Monday, December 26, 2011

Anna Hazare, Indians and the Political Class: A Reality Check

Anna Hazare's Fast against Corruption Fight against Corruption may not be an earth-shattering change in the political landscape, but is a milestone nevertheless. 

The much anticipated week is on. Anna Hazare has had his destiny written in red, and is all set to fast, again. Anna hazare's fasting has been getting so regular that some may wonder if it may not make news any more - just like corruption was accepted as a way of life in the ancient, culturally rich country, before Anna Hazare decided to take on the bad guys. 'Ancient' alright, but 'culturally rich' may get a few eyebrows raised, especially among those caught among the many different 'cultural' forces that are in operation in India these days. But then, that's beside the point. It's time for Anna Hazare to steal the limelight again, by occupying centre stage and foregoing his meals.

Of course, it is much more than just a matter of foregoing his meals. Of late, the youth have had the opportunity to get a glimpse of history, with some of the terms traditionally referred to, recorded, and read about only in history books, coming to life. "Quit India" and "Jail Bharo" were the bastions of Mahatma Gandhi, weapons in his armoury of non-violence, which he wielded strategically to get the huge country together, mobilise their strength and channelise the public anger towards a common cause - to gain Independence from the British Rule. Till a few years back, the country had largely relegated these historic events to the libraries and the public archives, with the terms having gone out of common usage and having been accorded 'cultural heritage' status. 

The youth, who were deluded with a whole lot of inputs, claims and perspectives from diverse channels and had been verging on disillusionment, getting caught in the run of the mill, searching for a career and an identity, and caring a damn about whatever happened in the dirty sphere of politics, got a shot in their arm. Till a few months back, if anyone had asked what united the diverse lot of Indians, separated by States, languages, cultures, traditions, castes and religions and a whole lot of geographic and demographic factors, the unanimous answers would have been 'Cricket' and 'Bollywood'. That changed with a series of terrorist attacks, blood baths, security lapses, gory visuals, and profuse losses of lives, when terrorism came into the agenda and started to touch a raw nerve in the Indian psyche. But there has not been anything as electrifying as Anna Hazare and his 'India Against Corruption' movement that redefined protests and made heads turn. 

There is no dearth of intelligentsia in the country, nor is there a leadership vacuum. In fact, there has been a problem of abundance when it comes to leadership and cult figures. The issue, however, was that there was no figurehead who could mobilise the intensity and the heat that the youth were capable of generating. The energy was frittering away in non-productive or purely economic pursuits, when the politicians had a jolly good time, abusing their powers and making hay while the sun was still shining. Getting back to the initial claim that Anna Hazare's role has been much more than just that of foregoing his meals, what he has done is to show the way forward to the youth who were getting increasingly disillusioned with the status quo and were growing increasingly indifferent to the gross abuse of power and the deteriorating standards of living of the middle class and those who struggled below the poverty line. They almost started believing it when the Government promised through its propaganda machinery that India was actually shining!

So much for what Anna Hazare and Team Anna has achieved. What about the team's original objectives? 'Eliminating scope for and eradicating corruption through Legislation' - that would be like pumping out the bad blood and filling the system up with good blood. That is an ideal motive beyond any scope for argument. The question is about feasibility. To quote from a previous rant on the same subject, "Without the last citizen in the queue educated, informed and empowered to deal with their life on their own terms, the political machinery, with its artificial intelligence that it has now got used to, would take every opportunity to strike back - with vengeance." 

The keywords here are "Political Machinery" - and it is no ordinary structure that Anna Hazare and his team are dealing with. The Indian political system is a beast, and a wild one in that, which has been having its way for decades now - and has got deeply addicted to power and all the goodies that come with it. Team Anna has been out to tame the beast. Unfortunately for the team and for the old man, however, they have set out to tame the beast with a leash and a cage that the beast itself has to provide them. In effect, Anna Hazare and company are fighting to get a legislation through by the political bosses, which would sanction the design and formation a cage to get the political bosses locked themselves up in. He could as well have asked them to file FIR's against themselves, try themselves in the courts of justice, line up behind bars, and hang themselves! And they are talking of the mere act of getting a legislation passed. Getting the system up to speed to the new reality, cleaning up the system, clearing the filth, and getting in the 'good blood' are in the distant horizon. It makes one wonder, how many times Anna Hazare might have to fast before he sees that day when corruption is actually eliminated and eradicated by the force of a piece of legislation!

Well, Anna Hazare will fast on the 27th of December, while the political bosses would debate the Lokpal Bill. And debates are nothing new to the power mongers who have made their way to the top through bickering, quarrelling, clambering, plotting, and cutting their teeth in the system using every trick in the book. And the show will go on. Anna Hazare may have had his dream and his objectives, But in Clearway's view, it is the by-product that is more important. Someone had to channelise the youth and orient their powers towards a tangible, credible objective, to make them get genuinely interested in the political process and in the state of affairs, and more importantly, to make them think. Team Anna has achieved the objective with flying colours. Discounting the lack of coordination that an ad hoc team is naturally expected to experience, and the negative publicity that some events involving the team have generated, Anna Hazare has done what no one else has managed to do ever since Mahatma Gandhi was shot. The only exception would, perhaps, be Kamal Hassan in Shankar's 'Indian'.

Image: 88 Reviews

It's unfair to ask much else out of the patriot who has put his life on the line for the greater good. His destiny was to keep fighting and to light the fire in the hearts of the youth. Change had to begin somewhere  - and it has begun in all flamboyance, from a spark in Ralegan Siddhi. As for the political class, the fighting has just begun for them too. But they would do what they do best - to play politics and stay afloat. And yes, they would definitely succeed in that. Anna Hazare is not the first challenge they have faced in their political career - nor would he be the last. But at least, they now have something to take serious note of, in an otherwise one-sided game, where the system has been the defending champion and its people, decidedly underdog. People would still remain so for the foreseeable future - what they have now is a ray of hope, an awareness that corruption could indeed be a dirty word, and some sense of direction in the dark world defined by the ruthless political class.

Related Posts:
Corruption in India, Lokpal Bill and Mahatma Gandhi
Anna Hazare: Lokpall Bill and Beyond
Anna Hazare, India Against Corruption and the Political System: A New Beginning