Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A for Anna. B for Baba. C for Comedy show!

This is what I always suspected would happen. One activist after another would go on a hunger strike on arbitrary issues that he/she believes are the most important and need immediate attention. Baba Ramdev’s threat is no different. At its core, its pure blackmail. I argued against the hunger strike of Anna. I will argue again against this joke of a hunger strike by Baba.

There are several problems I have with Baba’s hunger strike:

Firstly, I don’t think a hunger strike is a good way of protesting at all. Sure, it’s effective. Especially, if the government is like the one that we have at that succumbs to such threats. If it had been another government, it may have acted tougher and then all such movements would have become infructuous. But this government heeds such threats....and it will now suffer from multiple threats of this type. Hunger strikes may be effective but they are undoubtedly undemocratic. In a different era and against a different opponent, it was OK. Today, against a democratically elected government (elected for a 2nd term at that), it’s just not OK. The government should intervene.....and force feed Baba and all those who attempt a hunger strike in the future.

Secondly, I really don’t care for Baba Ramdev’s political views. He’s a well known and well regarded yoga practitioner and he must stay limited to that. It’s the same with film stars like Mahesh Bhatt and Anupam Kher.....writers like Shobhaa De and Chetan Bhagat.....and others like them who like to speak on politics when they themselves dont understand the full scope of the issues. Media of course, loves celebrities, and gives them enormous footage.

Thirdly, I have a specific problem with religious and semi-religious leaders (like Baba) getting center stage. If we continue with this, there will be no difference left between us and Pakistan. These saffron clad babas are no different from the mullahs that have taken over Pakistan. They will harangue the government and soon dictate our way of life to us. It’s not unimaginable that these babas may ban girls from wearing western clothes, youngsters from drinking and society in general from eating non-veg. What if they insisted on a much less liberal censorship code. What if they dictated the programming content of TV channels? What if they made the likes of yoga and Hindu education compulsory in schools? They would take us back a hundred years. Their role is different and limited. Giving them center stage will surely harm the secular fabric that I think most Indians care for.

Fourth, one of the demands made by Baba (as reported by Times Now) is the death penalty for those convicted of corruption. This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long time. My immediate thought was: One Osama is dead; Another has arisen. Osama was a maverick too.....a misdirected one. For his followers, his every word was god-speak. By demanding such a punishment, isn’t Baba sounding like Osama? It’s stupid words like these that gives religious and semi religious leaders a bad name. That’s why they are called bigots. They are anachronistic with today’s time.

And lastly, Baba’s fast is helping highlight the problems with Anna’s approach. It’s distracting attention from the issues that he raised. Many right thinking people are now thinking that by supporting Anna, they may have created a new demon. One that will pull India down. Support for Anna’s measures will drop as a result of Baba’s action. I know of many people who cringed when they heard of this hunger strike.

I am actually not surprised by Baba’s decision. I have great disdain for the civil activist types who want to stay out of the legal process of contesting elections and then acquiring power; those who want to wield power from the outside. They rely on media patronage for their power. The problem is that they lack credibility. In this case, we don’t even know what most Indians think of his suggestion. Do they agree with Baba that the death penalty should be handed out to corrupt people? Since we don’t have a culture of referendums in this country, are we going to rely on what media’s views on these subjects are? Should we assume that what Arnab and Rajdeep put out reflect the views of the entire country? How can we give so much power and authority in the hands of TV anchors....who by any estimate.....are very poorly informed. And are politically polarized?

Civil activists should stay within the constitution. They should contest elections. Many of them say that elections are dirty; they need lots of money power. I was told that the activists raised Rs 80 lacs at Jantar Mantar during Anna’s hunger strike. That’s terrific. If a concerted effort is made, more money can be raised legally. If they have the funding, can we then expect the activists to fight elections at least in a few seats? Gradually....and if they continue to have the support of the people....can they can expand their presence? This is how most revolutionaries come to power. For civil society activists to think that their hunger strikes are good while the work done by other revolutionaries who chose to fight elections is bad is nothing by self-serving imperialism.

The question that begs to be asked is: Why is Baba doing this? One version of the possible reason is that he is feeling left out.....that he has deep political ambitions....and hence he is doing all this to draw attention. His own view is that there are some 10 crore Indians who watch his TV shows (I doubt if babas understand let’s take that with a huge pinch of salt!); so he doesn’t need the publicity. Another version is that he has himself acquired enormous wealth.....some Rs 1100 crores or so.....and the government is putting pressure on him to reveal the source of this money. And asking if he paid taxes and all. To deflect pressure, he is mounting this hunger strike. I don’t know which version is true. But both look eminently feasible. I have always said that probably every person in India is corrupt. More so, the baba variety. If true, isn’t it ironical that these people are spearheading the anti-corruption movement?

The real truth is that hunger strikes should be treated like blackmail and banned. Else, we’ll have a situation where the government will only be attending to hunger strikes. The agenda in the country will be set by the hunger strikers....Media will decide which hunger strike to support and which not. The will of the expressed through elections.....will be compromised. And I doubt if that can be good for us......I can almost imagine a day when the likes of Baba will lord over us as our leaders. And that’s a really dreadful thought!

1 comment:

  1. There is one theory that has been doing rounds in the gossip corridors, that Anna was brought in by Congress itself as a pre-empt to diffuse Baba Ramdev. No doubt Ramdev will try to get even.In the end everyone will have their few mins of media attention and their own agenda to drive. Long live corruption .....