Dismissing the present movement as a middle class movement that is thriving on media attention amounts to trivializing it. Would those criticising Anna’s movement as a middle class phenomenon not agree that Mahatma Gandhi was a middle class rage when he came back to India from South Africa? Would they have the gumption to say that the Mahatma was not wise enough to use the media of the day (albeit not 24×7 electronic media) to cover his every move? Rather than brushing off this movement as a media creation one must ask, why is the media interested in this person called Anna Hazare and his movement. I know this sounds rhetorical but the point remains that trivializing a people’s movement, their vent to frustration as something that is being stage managed by vested interests is in my opinion an extremely myopic viewpoint. Having said that, let me also add that the vested interest is mine, and yours too. It’s ours to take! The vested interest is – a country that holds the ideals of the freedom struggle high, to free our country from corruption – political, economic, and moral.
All of us have seen that people from all walks of life have joined this movement, rich and poor alike. Corruption affects us all, even those dalit leaders who claim that “take the cameras away, and people will go away”. Corruption has stopped the fruits of democracy from reaching the poor, the dalits, and despite having reservation for so many years, their situation hasn’t improved. I hope those who represent Indian dalits in social fora understand and respect this fact. This movement will be analysed threadbare, as we see happening on television, however we as the people of India should not forget what led to this, what the core issue is – the inefficiencies in the way our system works which leads to benefits not reaching the intended beneficiaries on one hand, and lack of accountability of the executive, the political and financial elite on the other. But this only accounts for economic corruption. What about the corruption in each of us? How many of us wouldn’t pay to make life easier? While ridiculing corruption, we must also understand that corruption will exist as long as inequity in the distribution of resources and (perhaps more importantly) power exists. This may come across as a leftist view, but let me assure you it’s not. What about the general lack of accountability in each of us? What about the ‘chalta hai’ attitude?
As the situation stands today, the average Indian isn’t happy with the way this country is run, we want a better India, a healthier India, a motherland whose wealth isn’t looted by the political elite. This crisis of governance has evoked strong feelings among the people, which led them to rally behind Anna Hazare. The government is perceived to be against the fundamental rights of the people, and corrupt; a crisis both political and economic in nature. Hard to say which lead to which, but high inflation and large scale looting of public money has definitely sent the signal that this government is not with the common man. The common man has seen parliament being stalled by both the government and the opposition over corruption and price rise. These are real issues facing the nation. But more importantly, the common man has seen another common man Anna Hazare being insulted by the ruling party spokespersons, his right to protest becoming the government’s bete noir. This public anger against the government turned into massive support for a simple old man.
While talking about the government draft of the Lokpal bill, or Anna’s draft, we are overlooking the major issue. What started off as public outrage against corruption and government’s treatment of Anna Hazare, and the government’s politicking and show of strength on this issue has accidentally exposed the government’s structural weakness and ineptitude. Well, I am not sure whether this weakness itself is by accident or by design, but it’s there for everybody to see, and that is the real irony of the situation. The government of a great nation being so weak, confused, and directionless.