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Posts Tagged ‘RSS’

Team Anna’s transformation into Team B of the BJP is complete

In Feature on February 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm

From: Open Magazine, 11 February 2012

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.

Anna on RSS leash rejects govt’s proposed anti corruption law | cartoons by R prasad in Mail Today

In Commentary, Uncategorized on December 23, 2011 at 9:29 pm

From: Mail Today, December 2011

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

The glue that binds both BJP and Team Anna is amoral pragmatism (Jyotirmaya Sharma)

In Commentary on December 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm

[. . .]
Anna Hazare has lent crucial and tactical support to the BJP’s dream of unravelling Indian parliamentary democracy.

Hazare, the quintessential non- Gandhian, has made the methods of the Taliban seem not so unreasonable; turning the other cheek seems so uncool in the age of Hazare and Gandhi is made to seem like a puny coward in comparison to this self- righteous, but effective, bully from the army barracks.

Both the BJP and the Hazare fanatics sell the naïve idea that a people can never have any interest in ruling itself badly.

If only the people ruled themselves directly, there would be no abuse of power and restoring popular sovereignty is the only way to legitimise a government.

The fine print of this argument is the same as the one propounded by Codreanu, the Romanian Fascist leader: There must be a sovereign, unified people, living in a new atmosphere of perfect spirituality, entirely free from the power of evil. Who will redeem people from the power of evil? Codreanu believed this to be possible only when people are led by ‘ the finest souls that our minds can conceive, the proudest, tallest, straightest, strongest, cleverest, bravest and most hard- working that our race can produce’. If this isn’t Hazare’s self- description, what else could it be? But be sure that L. K. Advani also secretly shares the same selfimage as Hazare. And so do all those in the BJP who want to be Prime Minister.

Parliament

Politics for the BJP and the likes of Hazare is nothing more than a religious crusade: get rid of the evil and evil- doers in society by having faith in us. In their universe, national unity can never be forged through reason, consensus, moderation, parliamentary democracy or even economic interest. It has to be based on either faith or in the construction of a myth.

Faith as well as myth has to be built around a strong and decisive leader who is free of the constraints that the rule of law and procedures impose on people.

Arbitrary power is desirable in the hands of a leader whose self- image is that of a man who has risen above the petty constraints of the world and is not like us, ordinary human beings.

Therefore, the BJP’s disdain for Parliament stems from two reasons. In its internal functioning, it has reduced itself to factions, just like any statelevel Congress unit. Moreover, it has lost the only viable myth it had created, namely, the liberal and reasonable Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But the other reason is more significant. In its public posturing, it has reduced itself to being Hazare’s B- Team. The glue that binds both the A and B teams is one that the RSS had long perfected: amoral pragmatism.

Full text at: http://www.sacw.net/article2452.html

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

Why the Sangh Loves Anna (Hartosh Singh Bal)

In Commentary on October 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Open Magazine, 22 October 2011

Hartosh Singh Bal turned from the difficulty of doing mathematics to the ease of writing on politics. Unlike mathematics all this requires is being less wrong than most others who dwell on the subject. He is the Political Editor of Open.

Why the Sangh Loves Anna
He endorses the RSS worldview while appealing to people who lie outside its fold

It is no coincidence that the Jan Lokpal Bill imagines an ombudsman who would be to the republic what Anna is to Ralegan Siddhi, someone who will whip us all into shape

It is ironic that a movement which has made so much noise about holding a referendum on the Jan Lokpal Bill, a referendum that has no sanction or validity under the Constitution, has so much trouble with a referendum in Kashmir. Surely, whatever an individual’s stand on the issue, it is reasonable to expect that we live in a republic where such issues can be voiced and debated openly. In this context, the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena (the very name is an insult to Bhagat Singh) is contemptible but unimportant. What is far more shocking is the amplification of the same view by Anna and his sidekick Arvind Kejriwal, who more and more reflect the same fascist bent of mind that drives the RSS.

Prashant Bhushan’s statement on Kashmir was made weeks before he was assaulted. In fact, his stand on Kashmir was clear well before the Anna movement was conceived. Why did it take an attack on Bhushan, by people who were certainly once directly allied with the Sangh and are today part of it in spirit, for Anna to suddenly attack such views in public? How has this man given to so much vagueness while replying to every pointed question suddenly found such clarity? It is only because the viewpoint that Anna and by extension Kejriwal represent is the same simplistic and ill-thought-out rightwing nationalism of the Sangh which has no space for the Constitution or the liberal values it embodies. In that sense, when Anna’s team stands and shouts “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, it is not hailing the Indian Republic but a mythic nation that exists only in the mind. It was no coincidence that the very stage on which Anna first fasted at Jantar Mantar had a map of India shaped in the image of Bharat Mata as the backdrop. It is no coincidence that Anna is a teetotaler given to flogging young men who do not obey him. It is no coincidence that Kejriwal has often shared the stage with an anti-reservation organisation called Youth for Equality. It is no coincidence that the electioneering they are doing is not directed against corruption but the Congress (even if the distinction is sometimes hard to make, it exists). It is no coincidence that Constitutional issues are so readily dismissed by Anna and Kejriwal, who has even anointed Anna above Parliament. It is no coincidence that through the Jan Lokpal Bill, they imagine an ombudsman who would be to the republic what Anna is to Ralegan Siddhi, someone who will whip us all into shape.

