articulate the deep disquiet over a monolithic Jan Lokpal Bill that promises to be authoritarian.

(Kalpana Kannabiran is Director, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad; Rohini Hensman is an independent scholar, writer and activist based in Mumbai; Sumi Krishna is an independent feminist scholar and writer based in Bangalore).

Overruling democracy (Praful Bidwai)

In Perspective on August 27, 2011 at 11:04 pm

From: The News International, 27 August 2011

by Praful Bidwai

No government in India has bent over backwards to please a civil society campaign as much as the Manmohan Singh government in respect of the Jan Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill, drafted by a small group, including Anna Hazare, nominated by an NGO called India against Corruption (IAC). And no individual act has recently attracted as much popular support as Hazare’s fast for the passage of the bill on terms dictated by him.

At the time of writing, Hazare hasn’t broken his fast, but offered to do so if parliament accepts his terms. The result of the drama unfolding over the past fortnight is that India may have a somewhat stronger Lokpal than intended by the government. But the Lokpal will also probably have excessive powers and inadequate public accountability. A lot will depend on how wisely parliament’s standing committee on legal matters handles the issue, and whether Team Anna shows more flexibility than it has done so far.

Whatever happens, the government’s ham-handed actions have set several precedents. One of them strengthens a particular type of potentially vigilantist civil society movements, which bypass the normal processes of democracy and claim moral authority superior to that of the people’s elected representatives.

The government wasn’t sincere about the Lokpal issue and drafted a badly flawed bill. But IAC’s Jan Lokpal Bill too is substantively flawed. An all-powerful Lokpal is no magic wand against corruption. The Lokpal would enter the picture only after corruption has occurred. But to pre-empt and control corruption, especially where it affects the poor, other means are needed.

The IAC bill would virtually create a parallel government, a gigantic apparatus that subsumes the Central Bureau of Investigation and Central Vigilance Commission and usurps all kinds of police, investigative, prosecution and quasi-judicial powers. This violates the principle of separation of powers which is vital to democracy. The Lokpal would also “approve interception and monitoring of messages of data or voice transmitted through telephones, internet or any other medium…”

Corruption doesn’t occur primarily, as Team Anna holds, because there’s no “independent, empowered…anti-corruption institution.” The real reasons include unequal access to centres of power and seeking rent to enable such access; neoliberal policies that encourage privatisation of common property resources through sweetheart deals; the rise of super-greedy entrepreneurs; increasingly compromised civil servants; poorly monitored public service delivery; and a dysfunctional justice delivery system.

Correcting these will need electoral and administrative reforms, social audit of important programmes, good grievance redressal, and new laws on judicial accountability, whistleblower protection, and rights to public services. Some of these measures have been suggested by another citizens’ group, the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information. Anna Hazare has ignored them.

Hazare has been projected as a messiah and a parallel national power centre. His team demands that its bill be instantly passed in its pristine form – on pain of the government being toppled. This subverts debate and imposes the will of a handful of people on the nation.

Team Hazare members openly question even parliament’s legislative supremacy. The argument is: democracy is the rule of the people, and we alone represent the people. Just look at the crowds in Ramlila Maidan and you’ll understand, as Kiran Bedi memorably said, that “Anna is India and India is Anna”!

But majoritarianism isn’t democracy. It easily evolves into right-wing authoritarianism. It’s equally dangerous to pass off a highly coercive tactic like a fast-unto-death as normal democratic protest.

The government’s capitulation to the Hazare campaign had little to do with the Jan Lokpal Bill’s merits, or the government’s newfound respect for civil society or democratic dissent. The government capitulated, as it always does, when faced with a movement with an elite character.

The movement has attracted ordinary people’s support because of widespread revulsion against corruption, not positive support for the Jan Lokpal Bill. But the original campaign, launched in April, was Facebook- and Twitter-driven. It mobilised upper-middle-class people through the technology of using free missed calls to have them answered. A telecom company provided it, and somebody paid a pretty penny for the 13 million calls answered by Aug 15.

The middle class has dictated terms to the government on many issues for many years: exchanging terrorists for civilian hostages on the IC-814 flight hijacked to Kandahar in 1999, and getting affirmative action diluted in the 2000s through groups like Youth for Equality.

