A lot of people have been asking me to comment on what Anna Hazare and his supporters have recently and spectacularly achieved with their agitation in
. New Delhi
This blog writer (and those whom he has quoted, along with those who have commented on his blogpost) has done a great deal of work for me, so I needn’t write a lot of things that I’d have otherwise had to. To all of them my thanks. My readers should look up the contents of that link thoroughly before proceeding to read the following lines.
Well, now that you have read the above (if you want a professional lawyer's take, here it is), all I want to say is:
1. I have profound respect for Anna Hazare and all he stands for (today the media have made him a national celebrity: I have talked about him to thousands of pupils for years when their parents had
never heard of him), and as a thinking man and an n I am deeply grateful for much that he has fought for and won for all of us. India certainly needs lots of people like him. India
2. Having said that, I agree with Dr. B. R. Ambedkar that trying to coerce governments by going on fasts unto death Gandhi-style is a very very dangerous strategy (Nirad Chaudhuri once famously said that Gandhi was a worse dictator than Hitler!), to be used rarely and with extreme caution, and I am not at all sure that Hazare-ji did the right thing this time round.
3. While any reader who follows this blog regularly will know how serious I am about this corruption issue, and though I do not want to sound cynical just for the heck of it, this ‘movement’, such as it was, makes the corners of my lips involuntarily curl up with suspicion and disdain. Who are these members of ‘civil society’ who have so suddenly woken up to the crying need to do away with corruption in public life? Someone who watched the whole shenanigan from almost next door as long as it lasted averred that a huge number were exactly the kind for whom any tamasha will do when something like World-Cup cricket is not available – they would run at the first hint of serious trouble, or as soon as they heard that a new shopping mall was being inaugurated nearby by Katrina Kaif. Of the rest, a significant number simply wanted to be seen on TV, wannabe celebrities all, a most pathetic class indeed; no one who respects the Masterda-Bhagat Singh type of patriots can spare a kind thought for them. Another group came riding in chauffered
es – the five-star chatterati class – to show their solidarity with the aam admi’s concerns. Now chances are 99 to 1 that their wealth has not been gotten by means that would bear scrutiny by any anti-corruption body worth its salt, so no matter whether they are big-time contractors or ex-civil servants or yogi-babas or film stars, aren’t they taking a very silly risk, living in glass houses and still throwing stones? Would they enjoy the fun if and when such a high-powered vigilante body really came into being and started looking closely into their means and affairs? limousin
4. I shall go on repeating ad nauseam that this kind of corruption that has supposedly angered so many people is bound to become systemic and incurable in a country where most people are lazy and therefore want shortcuts to ‘success’ ever since childhood, and most have no means of making big money by honest means (think of a typical government clerk, a private sector engineer, a petty shopkeeper, a schoolteacher or a police constable), yet everybody has started worshipping money, slavering over it all the time, and using it as the only real criterion of ‘success’. Admit it to yourself; almost all of us are like that now, and those who aren’t we call stupid or crazy! (How many Indians do you think would be ‘fans’ of SRK or Sachin if those two had not been making pots of money?) Gandhi knew this very well, which is why he insisted lifelong that there can be no honesty in public life unless public figures (cricketers as much as politicians, mind you) are committed to living simple, undemanding lives as models of self-control and probity. He himself practised what he preached, but remember he couldn’t persuade even the man who liked to call himself his closest disciple to follow in his footsteps. Anna-ji maybe has every right to call himself a Gandhian, but he should be very careful about all the people who are clambering on to his bandwagon: he has a hard-won reputation to lose!
5. Most worrisome of all is that a small number of people – even a few tens of thousands is a minuscule number in a country of 1200+ million, remember – is aiming to set itself up as the supreme national arbiter of all things moral, a kind of absolute, unchallengeable supra-governmental authority over all the rest of us. Even if every one of those ‘revolutionaries’ were a saintly lover of mankind, I would be terrified at the prospect: if this does not strike at the very roots of representative government (which, as Churchill said, is the least bad of all forms of authority known to man), if this does not reek of fascism of the worst sort, I don’t know what does. I for one would much rather live with a lot of crime and corruption and confusion and dissent of even the violent sort than submit myself with glee to such a draconian dispensation: I see shades of the French Reign of Terror and the worst times after the
n and Chinese revolutions in the very attempt to create such a monster in the name of cleansing public life. I do, do hope that a lot of sane Russia ns would see the danger before it is too late, and protest very loudly India eed. Oh that we were a race that knew and cared a little more about history! ind