Through the twentieth century, this combination—a claim to efficient governance, a mythic father or motherland, a contempt for a certain section of people—has been the mark of fascism. Surprisingly, many of the Left, such as Bhushan himself, have been slow to recognise this. The news that two members of the core committee of Anna’s team, Rajendra Singh and PV Rajagopal, have resigned is no surprise; what is a surprise is that they were part of the committee to begin with, perhaps they were taken in by the rhetoric that is always so seductive to the Left, ‘we must be with the people’. The support extended by the RSS, the overt expressions of sympathy, the covert mobilisation of numbers, the desire to make common cause with Anna, is not some public play at deception and politics, it is the manifestation of a genuine desire to make common cause with a man who has managed to fulfill their aims. Mobilise the people, corner the Congress, and fight to the death for Kashmir (only rhetorically, of course, for in reality the soldiers who die in the fighting are motivated by a far more prosaic professionalism). This only leaves the question of how long people like Medha Patkar and Prashant Bhushan will survive as part of Anna’s team. Patkar is calling for a repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Everyone knows where Anna will stand on that one, but perhaps his views will become public only once some other organisation sympathetic to the Sangh attacks Patkar. But this is now only a matter of detail. The personal compromises that a Bhushan or a Patkar have had to make with their own views is up to them , what counts is that the attack on Bhushan has opened up the faultlines within the movement and exposed the delusions of those who joined it in the name of ‘liberal’ values.

This does not mean the movement is petering out. The Winter Session of Parliament will see a Lokpal Bill being adopted, but it is unlikely that in its details it will contain all that Anna and Kejriwal have demanded. There will be another fast, there will be more tamasha and television, but what should have been a means of channelling an anger directed against a corrupt government is now turning into a force that the RSS is only bound to welcome.

RSS chief wants Hindutva stamp on anti-graft stir

In News links on October 18, 2011 at 8:44 am

From: India Today

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Thursday highlighted the aim unambiguously with a rider – root out the “minority-based” elements in the anti-corruption agitation who opposed the use of nationalist symbols such as Bharat Mata and Vande Mataram.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/rss-chief-mohan-bhagwat-wants-hindutva-stamp-on-anti-corruption-stir/1/153951.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

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Converging agendas: Team Anna and the Indian Right (Rohini Hensman)

In Perspective on September 19, 2011 at 6:50 am

From: Infochange News & Features, September 2011

Anna Hazare’s authoritarianism, the lack of any whiff of democracy in the village he rules, the crushing of dissent, his ultra-nationalism and his belief in caste hierarchy, suggest a convergence of his agenda and worldview with that of the right-wing, says Rohini Hensman Anna Hazare Against Corruption

When Anna Hazare ended his second fast for the Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB), his followers and the media claimed that his campaign was an unqualified success. Hazare himself was more circumspect, but his promise that he would move on to electoral reform and other issues suggested that he too felt he had scored a victory. But has he?

Most people thronging to demonstrate in support of his demands thought that the campaign was a straightforward one against corruption, but it was both more and less than that. More, because the demand of Team Anna was that parliament should pass their particular bill, the Jan Lokpal Bill, by a particular date; and less, because it defined corruption in a superficial manner.

Team Anna certainly won the first round, given the government’s inability to read the public mood. By first presenting a bill so weak that it made a mockery of the idea of curbing corruption, and then resorting to preventive arrests of Anna and his close associates, it helped to mobilise massive crowds against itself. At this point in the proceedings, it was easy for a casual observer to feel that the campaign was standing up not only for a strong law against corruption but also for freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, which were being crushed by a government bent on negating all democratic rights and freedoms. Indeed, this is what many people out on the streets believed. Who would want to oppose such a campaign? But, ironically, as the government backtracked, giving permission for the fast and initiating a public consultation on the Lokpal Bill, it regained some legitimacy, while the Hazare campaign, as it became increasingly aggressive, lost it. The government wisely agreed to a formula that would allow Hazare to break his fast without losing face, but even a cursory examination of the terms of that agreement make it clear that it was a major retreat for India Against Corruption (IAC) from their earlier hardline stand. Why were they forced to back down?

