I was a little restrained yesterday in my post; in fact I was a little confused. Today, I am clear in my mind. Anna Hazare, by continuing his fast even after he has managed to draw the attention of all concerned, is resorting to blackmail. Far from being a Gandhian, he now runs the risk of being labeled a road-side bully whose objective appears to be to create trouble. Suddenly.....his style is starting to look a little dictatorial.
Consider the following:
- The PM and Sonia Gandhi have both agreed to include Anna Hazare in the dialogue on the bill. In fact, the PM has agreed to have 50% representation of civil society in the committee that will re-draft the bill. What more does he expect? That the government must agree to the Jan Lok Pal bill as proposed.....with all its flaws....without a debate? Many people have commented that the proposed bill has many flaws. Should it be passed in its current form in spite of these flaws?
- If the government surrenders to this blackmail, what will stop another bunch of people from adopting similar steps to achieve their own goals? How about a bunch of environmentalists going on a hunger strike demanding stronger pollution control rules? Someone else going on a hunger strike demanding a uniform civil code. These are all worthy causes (and none of them are self-serving).......but is this the way we want to run our country?
- If Anna Hazare is indeed a Gandhian, then why does he not believe in democratic processes? Why can’t he struggle like so many others struggle in making his point? Why can’t he limit himself to peaceful morchas as so many others social reformers do? There are indeed several drawbacks of democracy.... a painfully-slow parliamentary process being one of them.....but why can’t he understand that democracy is still the best form of governance?
The reality is that Anna Hazare’s conduct since yesterday has been extremely aggressive and very different from what he is known for. In his early days, he worked silently with the villagers of Ralegaon Siddhi in correcting the many wrongs in society. He explained to people the need for small family sizes and encouraged people to undergo sterilization operations. He cajoled people into giving up drinking and smoking. He fought against antiquated and orthodox social mores. He helped raise awareness and resources for water harvesting and land improvement. He made Ralegaon Siddhi one of the most prosperous villages in the country. All this by following the democratic process. He led by inspiration; not by force. This time, he appears to be leading by force.
With all due respect, what’s different between Anna Hazare’s style and Gaddafi’s? Both force others in one way or the other. If they don’t follow their wishes, they terrorize them. Let’s not forget that even Gaddafi came to power on the back of a Libyan socialist revolution against King Idris’s rule. In fact, he called himself “The Brother Leader” in the early days. Let’s not forget that this is the way dictators are often born. It’s not their early life that make them dictators.....it’s what they do later that make them so. Anna Hazare has likewise earned tremendous public goodwill from his Ralegaon Siddhi days......but his actions now will determine whether he is remembered as a Gandhian or as a dictator.
When I discussed these views of mine with many people yesterday, I was surprised by the resonance I got. Everyone has sympathy for Anna Hazare; but most felt that he was overplaying his hand. Most felt that it was because it was Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi at the helm of affairs, that he was getting so much of the government’s attention. Isn’t it remarkable really? Time and again, these two have shown which side of the fight they are on. In the past, it was Sonia Gandhi who suggested that discretionary powers of Chief Ministers be curtailed. It was her National Advisory Committee (NAC) that suggested the Food Security Act. It was this government that passed the Right to Education Act. It is this government.....that after an initial misstep..... is allowing the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and all the other bodies to have a free hand in the investigations in the 2G matter. It’s after a long time we are having a responsive government. Let’s not question their credentials please.
Let’s also remember that there are always divergent points of views in a democracy. For eg., today’s paper has a story of Jairam Ramesh objecting to the Maharashtra CM’s decision to reduce spends on the renovation of Bombay Zoo and the attached 150-year-old botanical gardens from Rs 450 crores to Rs 150 crores. It’s the CM’s view that the money is better spent on the poor people. Jairam Ramesh feels that the botanical garden needs to be protected......no matter what the cost. Someone feels that
should not go for nuclear power plants. Some others feel it should. These are different points of views and they should not be smothered. Anna Hazare must understand that a different point of view exists from his. That more laws are not needed; better people are; that even a new Lokpal law could be ineffective if the people who implement it are the same as the ones who implement other existing laws. He has to consider these alternate points of view. Ultimately, even he must subject himself to Parliament in a democracy..... India
Anna Hazare has already succeeded in drawing attention to his cause. He should now participate in the drafting of a good bill. If there are parts of his bill that are wrong, he should must make the corrections. Even if he is overruled on some points, he has to appreciate that Parliament is supreme in law making. If people don’t like the government, they will get a chance to vote it out in another 3 years or so. If his objective is to make things better, then he should be a participant, not a sulking aggressor like he is being right now.
The real truth is that Anna Hazare has lost direction. He’s over reached. He’s crossed over from being a Gandhian to being a bully. He must stop and consider what he stands for today. Will his approach lead to the eventual result that he so passionately feels for? Or will it weaken the very democratic institutions that allow him the right to agitate like this in the first place?