Has Anna Hazare Lost His Relevance…Already?

2011: How It Was

Rewind to about 8 months ago and you will see that this nation was in an uproar about corruption in government. All because of one simple man, Anna Hazare. With his actions – including his fast unto death – and aided ably by the incompetence of the ruling party, he soared as a hero in the country’s collective imagination.

I remember how exciting it was to feel the pulse of people who were protesting with him. There was an unhampered enthusiasm among the people as they fought this war against corruption. I also remember writing about it more than once, since there was so much to capture. To me, it represented one of those movements that happen so rarely that you felt lucky to be a part of it, even if just as a witness. I still feel this way.

Then, There Were the Odd Cynics (Realists?)

In addition, I remember sharing my excitement with one particular person -a middle-aged corporate executive who has lived in India all his life and one who was obviously a hardened veteran. This was at the height of the Jan Lokpal movement. I remember clearly what he said – Corruption go away because of Anna Hazare? No, that will never happen. Not in this country.” 

I remember thinking to myself, “What a cynic! Of course, there will be change”.

Today, I sit here and wonder whether I was the naive one.

Anna Hazare is still very much around but I am just not sure how relevant he is anymore to a discussion and decision on a national level anti-corruption bill. He continues to be a respected and revered figure. But I don’t know who listens to what he says about this. And it’s difficult to pin down whether enough people here really care anymore that corruption needs to be rooted out with a strong set of laws.

The media appears to be be giving Anna some polite coverage in the back pages, every now and again. But then the media is all about stories that sell and it appears that this story has petered out. Lately, there’s been more talk about local murder and mayhem – Bollywood style.

How is This Even Possible?

It was mere months ago that the nation appeared to rally together for Anna Hazare and his inspiring movement, with the media helping spread that notion, every step of the way. Are memories really so short and emotions so transient?

This is so very sad since India badly needs a strong anti-corruption crusader who won’t say die. He would not be needed if the government was taking adequate actions on its own. But, we know it’s not. That’s a bit like asking the fox to guard the hen house.

Here are some random thoughts that occur to me at this turn of events (or rather non-events). They’re more questions than answers unfortunately:

  • In these intervening months, Anna Hazare has been raising his voice against state-level corruption and non-corruption related activities (unfortunately, I don’t remember most of them) – has he been diluting his bigger efforts towards a nation-wide Jan Lokpal bill?

  • People have returned to their everyday lives after the energizing activist movements of last year. They seem to have stopped listening to what Anna and his team have to say. Another compelling clarion call is needed

  • Perhaps, Anna is just waiting for the government to act on all their commitments…but what if it doesn’t?  What happens then? Does he have another silver bullet he can use?

  • Movements like these take time. Whether you are talking about India’s independence struggle or that of the U.S. Civil Rights movement – those efforts took many years, from concept and vision to reality. This one, while not of the same scope, will be a long process too, so maybe I am simply seeing a temporary lull? Let’s hope so!

  • What will revive the movement again and build momentum like it once had? (It seems like that is what made the government begin to act on this front). I’m afraid that I’m stumped on this.  

Can I help the conclusion that I have arrived at?  That, at least for the time being, Anna Hazare’s words and actions don’t seem to matter much to the majority of people. Or even to a minority. 

Let’s score another one for disappointment and discouragement about this country.  :-(

As I close on that downer note, I am promising myself right now that I will actively seek out an uplifting, positive topic that I can think about soon.  I need that!

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Photo credits:

Anna Hazare supporters: By Hariya1234 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Newspapers: By Ganesh Dhamodkar (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Posted on May 4, 2012, in expat, india, politics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. The Anna Hazare movement was doomed for failure and disappointment right from the start, in my opinion, and I am surprised that it lasted as long as it did. Firstly, he was just a symbolic figure for a ‘movement’ that was started by others who motivation(s) was not entirely honourable or non-partisan as claimed. Second, based on very bad advice (I would assume) he acted like a petulant child who kept moving the goal posts in his negotiations with the government. Third, he never did have the selfless stature of ‘Gandhi’ – he loved attention – and really didn’t really include or win over the grassroots (our rural population) in the movement.

    The movement of a million+ in a country whose population is 1.2 billion, where 65% of people live below the ‘poverty-line’ was a fad for the ‘young, middle-class, newly empowered’ youth who (naturally) get bored after the initial burst of enthusiasm; who can easily afford to continue to bribe because they are lazy to make a stand as they hurry through life; who moved on to the next exciting gadget on the market!

    Corruption is what is keeping the large majority of the 65% of our population poor (because they can’t afford it); and its corruption that has enabled the remaining to make a better life for themselves (because they can afford it). Now, who do you think needs to be mobilized to get rid of corruption? Remember Gandhi’s great Salt March?

    • Wow!

      I would say you were being a tad cynical. But that would have been a few months ago.

      Today…perhaps you are just the realist. And I’ve been the optimist.

      Maansi

  2. a two pronged problem
    1) India is filled with tons of armchair critics and weekend revolutionaries. Come Monday we forget everything. So once the movement fizzled a bit nobody was willing to come out in the winter again.
    2) Media hype. Media created the hype around the Anna stir earlier. And next time around they were busy covering the parliaments session rather than his fight. same thing happened with the poor girl Mahi who fell in the borewell. Media carried the campaign and the conveniently dropped it for a small fire in Chidambaram’s office. Same thing with Ruchika case. Media is the real villain. You can find my thoughts on medias role here

    http://risingbharat.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/media-is-the-real-villain-for-anna-hazare-fiasco/

    • You’re absolutely right. Anna had his time in the limelight. It would be nice if everything (or just the media?) conspires so that he has it again but somehow I’m not hopeful….are you?

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      You have a great blog! I will be following it.

      Maansi

      • Thanks Maansi for stopping by and reading my blogs. Being hopeful cant say much on that front. The last year has completely transformed me from being the eternal optimist to pessimist.

      • For some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, I am also moving in that direction – slowly but surely – with respect to India…from optimism to pessimism. I hope there is a reversal ahead!

        Maansi

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