An authoritarian bill backed by the RSS

Questions were raised about the dangerously authoritarian character of the bill they were backing, with its creation of an unaccountable, unelected body that would have the power to tap phones, intercept emails, and remove every government functionary from the Prime Minister and Chief Justice to the lowest peon. Access to judicial review for those targeted by this all-powerful body would be meaningless, given its power to remove judges it did not like. By defining corruption as the disease rather than seeing it as merely a symptom of a deeper disease – power without accountability, power to commit crimes with impunity – the JLB was a formula to introduce a new source of corruption rather than eliminating it. It was also, potentially, an assault on India’s democratic institutions, one heightened by the demand that either the law should be passed by parliament by August 30, or the government should quit. This ultimatum ruled out any possibility of pre-legislative discussion and debate of the two bills, or consideration of other proposals like those of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) which had successfully campaigned for what has turned out to be the country’s most effective tool of transparency to date, the Right to Information (RTI) Act. And the demand that a parliament elected by hundreds of millions should quit because a few hundred thousand people claiming to represent ‘civil society’ were demanding it mocked the conception of democracy. Where the RTI Act had put power to combat corruption into the hands of ordinary citizens, the JLB seeks to concentrate this power in the hands of a super-powerful state institution.

The enthusiastic participation of the RSS and other members of the Sangh Parivar also disturbed many. During the second fast in August, the backdrop of Bharat Mata was replaced by Mahatma Gandhi and RSS members were kept away from the dais, but the cries of ‘Vande Mataram!’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki jai!’ continued to be as frequent as before. Sushma Swaraj claimed openly that the RSS was mobilising for the protest [1], and the VHP told the media it provided free food – a major crowd-puller – for 20,000 protesters. These proclamations are discounted by some on the Left, who argue that the RSS would naturally try to claim credit for any mass movement. However, this isn’t true. Bigger crowds were reported at the protests against the nuclear tests in 1998, hundreds of thousands of workers have marched in protests against the attack on labour rights, but the Sangh Parivar did not try to claim credit for them because they did not identify with the cause. In this case they did, and the reason is not hard to find. A campaign against narrowly-defined corruption in a government not controlled by them, a demand that the government should either pass a law setting up a super-state they could easily control or else quit, suited them perfectly. They were not trying to capture the movement: it was tailor-made for them.

Both the authoritarian character of the bill and RSS backing for the IAC can be explained by the characteristics of the leadership of the movement and the movement itself.

The leaders

The ‘civil society’ panel that drafted and negotiated with the government over the Jan Lokpal Bill consisted of Anna Hazare, Santosh Hegde, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal. Anna Hazare himself, projected as the leader of the campaign, hails from Ralegan Siddhi, a village in Maharashtra. As a detailed study of his village by Mukul Sharma (well summarised by Yogi Sikand) reveals, he holds absolute power in it: there have been no gram panchayat elections for the last 24 years, nor even elections to cooperatives, and no campaigning is allowed during state or national elections. Just as a mother is entitled to slap her child (according to him), he feels he is entitled to use coercion or violence against those who infringe his rules. Alcohol is banned, and anyone taking it is tied to a pole and flogged. Although he opposes untouchability, dalits are supposed to follow the occupation dictated by their caste, and have been forced to adopt vegetarianism. In a streak of puritanism reminiscent of the Taliban, satellite dishes, cable TV and any music other than bhajans are banned [2]. The comparison with Gandhi by dim-witted mediapersons is belied by his calls for the death penalty [3].

None of these journalists thought it fit to ask how he could campaign for the right to reject and recall candidates if he doesn’t recognise the right to elect candidates in the first place, and contemptuously dismisses the average voter as prone to being bought by liquor, saris or cash! Nor did they think to ask: If he is so keen on electoral reform, why not implement it in his village as an experiment? Why not propose reform in electoral funding, so that the disgruntled 10% can put up their own candidate, instead of rejecting all candidates and disrupting elections time and again at enormous cost to the taxpayer and political stability? What exactly should be the conditions under which candidates can be recalled?

The striking authoritarianism of Hazare’s outlook, the lack of any whiff of democracy in the village he rules as an absolute dictator, and his belief in caste hierarchy, all make him amenable to the politics of the Sangh Parivar. But the relationship goes much deeper. Some of his staunchest supporters were shocked when he held up Narendra Modi as a model for other chief ministers to emulate [4]. He later clarified he was opposed to communalism, but this does not explain why he chose to praise a man who orchestrated the massacre of thousands of innocents. Bribery need not always take the form of money; it can also take the form of promotions, appointments to sinecures, etc. The promotion of police officers who had participated in the Gujarat pogroms and victimisation of those who had done their job by trying to prevent the slaughter are among the worst forms of corruption.