The agitation against affirmative action was driven by hatred of the “low” castes, or “chura-chamars.” The present campaign is motivated by disdain for democratic politics. But there’s continuity between the two. That’s one reason why Dalits, low-caste Hindus, and large numbers of Muslims are cold towards Hazare’s movement or suspicious of it.

Hazare has repeatedly said that existing democratic politics is itself corrupt. He doesn’t believe in elections because people “cast their vote under the influence of Rs100 or a bottle of liquor ….” This cynical view shows utter contempt for the Indian people who have repeatedly punished corrupt or under-performing politicians through elections.

There’s a difference, though. The elite strata which have planned and lead the core of this agitation have a specifically corporate character. They are all products of post-1991 neoliberal policies and belong to new service sector businesses like Information Technology.

These strata worship their CEOs and are servile towards corporate hierarchy. They have had no exposure whatever to ordinary people. They love spectacles akin to the cricket World Cup, created by 24-hour news channels. Hazare’s fast is just that.

There has also been corporate funding of the Lokpal movement. NGOs run by Hazare’s close supporters have received millions of dollars in corporate and Ford Foundation donations.

This past January, 14 industrialists wrote a letter to Prime Minister Singh complaining of a “widespread governance deficit,” and pressing for an anti-corruption ombudsman. Since then, London-based controversial businessman S P Hinduja (God bless his pure soul!) has held forth on corruption and the need for a Lokpal. Strongly pro-corporate media groups lead the Jan Lokpal campaign.

It’s as if a large chunk of businessmen had decided to ditch the Congress-led UPA government because it’s not delivering “second generation” neoliberal policies such as reckless privatisation and dismantlement of such paltry labour protection as exists. Many industrialists are perhaps suspicious of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s mildly left-of-centre political bent and her inaccessibility. Logically, this means they would opt for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

This fits in with the involvement of Hindutva forces in the Hazare campaign, frankly admitted by Sushma Swaraj in parliament on Aug 17, and confirmed by the BJP president’s Aug 26 letter to Hazare. The RSS has long tried to tap into popular sentiment against corruption. Three years ago, it roped in Hazare and Baba Ramdev. It got its ideologue K N Govindacharya to set up the rabidly communal Bharat Swabhiman Trust with Ramdev.

Ramdev’s network logistically sustained IAC before and through Hazare’s Jantar Mantar fast in April. However, Ramdev’s own fast following Hazare’s proved an embarrassment and the RSS zeroed in exclusively on Hazare.

A movement of which Hazare is the figurehead, but which is controlled externally and clandestinely, has the potential to destabilise the government from the right. This does not bode well for Indian’s democracy.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1 @yahoo.co.in

Please don’t call it a revolution (Happymon Jacob)

In Perspective on August 27, 2011 at 10:37 pm

From: Greater Kashmir, 28 August 2011

Anna campaign is self-serving, condescending and even dictatorial at times.

STATECRAFT BY HAPPYMON JACOB

Anna Hazare is a courageous man and I admire him for his guts. He has managed to do what a lot of others have not: think of it, a villager from Maharashtra is close to winning an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation against a huge state machinery which is not in a habit of listening to the voice of the people. Before you start thinking that “I Am Anna”, let me clarify: today’s column is a political criticism of the Anna movement. And yet I wish to acknowledge that the “anti-corruption” part of the campaign and team Anna’s courage to take on the state are both laudable. That said, I am extremely skeptical of messiahs, I think they are a dangerous species for modern democracies and, in any case, too much adulation often turn them into tyrants – umpteen examples from history will bear me out on this. In all, I have four major critiques of the Anna movement.

Cult of anti-politics

First of all, I am worried that the Anna movement is the beginning of anti-politics in India. There is a certain understandable cynicism in the minds of the Indian middle class about the political class in India. Popular culture in India (jokes, cinema etc.) and the media in general assert that the root cause of all problems lie with the politicians in the country, be it corruption, crime, poverty or communalism. It is this deep sense of anger and skepticism that the Anna has managed to gather around himself in Delhi’s Ramlila maidan. This campaign seems to be clearly promoting a culture of anti-politics which, together with the impending defeat of the government, will lead to a further erosion of middle class’ faith in the country’s institutions. The Anna movement will prompt many more groups to take law into their own hands. Such tendencies of deinstitutionalization will have far-reaching implications for a pluralistic, diverse, conflict-ridden and developing country such as India. More than anyone else, deinstitutionalization will prove to be disastrous for those living at the economic, political, social and geographical peripheries of the country. Let’s face it, the last refuge of the underprivileged and minorities in India will never be the Indian middle class, but the state – a much better state of course! The rise of the middle class skepticism of institutions in the backdrop of the already receding state portends the beginning of the end of political representation as we know it now.

