IN ADVANCE, I APOLOGISE FOR THE LENGTH OF THIS POST. ALSO, THIS IS NOT RESEARCHED – IT IS A REACTION TO A NUMBER OF NEWS REPORTS AND DEBATES I’VE WATCHED/READ, BUT NOT RECENTLY AND FRESHLY LOOKED UP.
This post is long overdue. Not only has my blog been static for far too long, as a friend reminded me some time back, but this is something that I should have written all the way back in April.
This is in honour of everything that Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, the Bhushans, Santosh Hegde, and all those lakhs of Indians supporting the cause have done towards keeping corruption on the table, burning bright as the prime political topic. There have been too many attempts to cover up the issue and brush it under the carpet; without Team Anna, as the media calls them, they would have worked.
I’ve not written a post on this before, because in April it seemed obvious to me that, in the face of the kind of corruption the country was facing, with scam after scam after scam tumbling out of the Government’s closet, no one would disagree with Anna. It was so obvious, when the PM spoke of “coalition dharma”, that even the most upright, dignified, respectable politician could show favour to corrupt subordinates because he didn’t want to lose power.
It was only much later that I realised that the people supporting the GovernmentÂ - ordinary people, mostly members of the intelligentsia, not politicians – were serious. They honestly wanted Anna Hazare to stop his fasting, not because of the danger to his health, but because they felt he was in the wrong.
Corruption is something that India takes for granted, by and large. I know people who will point out, in all earnestness, that we have no right to demand anti-corruption legislation because “Which of us has not paid off a cop to let us go without a fine?”
But that’s not the point. Especially when it comes to the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill, from my understanding, was crafted by a group of social activists, bureaucrats and lawyers who had simply had enough of corruption at every level – from allegations touching the Prime Minister’s Office down to tipping a Government employee to find a file, most things seem to need a bribe to ease the way in this country. And they had had enough of that “chalta hain” attitude that plagues us all.
So they decided to make this their crusade. To make corruption a real crime, considered as such by the people as much as by the authorities, with speedy convictions of the guilty; for justice, safety from corruption, to be accessible to all strata of society.
Arvind Kejriwal, in his recent appearances on TV news, has made that very clear. His first priority is not the Prime Minister and the Judiciary being included in the ambit of the Lokpal. It is to ensure that the problem of “the common man’s corruption” is addressed.
He, and the other members of Team Anna, come across on TV news debates as sensible people who care passionately about getting their job done.Â Those debates are held so that the public can get an honest perspective of what the powers that be are doing, and why.
Here is what I hear, when I put on my TV.
Team Anna representative: The Government version of the Bill is toothless, attacking the person who reports corruption rather than the corrupt official, and excluding almost all civil servants, MPs in Parliament, the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, MLAs, the Judiciary… the list continues. This is a joke, a very cruel joke, being played on the nation. It was not for this that Anna Hazare was willing to risk his life. The Indian people did not pour out onto the streets in support of this monstrosity.
The Government spokesperson or spokesperson for the Congress Party: Anna Hazare is not a politician, he cannot frame laws, therefore we need not listen to him. How dare he ask us to?! This is blackmail!
Blackmail is a harsh word, yet it’s been bandied about like it’s the most obvious thing that that’s what these crusaders have been doing. They’ve been accused of everything from corruption to fraternising with the Opposition – and no one has pointed out that it doesn’t matter. So what? Even if they were paid members of the BJP, so what? Does that make their cause any less valuable? Does it somehow taint their version of the Bill? As for corruption, would corrupt bureaucrats push as they have, with every bit of strength in them to get harsher, inflexible laws against corruption in place? Would the Lokpal not apply equally against whoever it is that they are supposed to favour, as much as against the Government?
When Team Anna asked the people – the people -Â democracy is supposed to be all about them – what they felt on the issue, they were accused through sarcasm of inflating their figures, and, if I remember right, of undermining the Constitution.
The Government no longer sees its own contradictions. This is a little scary.
When they accuse Anna of blackmail, do they even think? This is not the story of one arrogant man against something as noble and unchangeable as God; it’s not even the story of just one man’s dream any more, though that’s where this started.
The elected members of both Houses of Parliament had the support of the nation way back in 2009. He has it now.
On the 16th, India will be with Anna Hazare. We’re with him now.
They’ve accused Anna Hazare of unleashing the tyranny of the unelected. If I was feeling charitable, I’d say they don’t realise that they’re unleashing the tyranny of the elected. I’d say they don’t realise the way that their pseudo-logic and attitude of always beingÂ right affect the minds of the common man just as much as the intelligentsia. I’d say they honestly believe their own nonsense, and deserve a chance to be reasoned with.
But frankly, I’m not feeling charitable. Not towards a man who says that coalitions demand certain ethical sacrifices. Nor do I particularly like a man who uses phrases like “no intelligence failure” to describe yet another terror strike in Mumbai and attempts to justify them in Parliament, or men who smile, and smile, and smile, and say nothing though words are coming out of their mouths.
We’re approaching another Independence Day, and I mean that in both senses. If nothing else, I believe we are close to seeing a huge change in how this country works. I believe that finally, politicians in Parliament will realise that they can’t ignore public opinion. When they see peaceful protests in the streets, when they read lakhs of signed petitions, the writing’s on the wall. Do what needs doing, or get out of the way.
Honestly, though, there’s only one thing I’d ask the ruling party to take home from this. Whether it’s parliamentary democracy or direct democracy, the right to rule comes from the people. Denying the people something they’ve asked for as unanimously as they have for the strong Jan Lokpal Bill, goes directly and violently against the principles of democracy. It’s similar to saying that the Government no longer requires the consent of a majority of the people in order to function. It’s not just smart to give it to us; it’s right, it’s just, and it’s the only thing that can be done.
It’s now Tuesday, August 9th – exactly one week before Anna Hazare resumes his fast. Exactly one week before India creates a new definition of freedom… I hope. The future is still uncertain, but I’m looking forward to it.
Happy Independence Day in advance, everybody!