Even in the narrower sense of corruption adopted by Team Anna, Gujarat has a shameful record. As Mallika Sarabai pointed out in her letter to Hazare, “irrigated farmlands have been stealthily taken by the government and sold off at ridiculous prices to a small club of industrialists. There has been no Lokayukta in Gujarat for nearly seven years so hundreds of complaints against corruption are lying unheard. From the Sujalam Sufalam scam of Rs 1,700 crore to the NREGS boribund scam of Rs 109 crore, the fisheries scam of Rs 600 crore, every department is involved in thousands of crores of scams…The state is in terrible debt because of his largesse to industry while 21 lakh farmers wait for compensation” [5].

So what made Anna give Modi such a glowing character-reference? This cannot be explained simply by any apparent naivety. If Hazare was so effusive about Modi, it was because their worldviews and agendas converged. Two points in particular are worth noting. One is the extremely complimentary comments by top RSS leaders about Ralegan Siddhi, likening it to Ram Rajya and organising tours of it for their activists, as well as organising programmes in support of him; and the other is the decision taken by the RSS in its all-India leaders’ meeting in March 2011 – before Anna’s fast in April – to launch a campaign against corruption [6] The impression of converging agendas is confirmed by L K Advani’s announcement of a rath yatra against corruption [7] and Team Anna’s deafening silence concerning Modi’s patently corrupt attempt to appoint a Lokayukta who had acquitted all the accused in the Best Bakery massacre, and therefore could be trusted to toe the state government line [8].

Two other members of the drafting team also have relationships with the Sangh Parivar. Arvind Kejriwal maintained close links with BJP MPs during the agitation as well as drawing in gurus soft on Hindutva such as Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar [6]. His association with the anti-reservationist Youth for Equality created revulsion among dalits, as did his dismissal of their suggestion that there should be a dalit on the drafting committee on the grounds that legal specialists were needed to draft a law (as though dalits were incapable of drafting laws, regardless of the fact that the Indian Constitution was drafted by one!) [9]. And Justice Santosh Hegde, whose father was all-India vice-President of the BJP, just last year referred to L K Advani (of the infamous Ram Janmabhoomi rath yatra that resulted in the demolition of the Babri Masjid and slaughter of thousands of Muslims) as a ‘father figure’ [10].

The right-wing bias of these three members of the JLB drafting committee explains why it leaves out NGOs from its ambit, since inclusion of NGOs would be a blow to massive outfits like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (already accused of illegal land acquisition [11]) and Baba Ramdev’s offshore financial transactions. It also explains why most dalit, adivasi and minority-rights activists stayed away from the movement, fearing that the JLB’s definition of ‘corruption’ would target the beneficiaries of affirmative action as well as members of the legislature and judiciary who supported attempts to level the playing field for sections of the population suffering discrimination.

The fourth member of the team, Shanti Bhushan, is a corporate lawyer whose most high-profile case in recent years has been that of Novartis versus the Cancer Patients Aid Association [12]. Novartis is attempting to prevent the production of generic versions of imatinib mesylate (an anti-leukemia drug) beyond the period of its original patent by a process called ‘ever-greening’, whereby a minor change in the form of a drug is used to renew its patent. In this particular case, it would mean that a life-saving drug would only be available at the Novartis price of Rs 120,000 per month instead of being made available by Indian companies for Rs 8,000 per month, obviously a death sentence for all leukemia patients other than the super-rich. In other words, Shanti Bhushan was hired by Novartis to argue that a company’s right to profit trumps the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution [13]. Bhushan Sr’s professional dealings with his corporate clients explains why corporations are left out of the Jan Lokpal Bill. This curious omission is also why companies like Jindal Aluminium, a company that tried to silence critics of its illegal mining activities with a false defamation suit [14], are willing to back the Anna movement with substantial donations [15]. It is also why the corporate media could abandon any pretence of objectivity and play an active role in promoting the movement [16]. For all of these power elites (big business, mass media), the solution to corruption is to privatise everything, minimise state regulation of private capital, and terminate even inadequate social security and welfare schemes like NREGA. They would like to secure their privileges (for which they now have to pay bribes) without paying bribes. Anything that cuts into their right to make money constitutes corruption.