Many liberal commentators are taken aback by the huge amounts of people on the streets supporting the Anna campaign and hence argue that it is a legitimate campaign because it seems to have a huge amount of support around the country. But then getting people on the streets in a country like India is no formidable task: didn’t the Sangh Parivar manage an even bigger mobilization for the ‘Kar Seva’? Or for that matter, can not the Hindutva right wing in India mobilize such numbers for purely communal objectives? Remember, this is an age when the so called yoga gurus and spiritual gurus seem to take centre-stage in matters of politics and governance!

Politics of the apolitical middle class

Whose protest is it anyway? This protest is choreographed to suit the ‘apolitical’ tendencies of the Indian middle class which is in the habit of critiquing politicians and politics but would not find time to cast their votes when elections come. They are in search of quick solutions and speedy justice, which, they assume, can and should be achieved by circumventing the din and noise of politics. Why corruption? Because corruption is apparently an apolitical issue (or so they think), isn’t it? When Kashmir burned last summer and over a hundred Kashmiris were killed by security forces, the Indian middle class was busy chit-chatting about “Aisha” and “Rajneeti” – none of them were seen protesting in the Ramleela maidan against the atrocities committed on Kashmiris! They would, however, find time to assemble at the India Gate in candle-lit processions to protest against ‘high-profile murders’ (of urban, English speaking ‘one of them’) and when the Indian army fights Pakistan (remember the middle class and media support for the Kargil war?). And yet they prefer to look the other way when Dalit women are raped and killed in hinterland India or thousands of farmers commit suicide in the country or raise their voice against AFSPA, human rights violations and other draconian laws: these issues don’t matter to the middle class because farmers, Dalits, slum-dwellers, Kashmiris, Manipuris etc. are not part of their class. More so, how could the middle class take up those issues – they are ‘political’ in nature, after all (which corruption is not)!!

The rightwing rising

The Anna campaign would not have come at a better time for the Hindutva rightwing in India – they were in the process of losing political direction having run out of ideas, appeal and steam generated by Ram Mandir, nuclear tests and such other issues. What the nationalist, overly-patriotic, feverishly flag-waving Indian middle class led by political puritans like Anna, yoga gurus, and spiritual gurus (with excellent RSS background work) has done are multiple things: they have shown that the Congress is an indecisive and spineless political party which does not have it in it to rule this country; that we need a new ‘national awakening’ in the country and the congress cant lead it; it is alright for the religious figures to be part of the ‘civil society’s’ efforts at nation building, and; that the country needs to unite by blurring the various ‘differences’ (national agenda formulation process) that exist in the country in order to engage in nation building (read the last one as ‘the other issues don’t matter, only corruption does). All this bear good news for the resurrection of the Hindutva rightwing in the country. It is becoming ever so clear that the national struggle against corruption is increasingly becoming a cradle of rightwing ideas and Hindutva organizations.

This is no spontaneous movement

Politics is understood to be dynamic and transformative; Anna campaign is self-serving, condescending and even dictatorial at times. More so, I am unprepared to believe that the Anna movement is a spontaneous countrywide mass uprising against corruption. Notwithstanding the fact their definition does not include all kinds of corruption, it is important to note that this movement is mechanical and result-oriented in a negative manner – as opposed to being organic and transformatory – and is led by technical experts and ex-bureaucrats, and certainly not a campaign led by the downtrodden and oppressed for their better tomorrow. The Anna movement excludes more than it includes.

(Happymon Jacob teaches at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi).

Hazare Offers Sangh Another Opportunity

In Perspective on August 26, 2011 at 6:12 pm

From: Mailtoday, 26 August 2011

HAZARE OFFERS SANGH ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY

by Rajesh Ramachandran

THE GREATEST story of deceit in war ever told is that of the killing of Bhishma, during the mythical Mahabharata war. The Trojan horse of the Greek imagination pales into insignificance in comparison. The pitamaha or patriarch majestically put his weapons down on being confronted by a person who was not a man, only to be slain by Arjun who had been hiding behind Shikhandi.

