Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Anna Hazaare Zindabaad...

...that's what little Eeshu was screaming on day 2 of the fast. Then he got bored and switched over to other things. Looks like the rest of the world(that is, TV watching middle class India) isn't yet bored with Anna. This euphoria will continue for a few more days until the IPL Cricket fever rises and grips everyone's throat.

Who doesn't have issues with corruption(other than those who enjoy its fruits)? The scams that are making headlines everyday are alarming, so is the apparent shamelessness of those who are perpetrating it, or defending themselves. At a more personal level, I have trouble with it when the telephone lineman doesn't give me a connection until I grease his palms. I cringe when my cousin who's a police constable talks freely about his exploits at making big money in shady ways, because he's paid a bomb to get to that post in the first place.

So when Anna hazaare and others come forward with a fast unto death to root out this menace and bring accountability to those in power, it's like a fresh breeze amidst a hell of a gutter smell. I feel like dancing when the Government agrees to setting up a 10 member commitee, with 50 percent participation from the civil society in drafting the Jan Lokpal bill. It's as if the revolution of Egypt and the middle east has arrived in India too.

After the celebrations and break-dances subside, these are some random thoughts:

* Who selects the five member commitee representing Civil society? What's the Criteria? ( it appears now that they're selected by Anna Hazaare. Super!)

* The Jan lokpal bill that's proposed by the agitating members has some serious issues to be dealt with. It gives unprecedented power to just a few members--power even over the Supreme court of India! And these members, those of the Lokpal commitee are to be selected by an elite group of citizens (Nobel laureates, Bharat ratna award winners, Retired Supreme court judges, International award winners etc). And the decision of the Lokpal commitee cannot be questioned either!.... Do we need to bring in a hammer to get rid of a headache?

* If the fence guards the garden, who guards the fence? With such sweeping powers at its disposal, what's the guarantee that the Lokpal commitee will be free and fair and incorruptible? Are the members of the commitee including its chairman too subject to its jurisdiction? Either these issues are glossed over or nobody's explaining it clearly. Two interesting articles which dissect the Anna movement...this and this.

* This revolution ended in just 5 days and everyone's happy! Uhh!! And they're saying, it's just a beginning. Beginning of what? More such shorty shorty revolutions, telecast live on 24 hour newschannels which'll make all happy? The agitators are talking of electrol reforms, judicial reforms, etc, etc. So who'll sit for fast the next time to force the government to implement them? Blackmailing is good as long as it's done to get an icecream. Annaji says that 'if this is blackmailing, then as long as I'm alive, I'll do it.' What if every other joker goes on a hunger strike to enforce his ideas? What if the agitating Gujjars sit for hunger strike demanding reservations? How about similar hunger strikes in both Karnataka and Maharashtra over the border issues? What if the Kashmir separatists sit for 'anshan' asking for separate statehood? And imagine a media whipped up frenzy which portrays these agitations as 'the next freedom struggle'? Will the government start giving in to all these demands just because you won't eat food until somebody listens?

* There's a lot of Anna worship going on at present, which is likely to increase in the days to come. This elevation of someone to a demigod status and denouncing anyone who disagrees--this is slightly disconcerting and dangerous. Anyone who disagrees with Anna or takes an opposing view in the debate is likely to be branded a cynic or in cahoots with the corrupt. It was amusing to watch the doubters get cornered and soundly thrashed on National debate on Television, although they raised some valid issues and points. Anna-fanaticism ain't cool even if the old dude is God incarnate.

* I'm sure there'll be lots of tu-tu main-main in the coming days between Anna's people and those in the power corridors. And Anna hazaare will be in the news for many wrong reasons. He'll say something and then retract it or say, 'that was in another context'. His past will be dug and some unsavory bits will be held up(like his support for Raj thackeray). He's already displayed his awe for Sonia Gandhi on one or two occasions(and denounced for that by a few who in turn got thrashed by the rest). He's gonna make a fool of himself but that's okay, I guess.

* Gaurav Sabnis at Vantage point has a balanced view of this whole episode. The old man from Ralegaon, who was relatively unknown until now is getting a bit overwhelmed by this National icon status. People want a hero and they've got one in Anna Hazaare. It'll be tough for him to maintain the herogiri. The awe-struck devotees need to realize that he's human too. That one will be difficult.

Change's in the air but these are early days to call it a revolution or a second freedom struggle. Anna is not a Gandhi fighting three hundred years of foreign oppression. Overhauling the system will not happen overnight. Yet this is a promising start. Instead of taking extreme positions in hailing Anna as a second Mahatma or rubbishing everything, the need of the hour is to think through patiently and stay sane.

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