These neoliberal underpinnings of the JLB have been criticised by many left-wing commentators and one important trade union federation. As the New Trade Union Initiative points out, “the fight against corruption must include demands for legislation and effective implementation of the laws that govern capital alongside rigorous and stringent implementation of the laws that govern work, the provision of social security and social protection, and all laws that provide working people access to their basic needs. Corruption necessarily flows from above and is deeply rooted in how capital seeks to maximise profits and not merely a product of corrupt civil servants or a grasping political class” [17]. While it might not be feasible for the Lokpal to monitor all NGOs and companies, in cases where a politician or bureaucrat has colluded with a company or NGO to rob the public (of land, revenue, etc), it makes no sense to nab the junior partner-in-crime (the politician or bureaucrat) while allowing the major beneficiary of corruption (the company or NGO) to get away with it. In such cases, as suggested by the NCPRI, the Lokpal or Lokayukta should have power to investigate and prosecute any other person who is co-accused in the case before it [18].

The involvement of the fifth member of the team, Prashant Bhushan, caused consternation among some of his former admirers, since he has been associated with social justice causes. But his fundamental similarity to the other members of the drafting team in terms of elitism and authoritarianism are evident in his vehement arguments that the issue of the JLB should be resolved by a referendum [19]. If a referendum were held on each and every clause of the bill, it would cost the earth and take forever, so that is clearly not feasible. Instead, the bill will be (in fact has been) drafted by ‘experts’, and the public will only have the right to vote for one bill or the other. Ironically, far from being an expansion of participatory democracy, as he claims, this constitutes a much less democratic procedure than pre-legislative public debate on a bill, with the possibility of feeding into the drafting process.

Apart from leaving out the people who will be affected by the bill from the deliberations on it, a referendum can be framed in a way that elicits the result that is desired. In this case, for example, Bhushan Jr made it clear that there would be only two options, the government Lokpal Bill or the JLB: no possibility of voting for the NCPRI or other proposals, and not even the option of rejecting both bills! (The hypocrisy of demanding the right to reject in elections while leaving it out in the proposed referendum is truly stunning!) Even if the intention is to get feedback on the JLB, there are two different ways in which a referendum could be framed. If the choice is between the government bill and JLB, as Bhushan wants, those who reject both would have to abstain; then it is possible that the majority of those who vote, knowing only that the latter is stronger, would vote for it. But if the choice is ‘the JLB: Yes or No’, many more are likely to vote, and the ‘No’ vote is likely to predominate, given the deep suspicion on the part of dalits, adivasis, minorities and workers that the JLB is designed to rob them of their rights [20]. No wonder referendums are favoured by dictators!

The JLB is marked by the elitist and authoritarian outlook of its drafters. While some of these features have been diluted since the first draft was put out, the marks of its parentage are still all too evident.

The followers

There has been a great deal of debate on the class composition of the crowds that came out in support of the JLB, but what is more relevant is the political character of the crowds; after all, there was a significant presence of plebeian elements in the mobs that brought down the Babri Masjid as well as the crowds that flocked to Hitler’s speeches, but this did not make them any less fascist.

Kiran Bedi’s slogan of ‘Anna is India and India is Anna’, with its disturbing echoes of the Emergency (‘Indira is India and India is Indira’) as well as Nazism (‘Adolf Hitler is Germany and Germany is Adolf Hitler’), was abandoned, but its spirit haunted the speeches of Team Anna, who repeatedly claimed that they spoke for ‘the people’ or ‘civil society’ as a whole. Equally revealing was the ubiquitous slogan ‘I am Anna’. What this conveyed was blind faith in Anna’s leadership, and a promise to follow wherever he went, do whatever he ordered. This abdication of the responsibility to think for oneself in favour of blind faith in a charismatic leader is typical of fascist movements. This does not mean that all those who wore ‘I am Anna’ caps or T-shirts were fascists, but that they could easily be manipulated by fascists.

If blind obedience to a leader is one side of the coin, the other side is intolerance of dissent or questioning of the stated goal. This too was very much in evidence. The good-natured and non-violent character of the assembly, noted by some who visited Ramlila Maidan, lasted only so long as questions were confined to ‘Where have you come from?’ and ‘What do you do?’As soon as even mildly probing questions were asked about the JLB, good nature vanished and the strong undercurrent of violence beneath the sanctimonious appearance of non-violence came to the surface [21]. The most horrifying report of such violence was that of a student who was chased into a river by fellow-students and pelted with stones until he drowned because he refused to participate in the anti-corruption protests [22].

Finally, the aggressive waving of the national flag and frequent chants of ‘Vande Mataram!’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki jai!’ conveyed a great deal about the character of the movement. As one journalist said, “Never in India’s history, not even during the freedom movement or war-time, has such aggressively patriotic fervour been unleashed…Democratic plurality, ideological diversity and argumentativeness were integral to our freedom movement…So here is the quibble. Once you produce the national flag, and Bharat Mata, all arguments cease…A democratic movement has to give space for disagreement, argue with those who have a different point of view, not wave the national flag and shut them up” [23].