The Sangh Parivar had on several occasions in the past aimed its weapons at the government, Parliament and, thereby, the Constitution hiding behind, unlike Shikhandi, respectable leaders with mass appeal. The Congress, of course, is no Bhishma, but the Constitution that protects the minorities, the Dalits and the backward classes, sure is. And Arvind Kejriwal, the ‘ T’ of Team Anna, proclaims that it is not Parliament but his civil society that is supreme, articulating the Sangh Parivar dream of rewriting the Constitution.

Agenda

The first Gandhian to have been associated with those who killed Gandhi was Jayaprakash Narain, who became the face of a “ movement” against an elected government, when Indira Gandhi was at her prime after the liberation of Bangladesh.

But the RSS, allegedly with US support, mobilised its cadres all across north India in a desperate bid to dethrone Indira Gandhi.

JP knowingly, or otherwise, let himself be used in what was clearly an attempt at regime change. JP’s “ Total Revolution” was reduced to minimum alteration when the Janata Party came to power. Neither Indira nor her wayward son Sanjay, despite the Shah Commission show, was punished for the Emergency excesses. Nothing changed, but the reach of the RSS. For the first time swayamsevaks had become Union cabinet ministers.

The RSS gradually perfected the art of making Shikhandhis out of mass leaders. When VP Singh, a former Sanjay Gandhi groupie and a ‘ regular’ Congress chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, with no particular penchant for probity, suddenly turned against Rajiv Gandhi and launched a “ movement” to cleanse politics, it was actually the RSS that was running the show by getting its volunteers to mobilise people.

The anti- corruption “ movement” of VP Singh catapulted the BJP from just two Lok Sabha seats in 1984 to 89 in the 1989 polls. Again, corruption ceased to be the prime political agenda after the new government was sworn in. The same crowds that sprung to bring back black money from Swiss bank accounts of politicians were soon talking about razing a sixteenth century mosque to reclaim Hindutva’s manhood. The boom of the Bofors payback got muted when the mob cried, “ Jai Shri Ram.” History is being repeated. For the third time the Sangh is aiming its arrows at an elected government, hiding behind a selfappointed Gandhian.

The imperfections of our democracy were in full display during the NDA rule when the RSS itself called Vajpayee’s foster son- in- law, Ranjan Bhattacharya, an extra- constitutional authority.

There were scams galore in every sphere of public life, from procurement of coffins for dead soldiers to privatisation of public sector units. One of the country’s senior most bureaucrats, Dr EAS Sarma, quit in disgust. But Kisan Baburao Hazare was in Ralegaon, Arvind Kejriwal was running Parivartan seeking the right to information, and there was no “ movement” against the NDA’s corruption during those six years.

But corruption at the national level suddenly became an issue when the BJP desperately needed to revive its fortunes after the humiliating defeat of the 2009 polls, when the party’s strength declined from 147 to 115 Lok Sabha seats. It is time that Kejriwal and his co- actors at the very least acknowledged the script writers of this political drama that is being enacted aptly at the Ramlila Maidan.

Movement

RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya, the Kautilya of the Indian Right who was a lieutenant of Nanaji Deshmukh during the JP agitation, had graduated into being a prime strategist by 1989. He played VP Singh against Chandrashekhar and both against Devi Lal, gaining more and more ground for the Sangh in the process. This amazing organiser, also credited with the stupendous growth of the BJP in Bihar and UP, particularly for propping up the OBC leadership of Kalyan Singh, is one of the architects of Kejriwal’s anti- corruption campaign. In fact, Govindacharya was present at the first public meeting held at Ramlila Maidan on February 27 along with Kejriwal, Hazare, Ramdev, Subramanian Swamy, BJP MP Ram Jethmalani and others. But curiously, he dropped off the radar afterwards.

Another important backroom player is the former Intelligence Bureau chief Ajit Doval, widely expected to be the National Security Advisor in case LK Advani becomes Prime Minister.

Doval runs a think tank associated with reportedly saffron affiliates, called the Vivekananda International Foundation ( VIF).

