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!
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
It has been but a week since Anna Hazare ended his fast and people celebrated it as a day of victory for the country (Note – see Losers below for exceptions). Since then, there have been more than their fair share of analyses, critiques and opinions of the events that spanned the 13 day period between August 16 and Aug 28. Clearly, the 74 year old man and his crusade captured the imagination of Indians around the globe.
I can think of various winners and losers that emerged. Here is strictly my (non-exhaustive) take on the subject. Who and what did I miss?
1. The People of India
The fight to end corruption rallied the nation like nothing else in recent times, and the the victory of the underdog is still being relished.
To this selfless man, service to the nation and its people has become his mission and way of life. Anna – who with his simplicity and plain but powerful message – took on the government and ended up winning the hearts and minds of a country. Now, we can add youth icon (the real one) to his attributes. Who would’ve thought?
3. Arvind Kejriwal, Medha Patkar and Prashant Bhushan
Standout strategists and tacticians – the core of Team Anna, working in the background and foreground to ensure that Anna’s cause would bear healthy fruit. Clever, tough, insightful, transparent, honest, credible…all these words can be used to describe them.
Who would have guessed that it would take a 74 year old man to mobilize India’s youth? Indeed, to make them involved, engaged, connected, passionate and committed. Yes, they won big too.
5.Pranab Mukherjee of the UPA ruling party, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj of BJP
If there is one group who were definite losers in this battle it was the politicians, but for a few standout spokespeople, negotiators and deal makers who were there as exceptions just to prove that rule. I’ve picked the three that stood out for me.
6. The Media
For unstinting coverage of what they saw as a good cause for the people and nation, while being unapologetic and non-objective about it! The media did make a difference. Take a bow.
1. The UPA Government
For fighting the wrong fire with the wrong tools and the wrong people. They lost. Of course. Specific losers from this group follow.
For his lack of insight, leadership, communication, judgment and political savvy. Ultimately costing him his credibility across the country. For all his position and power, he looked positively diminutive next to Anna.
He missed a great opportunity to show leadership and courage – to really become the youth icon that his backers promote. Clearly, he does not have it in him. Especially when his mother is away. [On the other hand, his cousin Varun Gandhi outshone him in every way possible].
Clueless fighters who used legalese and elitism against the raw emotion and disgust of people. They’re probably still wondering why and how they could have lost.
For his most famous quote: “Anna Hazare is corrupt from head to toe“. Really? Thanks for adding fuel to the fire in people’s belly, pal. Now, we can forget about you.
6. The Cynics and Critics
There are always some, and its important to have them. By existing, they showcase the power of democracy. Even if they were on the wrong side this time…;)
7. Arundhati Roy
She emerged as the poster child for nutcase critiquing. Temporarily got her what she was obviously laboring for – some attention. This post did a great job of rebutting her nonsensical tirade.
I hate to end this post on a sour note (i.e. with losers). Therefore, here’s another great cartoon by Kureel to round it out. Guess which side won the battle? *
UPA Govt Cartoon By:Thomas A. Kodenkandath, Ph.D. (Thommy); http://InnocentLines.blogspot.com
Note: All other photographs, cartoons and images used in this post are courtesy of the Facebook page for India Against Corruption.