All these characteristics – blindly following a leader, crushing dissent, and ultra-nationalism – are characteristics of fascism. Mass organisations like workers’ unions could not be more different, with their openness to often heated argument and debate.

Some conclusions

Put together, these characteristics of the goal of the campaign, its leadership, and its mass following suggest that IAC, if it can be called a mass movement at all, is a populist movement which is similar in many ways to the völkisch (populist) movements that fed into the rise of Nazism. Norwegian right-wing mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik had advised the Sangh Parivar that instead of attacking Muslims, they should focus their attacks on those whom he bizarrely described as ‘the Indian cultural Marxists’ – namely the UPA government, with its commitment to the protection of minorities – and seek to overthrow it [24]. But it is the Sangh Parivar that could give some lessons to Breivik. It knew that the slaughter of Muslims, as in Gujarat in 2002, could gain votes for it; that this may be changing, hence their switch-over to carrying out terrorist attacks that are blamed on Muslims; and that a massacre of, say, young members of the Congress Party (analogous to the massacre carried out by Breivik) would simply backfire against it. Instead, its assault on the UPA is far more subtle, cashing in on the public revulsion that has built up over issues like rampant inflation and corruption. In the past, campaigns against corruption by JP and V P Singh have been used by the Sangh Parivar to boost its popularity and bring it to power, and it is entirely possible that the Anna Hazare campaign could have the same result.

Whether regime change will result depends to a great extent on the reaction of the UPA government. Harping on about the supremacy of parliament in order to discredit popular protest is simply not convincing, because the legitimacy of parliament depends on the degree to which it upholds the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. Why would the Constitution guarantee rights like freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly if democracy meant only the right to vote every five years? Obviously, these are also means by which citizens achieve some measure of control over their own lives, as well as communicate what they want their representatives to do. If the UPA had taken more trouble to listen, rather than ignoring protests or all too often crushing them, it would not be facing a crisis.

It is not too late to start listening, beginning with the issue of corruption in the narrow sense. Some action against it has been taken, but belatedly and not enough. The best features of all the Lokpal proposals should be brought together and a strong set of laws enacted and implemented. If the government demonstrates that it is serious about taking action – and not just against its enemies – some of the damage done in the last six months could be reversed.

However, it is far more important to tackle the underlying disease that results in corruption: untrammelled power and impunity. For example, Anna’s fast unintentionally drew attention to Irom Sharmila’s decade-long fast against AFSPA. Every time the repeal or even amendment of this law is mooted, Armed Forces chiefs (who seem to believe that the army cannot do its work without raping, torturing and killing innocents) objects. Yet this law is patently unconstitutional, since it violates the right to equal protection of the law (which is denied to the victims) and to equality before the law (since the perpetrators are effectively above the law). Armed insurgency is admittedly a serious problem, but impunity for state security forces only makes it worse by alienating civilians. AFSPA and other laws that allow security force personnel to commit crimes with impunity need to be repealed or radically amended if the most blatant and corrupt abuse of power is to be curbed.

There are other issues on which the UPA needs to listen to protesters rather than using its majority in parliament to ram through policies that are not only unpopular but also violate fundamental rights. The Aadhar programme and nuclear power programme come to mind. The former is being pushed through without a proper debate and in the face of powerful arguments against it. And with wind and solar energy already cheaper than nuclear power and rapidly getting cheaper, the argument for nuclear power, which is hazardous, expensive, and will leave a deadly legacy of nuclear waste for hundreds of thousands of years, is extremely questionable. These policies reek of corruption, because they benefit a tiny elite while the rest of the population pays the price, either as taxpayers or because their human rights are violated. Unless they are put on hold while an informed, transparent public debate on their pros and cons takes place, the UPA is likely to suffer in the next elections.

More generally, the disease of untrammelled power, of which corruption is merely a symptom, needs to be tackled. If bureaucrats have the power to formulate or interpret legislation in a manner that deprives people of their rights or entitlements, then it is that power that must be curbed, not just the bribes they take from desperate people who have no other way of obtaining those rights or entitlements. If police have the power to torture innocents and threaten to kill them unless they confess to crimes they have not committed, then it is that power that must be curbed, not just the fact that they routinely use it to extort bribes. Responding to social movements by enacting legislation and carrying out measures that empower ordinary working people would be one way of tackling corruption at its roots; a massive increase in transparency, which is already mandated by the RTI Act, would be another.