This was the venue of a two- day seminar on April 1 and 2, which elected Ramdev as the patron and Govindacharya the convenor of the newly formed “ Anti- Corruption Front”. Another RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy and Doval became members of the Front.

Kejriwal was one of those who attended the seminar.

It is not clear whether Kejriwal had brainstorming sessions with Doval and Govindacharya at VIF before he launched ‘ India Against Corruption’, or during the February 27 rally at Ramlila Maidan. But soon after the seminar at VIF, on May 12, the RSS’ students wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad launched the similar sounding ‘ Youth Against Corruption’. And last week ABVP goons attacked a missionary school in Dumka in Jharkhand for not shutting the school in support of Hazare.

Whether the RSS is the facilitator or the beneficiary, there is no denying the fact that this movement has achieved a critical mass among the upper caste, urban, middle classes which constitute the bribe- givers and the bribetakers.

The political context is ripe for another “ movement” against corruption with scandals gushing out of the UPA government regularly.

PM

From Medha Patkar to the CPI ( ML) Liberation, genuine support from elsewhere has also poured in for the fast. The surging middle class angst of urban India against politicians, corrupt or otherwise, threatens to swamp Parliament. Medha even spoke against the corporates that corrupt politicians, though Kejriwal usually skirts this issue.

In this moment of mob frenzy the Prime Minister has lost the plot completely. By getting Hazare arrested, Manmohan has not just displayed his ruthless face that can’t brook protest, but a total bankruptcy of political ideas.

He seems to be the Dhritarashtra at the Kaurava court — a blind king led by clueless courtiers.

Sending one of his ministers, A Raja, to prison doesn’t absolve him of the sin of presiding over a corrupt cabinet. Coalition compulsion did not stop him from letting the CBI arrest Raja and Kanimozhi.

Then, why did he condone corruption? Had he been clean, he should have quit the day the cash- for- votes scandal was exposed on the floor of the house in August 2008.

Instead, the then Speaker Somnath Chatterjee conducted a charade to let Singh continue in power. For the Congress party, the best way to tackle Team Anna or the Sangh Parivar is to dump ‘ Team Manmohan’.

rajesh. ramachandran @ mailtoday. in

Lokpal Countdown: Beware of the Fascists

In Commentary on August 24, 2011 at 4:54 pm

From: Hardnews

Editorial: August 2011

Hardnews Bureau Delhi

Last many months now, the UPA government has been trapped in a compulsive state of paralysis. Displaying guilt by inference, it has not been able to effectively answer damaging questions about large-scale corruption. Financial scandals that look as massive as state budgets have blighted the lily white image of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Although there are no personal charges of corruption against them, but the media and a large mass of people find it difficult to reconcile to the idea that a good man/woman can lead one of the most corrupt governments in recent times. This perception has devalued the stirring endorsement Congress and UPA got in the general elections merely two years ago in 2009.

The rash of corruption charges has breathed new life into the tired lungs of discredited opposition parties. Civil society groups, too, emboldened by the environment of mistrust and skepticism towards the political class, have stepped out to queer their pitch. The Supreme Court’s monitoring of corruption cases and imprisonment of high profile politicians and businessmen has given this noisy campaign an edgy feel. The adamant ‘Anna team’, compulsively addicted to aggressive television grandstanding, has unilaterally demanded the creation of a Jan Lokpal with sweeping powers to investigate and punish the guilty. Multi-millionaire yoga gurus, Gandhians, fascists and rank communalists, retired bureaucrats, sinister coup plotters and unhappy dreamers have all jumped this populist bandwagon.

There is a ring of déjà vu about this campaign. In 1974, socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan (JP), led a mass struggle against corruption, with direct support of the RSS and rump socialists. Indira Gandhi saw this as an attempt to destabilise her government. She quickly imposed Emergency, and rest, as they say, is history.

Nearly 14 years later, in 1987, her son, Rajiv Gandhi’s resounding electoral mandate was challenged by another anti-corruption movement, this time led by his former finance minister VP Singh. The charge of kickbacks in defense deals against Rajiv and his friends knocked out the legitimacy of the Congress regime. Subsequent elections confirmed the haemorrhage corruption inflicted on the Congress party.

