“Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.”
― Robert F. Kennedy
This old quote from a different country far way somehow seems to perfectly fit this country now. Like a glove.
In this nation of 1.2 billion+ people, one man has had the guts to stand up and fight the scourge of corruption in a very visible and all-encompassing way. He is doing this in spite of all the criticisms that he’s up against, criticisms that sometimes verge on demonizing him. He started the battle with Anna Hazare, and even after parting ways is not giving up. Anything but.
You go, Kejriwal!
Clearly, he doesn’t have all the answers on the right way to proceed. Who can, in this nation of corrupt underbellies? So, he is relentlessly trying anything and everything to get the word out and to rouse the nation –
Protesting – loud, non-violent, civil disobedience and in-your-face, check.
Politics, check. [His party home page has this apt slogan – We the people of India are the change we seek.]
He is stepping up his revelations about the corrupt – be they high ranking politicians or prolific business people, all very powerful people. And he is creating fear and anxiety (also enemies) as the guilty begin to dread each week and each disclosure.
Thankfully the media is paying close attention to what he is saying, and therefore spreading the word so that the whole country hears about the looters. Not just Indian media, but now more global publications such as The Washington Post, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal (check out this wonderful satire) are starting to pay attention.
[The flip side of this is that the media has a super-short memory – only until the next big story erupts or is manufactured. So, Kejriwal’s revelations seem to appear and disappear like lightening bolts].
Who is Kejriwal going after?
On the one hand, you have corrupt politicians (irrespective of political party or affiliation) stealing from the government coffers. And on the other hand you have the uber wealthy Indian industrialists hiding their black money in Swiss banks, not paying taxes that they owe to the country – on the wealth that they accumulate from her.
Just last week, I had published a post about the fall from grace of Rajat Gupta. Compare his crime to that of these thieves, blatantly stealing from the country and its people! He’s been punished.
But will these looters ever get their due?
Still, Arvind Kejriwal toils on, against all odds and all critics – one stalwart and his circle of supporters in this vast country, doing all he can to expose them – the rich and the famous – “leaders” who are also turning out to be the ultimate corrupt rogues of India. Along the way, he is slowly but surely picking up more steam and supporters.
I found a recent opinion piece about the man that will probably interest you as much as it did me with this intriguing title, Six reasons why Arvind Kejriwal makes a bad politician. It showcased his character in a way that made me root for him even more. He has all the refreshing qualities of an “anti-politician”.
Let’s give the man his due, and for the good of the country, we need to hope that he never backs off of his agenda for the country. Now that he has a political party, there’s a pragmatic way for people to make a real difference by supporting him. And if there was anything India needed at this time, she needs that. His party even coming out as a strong, honest opposition to whoever ends up ruling would truly be counted as progress.
Only the people can make him a real force in the the next election and therefore, in the country.
The question remains, however – will they?
A day after the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, I feel lucky to just happen to be in India during an opportune time, while a massive people’s movement was ignited across the country, led by Anna Hazare and his team.
It makes me wonder if even they imagined that it would resonate so broadly and engage such mammoth public support. These kinds of movements just don’t happen everyday!
So, to be here, on the ground watching as it unfolded, not knowing which path it would take, and yet rooting for one side to win – well, like I said, I feel lucky. It just would not have been the same watching from afar – in the US – and trying to observe and relate to what was happening here. Even with access to Indian TV channels and the internet, the experience simply would have been aloof and just different.
Here I could talk to people – in the office, on the street, while shopping, to the domestic workers, my driver and others; it’s been amazing to see how engaged they were!
I still regret not braving the rain and traffic to get to the big march from Bandra to Juhu on August 21st to feel the energy of the thousands who were there (I have heard reports of everything from over 50,000 to 150,000 people marching that afternoon). Despite the numbers, it was a peaceful march, uniting people from all walks of life.
Even as a mere witness, it was great to be here and somehow, unknowingly become a part of what was happening – an awakening of sorts in India that stirred up strong emotions, opinions and passions.
What I would have missed
These were some of the interesting things that I saw along the way-
1. It was a movement that brought together massive numbers of people of every caste, creed, religion and income level for a common cause.
2. It also saw cohesion develop among various generations – from the young to the middle-aged to old and very old.
3. It cut across state and language boundaries.
4. It provided a bird’s eye view of people feeling empowered and that they could, in fact, be the change that they seek.
5. Another perspective provided to people was an idea of what true freedom felt like, and what it meant to be a democratic society.
6. There have been questions as to whether Gandhi is relevant anymore in modern India. This journey answered that question rather well. This was an amazingly peaceful demonstration of will and strength.
8. And for those of us who were not out marching on the streets, the media took great pains and care of transferring some part of that passion and sentiment to our homes.
With More to Come
All I hope is that the interim results accomplished were not just a passing phase. This is exactly how one cynic I met described it to me. More specifically he also said to me, “you really don’t understand India”. (That’s certainly a true statement!). He then went on to describe other movements – all temporary and accomplishing nothing in the long run.
True, in a couple of months, this is not headline making news anymore. But, I simply don’t buy that argument, because others in India have told me the opposite – that they have rarely seen something of this scale, something that did work to change how events unfolded and what results were accomplished. Sure, about all we can do at this point is watch and wait for the rest of the Jan Lokpal journey to occur. But far better to be vigilant. And to participate. Lest promises made are “forgotten” by the powers that be.
Team Anna is continuing to work relentlessly in the background and has not gone away anywhere. The government knows this and they will think long and hard before making any decisions towards another toothless Lokpal bill. That, in itself, is a victory. With more to come (says the optimistic expat).
Note: All photos, images and cartoons are courtesy of the India Against Corruption facebook page – a place where you can participate in the cause.