The Left – both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary – also has an important role to play. Most sections of the Left in India have little or no understanding of fascism; they do not seem to know, for example, that fascism is a mass movement before it seizes power. These sections are so intent on training their guns on the centre that they are often oblivious of the fact that they are doing it in a manner that strengthens the extreme right. They have yet to develop the political skill of being critical of the government when it violates human rights or colludes in corruption, without providing support to right-wing forces engaged in subverting democracy.

Postscript

If the IAC and the Sangh Parivar won the first round of this struggle, the second round was won by the legal experts, Left intellectuals and social justice activists who stayed out of the campaign and criticised both the government’s Lokpal Bill and the JLB. The third round has now been launched by Team Anna. In their press conference on September 11, there was no mention of Modi’s attempt to appoint a Lokayukta in Gujarat in violation of the core principles of the JLB, no mention of the murder of RTI activist Shehla Masood in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh; but Anna did promise to campaign in forthcoming elections against candidates who oppose the JLB [26]. In a subsequent interview, he said that he would not be campaigning for any party, and suggested that Advani should ensure that all BJP Chief Ministers appoint Lokayuktas before starting his yatra. However, given that the BJP has pledged support to the JLB, it has already gained from Anna’s campaign and would undoubtedly gain more in future. It remains to be seen who will win the third round.

(Rohini Hensman is an activist and independent scholar working on issues of workers’ rights, women’s rights, the rights of minorities in India and Sri Lanka, and globalisation. She has written extensively on these issues, her most recent book being Workers, Unions, and Global Capitalism: Lessons From India. Her publications include two novels)

Endnotes

[1] http://www.tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ws180811PROTESTIII.asp

[2] http://www.rediff.com/news/column/what-anna-hazares-new-plans-mean-for-democracy-

[3] http://www.ap7am.com/ap7am_show_detail_videos.php?newsid=41004

[4] http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_anna-hazare-praises-narendra-modi-nitish-kumar-asks-cms-to-emulate-them_1530483

[5] http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/mallika-sarabhais-letter-to-warning-to-anna-hazare-98125

[6] http://www.sacw.net/article2266.html

[7] http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/advani-plans-rath-yatra-against-corruption_730524.html

[8] http://twocircles.net/2011sep05/why_did_modi_prefer_justice_retd_j_r_vora_lokayukta_post.html?utm

[9] http://www.tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ws010911This_why.asp

[10] http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/karnataka-lokayukta-santosh-hegde-withdraws-resignation-35364

[11] http://www.tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ne100911Art.asp

[12] http://spicyipindia.blogspot.com/2010/07/novartis-bayer-appeals-to-be-heard-by.html

[13] http://www.dnaindia.com/money/report_novartis-changes-tack-in-patent-law-challenge_1083157

[14] http://hrln.org/hrln/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=78:nelson-fernandes-

[15] http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=

[17] http://ntui.org.in/media/item/ntui-statement-on-the-fight-against-corruption/

[18] http://www.prajnya.in/mkss%20measures.pdf

[19] http://ibnlive.in.com/news/team-anna-seeks-referendum-on-lokpal-bill/157732-3.html http://spicyipindia.blogspot.com/2010/07/novartis-bayer-appeals-to-be-heard-by.html http://www.dnaindia.com/money/report_novartis-changes-tack-in-patent

[20] http://jantantra.com/2011/08/25/why-the-ramlila-surge-worries-minorities-and-those-on-margins/

[21] http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/nation/everybody-loves-a-good-protest

[22] http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-08-31/chennai/29949127_1_adyar-river-college-

[23] http://www.indianexpress.com/news/annationalism/840907/0

[24] http://www.sify.com/news/norwegian-mass-killer-breivik-s-manifesto-hails-hindutva

[25] http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/hazare-asks-people-not-to-elect-mps-who-

Is there a communal angle to the Anna Hazare upsurge? (Ram Puniyani)

In Perspective on September 12, 2011 at 6:03 pm

From: South Asia Citizens Web – 12 September 2011

The nation heaved a sigh of relief when Anna Hazare broke his fast (August 2011). The breaking of the fast with coconut water offered by a dalit and a Muslim girl was an attempt to project as if Anna’s upsurge represents all the sections of society and is not just having a narrow social base of elite middle class. Now as the matters stand a large section of dalits and Muslims are standing up to raise their voices against the ‘Anna claim’ that it is an inclusive upsurge. Congress in its frustration said that Anna Hazare is an agent of RSS, how far is this true?