If history holds any lessons, than this one-dimensional, shrill campaign might also mutate into a political agitation. The government knows the implications. Despite being in denial, they can instinctively feel the hot gusts of rebellion all over the world; this could seriously damage UPA II. In democracies like ours, power theoretically resides with people; but the nature of our system is such that the mandate gets hijacked by the super-rich corporate lobbies with its entrenched political nexus. However, empowered by collective zones of grassroot resistance and awareness through social networking sites, people have begun to challenge authority, as the multiple struggles against land acquisition proves — from Posco to Bhatta Parsaul. This irreverence is posing difficult questions for the ruling establishment.

Uncannily, camouflaged fronts and forces of Hindutva, under pressure from investigators for their links with extremists/terrorists who bomb trains, markets and mosques, killing innocents, communalising and viciously polarising society, are trying to infiltrate these movements. They want to control them, destabilise the social order and capture power though the back door. The 1974 and 1987 agitations are an ample testimony of the success the forces of religious extremism gained riding piggyback on anti-corruption movements. Therefore, it is crucial that the Left, secular and progressive forces, including people’s movements and intelligentsia, gets out of its defeats and stagnations, and decisively redefines the political agenda. Or else, subterranean, dangerous fascist tendencies, entrenched inside the intestines of our institutions, might acquire a sinister populism, and strike at the very root of our secular, pluralist and democratic Constitution.

Anna lauds Modi – Communalism Bad, Development Good (Badri Raina)

In Commentary on August 23, 2011 at 9:38 am

From: ZNET

Communalism Bad, Development Good

Anna lauds Modi

by Badri Raina

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Anna, the Voice of the Upwardly Mobile:

A voice has been raised in India against the venal misdeeds of politicians and, mutedly, of bureaucrats (no mention of the corporates here).

Groups of protestors led by a most unlikely mix of civil society leaderships, ranging from those with staunch secular credentials and proven personal integrity (Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejrival, Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh, Mallika Sarabai) to those others with known affiliation to right-wing Hindu organizations and dubious claims to probity (Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), racuously foregrounded by corporate electronic channels with barely concealed antipathy to any mass assertion from the Left, have been holding fort.

True to pattern and apprehension, the politics of a section of the protestors could not after all hold back mentioning chief ministers of two BJP- ruled and BJP-in-coalition- ruled states as exemplars of the India of their dreams. Most significantly, that mention this time came from no less than Anna Hazare himself.

As per Anna speak, Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi belong to a common category—chief ministers who do good development work without being corrupt. More of the corruption part hereunder. But,
what of Modi’s fingers dipped in blood? Response: communalism is bad, but “I was speaking only of his development work.”

To be fair to Nitish Kumar, he, although bracketed with Modi, has sought consistently to resist the equation, and keep the fascist Modi at arms length, disallowing the BJP to unleash him in the last two election campaigns in Bihar, thereby seeking to draw a line between himself (and presumably a section of his party, the JD-U) and Modi atleast on the issue of secularism even if merely to avoid offending Bihar’s considerable Muslim electorate.

So, here is the inference, one that neo-Nazis—many of them Indians– to this day make with aplomb and pride: Hitler may have liquidated some six million innocent human beings for no fault than their racial characteristic, but look he gave to Germany great autobahns and provided fillip to German industrial houses at a time of depression. Whereas what they always mean to say is how Hitler’s greatest contribution was to achieve Aryan racial purity. (See Golwalker’s, We, Our Nationhood Defined, 1923, and Bunch of Thoughts, 1938—two texts on which the edifice of the RSS rests.)

This is precisely the hub of the barely concealed support that Modi enjoys among India’s proto-fascists; namely, that whereas they may feel on occasion publicly obliged to disapprove of the Muslim massacres of 2002, all under total State connivance, at bottom, in their hearts they are filled with glee that he gave to the Muslims what has been coming to them, setting in motion the Hindutva-fascist project of purifying India racially as Hiter had sought to do to Germany and Europe. Add to that the welcome to the corporate chiselers, and Modi is up on the middle-class pedestal.