A survey conducted by an agency, post Anna upsurge, showed that the episode of Anna fasting has changed the political equations quite a bit. One, the BJP support base has expanded and that of Congress has declined. Two, the popularity of Rahul Gandhi has taken a beating and that of Anna Hazare has zoomed up to the sky. Enthused by these developments, the professional Rath yatri, whose Rath yatras led to the process of demolition of Babri masjid, massive communal violence and polarization of Indians along religious lines, has jumped into the band wagon of anti corruption movement and has declared that he will take out an anti Corruption yatra. Life has strange paradoxes. BJP, where ever in power has been as corrupt as possible and now with this rath yatra, on one hand Advani is throwing his hat into the race for being Prime-ministerial candidate for BJP in forthcoming Loksabha elections, and on the other hand BJP by supporting the permanent aspirant for prime-ministership, is also trying to show as if it is really above being the allurement of corruption. A case of ‘nau so chuhe kha kar billi chali haj ko!’ (After eating 900 rats, cat is trying to strike a pious pose) Team Anna after feeling that they have gained legitimacy in popular psyche is now planning various train yatras in states facing elections. The Kejrivals and Kiran Bedis do know who will electorally benefit from their efforts.

One is not sure if Anna has been a lathi wielding, Hindu Rashtra indoctrinated swayamsevak, or a member of any of RSS affiliates (BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal etc.) Still one knows that RSS top functionary H.V. Sheshadri has written a book lauding Anna’s work in Ralegaon Siddhi experiment; calling it as an ideal village, close to the vision of RSS’s ‘model’ village. In this village there are no elections for any bodies, the dictates of Anna run for most of the things. In this village, drinking was eradicated, probably by tying one who drank to the pole, beating him with shoes and then forcing making him to ride on a donkey. This is a village where traditional caste system has been upheld in more ways than one.

It was in March 2011 when RSS decided to launch anti corruption movement. It was the time when RSS’s political child BJP was on a free fall course, the Hindutva-saffron terror network was getting exposed by the day and the criminal cases against Narendra Modi were taking a concrete shape. RSS had struck an understanding with Baba Ramdev for such a movement, and in addition to Ramdev’s yoga following, RSS had committed the support of its vast visible and invisible network. At the same time Anna also began his own efforts for Jan Lokpal Bill. With ‘Kudasan’ (Baba jumping amongst women to prevent being arrested by police) collapse of Baba; Anna became the sole vehicle for anti corruption strategies. Even in the April fast by Anna, RSS had mobilized its support base, the ‘shining India’ class, IT generation-MBA class, in large numbers. With joint team for drafting the bill being formed, the fast was suspended.

First time around (April) the hand of RSS in the fast was clear with Bharat Mata in the backdrop, and cry of Vande Matram and ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ in the air. In the second round, 16th August onwards, Anna modified the strategy in the light of criticism of the first fast. The primary mobilization was done by various outfits of RSS, including Youth against Corruption, an ABVP outfit. ABVP is the student wing of RSS. Needless to say the mobilization was joined in by a huge diverse sections also, who are very dissatisfied with problems of daily life, burden of price rise, withdrawal of social welfare by state, petty corruption by officers and what have you. The mobilization in practice was equally contributed by the corporate controlled media. First time (April) the overt signature of RSS was obvious with Ram Madhav, Sadhvi Ritmabhara and the back room ideologues like Govindacharaya being on call for strategy making. This time (August) around the caution was exercised and the overt RSS faces were replaced by less visible ones’, still all levers of control were with RSS swayamsevaks. RSS chief openly supported the Anna upsurge and that was message enough. VHP supporters funded and manned food stalls for those coming to show solidarity with fasting Anna. Mauvadi organizations and Khaps were in toe. BJP, itself drenched in corruption of various types, was too clever and gave a public impression that it is fully with Anna.

One has noticed that RSS progeny BJP, though claims to be fully against corruption, is no different than any other party in matters of corruption, as the real cause of corruption is much deeper than being projected by this movement, which is talking merely of punishing just those who receive bribe and not those who give, neither of the system which creates this corruption. We know ‘Power Corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. How the strategy of those behind Anna worked? One outcome of this is visible at electoral level. As pointed out above as per the surveys after the Anna episode, the support base of Congress has declined and that of BJP gone up. BJP has always taken up the issues which are primarily based on identity like Ram Janmbhoomi or Ram Setu. With every emotive issue, with most episodes of communal violence, support base of BJP expands. After Babri demolition it jumped from two MP’s to a large number, after Gujarat violence again BJP base went up and now the survey reports show that BJP has benefitted a lot from Anna upsurge. RSS combine’s appeal is to the particular sections of society who are not very appreciative of affirmative action of state, reservations, social welfare schemes, Mahatma Gandhi NAREGA and the like. This class is becoming stronger in number during last few decades. With BJP support base going up due to Anna movement, it becomes clearer as to who has been working behind the scene to create the upsurge around Anna!

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