Here is what we ask, charitably: if the operative profiles of political leaders can be so neatly and conveniently separated, why wouldn’t Anna and those others with him agree that many among the politicians they seek to pillory may be corrupt, but are also known to be fine administrators with substantial records of achievement to their name. After all, many corrupt politicians since 1947 must have done some development work to bring India to her present status among the comity of nations that matter (sic). So why does not the same charitable double-speak apply to them as it does so often and so heinously to Modi? Modi may be a communalist murderer, but look at his developmental activity; likewise, why can’t it be said, X or Y may be corrupt, but look at his record of achievement in government?

The Modi model of “development”:

There has of course been a studied refusal to question the Modi model of “development.” Tainted and disfigured by his marshalling of the massacres of 2002, influential sections of his party leadership, closet communalists among the new middle classes, and those in the corporate media who have been busy touting and boosting the “India story,” the future they desire for Modi has been sought to be pinned on his personal probity and developmental genius. Clearly, those that wish Modi to occupy the high table in Delhi sometime soon use with ruthless dishonesty the Podsnappian fore-arm to deny some pretty ugly truths about what he has done for which Gujaraties. If only they would listen to a litany of facts on this that are in the possession of social service organizations located in Gujarat.

Briefly, without let or hindrance, Modi has sought to parcel out Gujarati assets in land and other natural resources at a pittance to a clutch of favoured industrialists whose every wish takes precedence over the lived requirements of rural Guajrat and of its forest dwellers. Innocent as he may be, Anna Hazare, the part-Gandhian (since, it turns out he is also by his public admission a votary of Shiva ji Maratha, by no means an icon of non-violence in the annals of Indian history) needs to know that of all chief ministers now operating in India, not one may be more rapaciously anti-rural than Modi. And what would Gandhi have said of that preference in “development” given his passion for a village-centred India?

Indeed, the Mahuva farmer’s agitation in Gujarat was to showcase all of those preferences. Farmers, fishing communities, salt-pan workers, tribals, dalits, industrial workers, minorities—a pretty substantial section of Gujaraties wouldn’t you say—all have come to be at the receiving end of those preferences, as gauchar lands and irrigated farmlands have been acquired to be at the service of a club of industrialists, all at throwaway prices. One has to visit rural and tribal Gujarat to register the extent of the loss of livelihoods, displacement and loss of natural resources, and the pace of land grab, with withering consequences for swathes of poor and indigent Gujaraties. And, as to the Muslim minority, read the recent Wikileak US consulate report of how Modi has sought with unmitigated single-mindedness to marginalize and ghettoize the Muslims of Guajrat. And never to this day as much a politic “regret.” Only continued machinations to thwart and vilify the plethora of investigative mechanisms ordered into the Gujarat massacres and the countless fake encounter liquidations of Muslims by no less than the Supreme Court of India.

Does Corruption Apply to Modi and Nitish?

A recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, a Constitutional body (CAG) has indicted the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar for submitting no “detailed contingency” bills against “abstract contingency” withdrawals amounting to no less than Rs.15,850.41 crores! Useful to know that this is the same CAG whose report on the 2G Spectrum goings-on was to bring about the current massive upheaval in how neoliberal economics in India has been proceeding, leading to the arrest of the central cabinet minister in-charge of Telecom. That being the case, it may be a forgiveable question to ask Anna ji as to why CAG should be so venerated with respect to the central ministry, but wholly side-stepped with respect to Bihar. Remarkably, although a CBI enquiry has been ordered into the Bihar matter, ask any tv-guzzling middle class Indian and he would not have heard of it. For the simple reason that the very media that pillories the said Telecom minister turns a Nelson’s eye elsewhere.

And what of Modi? Three fair-sized scams come readily to mind: the Sujalam Sufalam scam estimated to be of the order of Rs.1700 crores; the NREGS Boribund scam (Rs.109 crores), and the Fisheries scam worth about Rs.600 crores.

And would you know, whereas the whole Anna-led “movement” has had the institution of an all-powerful Lokpal (Ombudsman) at its focus, Modi in Gujarat has refused to implement the mandatory requirement to install a Lokayukta in his own state, even as he is heard ranting about the need for the Lokpal at the centre!

The less said about the Yog guru, Baba Ramdev, the better. Only a few years ago the world came to know how he refuses to supply correct information about the content of the medicines he sells from his establishment, defying thereby a statutory requirement. The disclosure that those medicines contain human-bone components was to be made in full public view in Delhi by dozens of people who have been working at his medicine factory. Just as it was found that he violates another statutory requirement as well, namely, refusing to pay mandated “minimum wages” to workers who make his millions possible. Indeed, just last night here in Delhi on one electronic channel, a venerable sadhu maharaj from the holy city of Hardwar had this to say: “Ramdev is the Hassan Ali of Hardwar; more dubious, in fact, because Hassan Ali atleast had horses for generating those thousands of crores, Ramdev did not even have a donkey.” Hassan Ali, you might know, is the man currently in the eye of the storm as India’s biggest tax-defaulter, and thought to have billions stashed away in those Swiss and suchlike other banks.

Corruption vs All the Rest

The fact here, we hold, is a rather ugly one. Crimes issuing from class or caste or community or gender based oppressions have never borne the same purchase among upwardly-mobile Indians as “corruption” for the two reasons that “corruption” as enemy brooks no opposition, obliges no self-definition and scrutiny, and can be fashionably deployed to decry not just politicians but the institution of politics per se. It was no mere accident that the Nazis during the twenties and thirties of the last century in Germany made a big issue of “corruption” with the ulterior purpose of doing dirt on all democratic institutions floated by the Wiemar republic, and dissolving the nation into the State, and vice versa. Keeping those histories in mind, there is more than a valid point to voices today who caution that the Anna Hazare phenomenon has to it aspects which are deeply anti-democratic, and which threaten to void all institutional procedures authorized by the Constitutional regime. Recall that only some months ago the Left parties came out in even bigger mobilization against corruption on the streets of India; yet one saw nothing of that protest on India’s gung-ho electronic channels. What one did see over the last week of the Anna mobilization however, was more than a sprinkling of Hindutva-based icons and groups, making strenuous efforts to float symbols and slogans with barely concealed pedigree. Predictably, one did not see a single shot of supporters of the cpi (ml) who, in their wisdom, had decided to stand with the Anna-led protestors at Jantar Mantar.

Put the question to any of India’s current day urban-elite young person as to whether the roots of corruption being talked about lie only in corrupt politicians or in a political economy driven by neoliberal capitalism, and you will be told unambiguously that the latter has nothing to do with what has been happening. Some reason why during the current campaign one has heard no mention of corporate houses whose corruption it is at bottom that has been spilling all over the systems of governance. After all, those corporate fortunes are precisely where so many of the protestors who have been on display hope to find entry as India rises and shines. Not to speak of systems of electoral funding that ensure that politicians must do the pay back. Again, not an issue for the “corruption”-baiters. And for good reason: make elections state-funded, and the corporates lose what clout they have under the present dispensation. Anna’s young warriors might not see that as a desirable prospect, assuming that they have any use for elections in the first place. The eradication of corruption merely and only requires the clenched fist from the Right.

You may then well wonder whether we will soon see another Anna-type “movement” on the subject of refurbishing the governmental draft of a bill designed to eradicate communal mayhems, or an Anna putsch to seek the adoption of the Womens’s Reservation Bill, pending in parliament now for aeons. Or to force the government to draft purposive legislations to eradicate female infanticide, atrocities on dalits and adivasis, or to enforce without nonsense the right to food and education. Or how about ensuring clean drinking water, affordable health-care and sanitation, and securing housing, and freedom from police atrocities to some eighty percent of Indians? Or easy and credible access to systems of justice and grievance redressal? Or justice for a Binayak Sen who rots in a Chattisgarh jail on a charge of sedition, and sentenced without a shred of proof for no less than life. Or indeed a “movement” in support of an Irom Sharmila in Manipur who has now entered the eleventh year of her fast (kept forcibly alive on drips by a terrified state) for the withdrawal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Not a chance.

I doubt me very much that any such “movements” are in the offing on behalf of the support base that has been on show during the Anna-led putsch.

And thereby hangs a tale.

Just as well to suggest that in the days to come the ideological content, the active politics, the leadership-profile, and the Constitutional consequences of this recent event receive considered debate. Most so among sections of civil society and individuals whom I respect deeply who for idealistic reasons chose to be a part of what they thought to be a single-minded objective (the Lokpal Bill), with insufficient attention perhaps to the surrounding political milieu of the Anna event.

%d bloggers like this: