The word “social movement”, as Wikipedia defines it, means “a coordinated group action focused on a political or social issue”. Therefore, when supporters of Anna Hazare agitation began to claim that this is a “spontaneous” movement of the people, I noted with certain sarcasm that the spontaneous movement feeds around one hundred thousand people daily without a problem. It is undeniable that certain kind of hypocrisies are over-rated and one of them is the idea that every social movement with a politico-economic goal must be free of any politico-economic connection. Well, really? It is like claiming that so-called Jasmine revolution in Egypt was a spontaneous movement of angry Egyptians. Before any liberal goes orgasmic over this spontaneous outburst of anger, one should ask, how is it possible for lakhs of people to find their daily lunch/dinners in a moderately sized town square for consecutive 5-7 days without any news of food shortage in Cairo? If one thinks that such logistics is an easy task to be done on an ad-hoc basis then, well, try to organize a puja in your locality.

The liberal dementia notwithstanding, this movement like any other large movement before it, was well organized. It also found a latent flow of public anger by chance and tapped it so well that it came to symbolize the public anger against corruption. Naturally, vast number of people found it irresistible to compare this with other moderately successful movements like JP Narayan’s. The movement might have been started by Anna Hazare and his loony left backers, it might have been backed by urbanized young middle class initially, but today that movement has gone beyond that. It has touched the nerve center of semi-urban middle India and is beginning to reach the rural India. This movement has become bigger than Sri Anna Hazare who is now sitting over a roaring tiger that refuses to stop. This is also the reason likes of me who found no sympathy for Sri Anna Hazare’s early movement have to express certain solidarity with this anger.

Having said that, I dislike and disapprove the goal that appears to be backed by this public anger. Anger, like love, is a strong emotion that usually blocks the judgment capacity of human brain. This is exactly the reason I am cynic about outcome of any so-called euphoria-driven revolution. Not a single revolution in History, be it violent or non-violent, has managed to reduce misery of common man. In fact, in most cases, it produced more and more miseries for common man. The so-called Jan Lok Pal bill is a new bureaucratic tool that is supposed to be a cure for everything that is wrong with the government machinery. Well, was not CVC created for the vigilance of corruption purpose? What happened since then? Where is the guarantee that Lokpal would not go CVC way? What happened to tools like RTI? In most cases, government offices refuse to answer even very common queries. Let us, for a moment, assume that a very trust worthy individual has been found to become Lokpal. What happens to the people he find guilty? He has to send them to the court and the cases will be struck in there for years. Does not that tell us that a judicial reform followed by police reform is more urgent than this tamasha? What will happen if the Lokpal changes then and new Lokpal accuses old one to be over-zealous and withdraws the case? Shall we make Lokpal a life-long post to prevent this? What is the need for a Lokpal in the state? If we need a head to whom vigilance agencies at the state level should be reporting, what other purpose is there for that white elephant also known as governor/rajya-pal? These questions, apparently, were not answered clearly.

But, then, there other questions too. I know people from Maharastra who, despite being supporters of strong action against corrupt, are not sure about Anna Hazare’s impeccable credentials. While Sawant commission report may be vague about Sri Hazare’s role in a scam, there are multiple testaments about Sri Hazare’s sympathy for a certain corrupt-to-the-bone political kingmaker. The testaments achieve certain aura of authenticity when you recognize that people like Sri GK Khairnar whose own image of upright honest officer was never doubted are making those statements. What about Sri Hazare’s continuous flip-flop about issues after issues? One day he may praise Sri Narendra Modi for his governance, other day he finds “ghotala hi ghotala” and mistakes line for milk as line for desi liquor. One day he sits with Bharatmata’s image, next day image gets replaced to “secularize” the movement. He is not being treated as a leader, he is being treated as a mascot and he allowed this misrepresentation. The fact that assembled people chose to disregard these considerations tells us that they are fed up with the peculiar democracy look-a-like system, they dont care if dictatorship replaces this pathetic bastard child of democracy and aristocracy.

Questions exist about Sri Hazare’s team as well. One cannot help but wonder about Sri Shanti Bhushan that why he found an anti-corruption zeal nearly three decades after he lost power as a minister? What was his record in driving anti-corruption legislature when he was the law minister? What sort of adventures did he embark on to clear the judiciary? What did Srimati Kiran Bedi do to root out corruption in the lower rungs of police system? She had the opportunity when she was an officer of the force. If Lokpal becomes a reality, would she decline to take the post since that signifies a conflict of interest? These questions would never be answered.

There are those who tried to place this question in larger context. There are also those who tried to push their own agenda by using these questions as tools. In the large blogosphere as well as twitter, all such people are branded as supporter of corrupt. This is unfortunate. But more unfortunate is the repeated abuse from those who placed sane questions in the first place. Naturally, a set of paper intellectuals from our media have started demanding censorship. The “my-way-or-highway” arrogance is, after all, a natural attribute of confident youth that is driving force behind Sri Anna Hazare’s agitation. But then, cautious cynicism is ultimate outcome of bitter-sweet experience. A blend of both usually wins the day and that is not happening so far.

Roman dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus (yes, that was his name and western world unfairly blames Indians for having large names) devised a cunning strategy in the face of Carthaginian invasion led by the great general Hannibal. Recognizing the skill of invading army and Hannibal’s strategic might, he refused to engage in a direct battle, kept disturbing Carthaginian supply lines and left Hannibal with the option of very costly and long siege of the walled capital. This reduced Hannibal’s military power since the mercenaries in his team who were hoping for a quick victory left his command. The strategy, known as Fabian strategy, is often used against an invading power with far superior capacity. There is no doubt that current Indian government is full of incompetent old fools whose only reason to remain in power is to enjoy the perks of power. Faced with super waves of public anger and strategy of blackmail, government is probably taking Fabian route. All decisions by the government in this matter – immature decision to arrest Sri Hazare, then releasing him, then engaging his team in a discussion just to reject the discussion very next day – seems to point to a belligerent government that was once thought to be most stable in last two decades. If these decisions were taken individually, it may look that way. But when all these decisions are taken together, one will recognize that government is buying more time, even at the cost of looking like bunch of fools. Unfortunately, they are probably right. Those fellows who are backing the movement cannot spend forever. Those who joined the movement has other work to do, unlike India of 1942, today people have work. With time, the intensity of the agitation is bound to go down.

There is also a section of people who are hoping for an early election and reversal of fortune for INC or UPA. While a prediction about mid-term is difficult to make, I do not think any significant reversal of electoral fortune for Congress would happen. Sri Hazare’s movement was initially backed by urban youth. This class is known to choose BJP over Congress. Main support base for Congress lies in various villages where it’s alliance with upper caste and minority communities topped by allure of Gandhi brand name wins the day. There is no reason to think that that support base is even disturbed by Sri Hazare’s agitation. Sure some villages in North India knows about Sri Hazare’s agitation but requirement for a Jan Lok Pal did not figure in their daily scheme of things. They might have been more agitated by a lathi charge on a Hindu Yoga guru whose appeal cuts through all castes (and sometimes religions) even in conservative sections of UP and Bihar.

I will end this with two more observations about Left. I am disappointed with the very fact no anti-left commentator saw any problem with a section of left choosing a Gandhian puritan from a small village in Maharastra as mascot of anti-corruption movement against a government that is claimed to be center of left. For too long, left ran this country without any opposition so a split in their ranks is natural. But the choice of mascot clarifies one thing. Institutional left lost all mass leaders. There is no one like EMS Nambudiripad or Jyoti Basu who are well versed in theory but can also excite unwashed proletariat with their sound bytes. What is left in left are incompetent charlatans who dug deep in their university chairs and entitlement based offices. When it comes to actual field work, they hide behind the facade of being theoretical leader (whatever that means). Late Subhas Chakraborty, reputed to be the ultimate source of all sorts of corruption in CPM government in WB, once demanded that theoretical leaders in his party should compete for election in Calcutta Corporation. Theoretical leaders, of course, did not find the proper response to such bourgeois demands in Das Capital. But it clearly shows how insignificant their role in election oriented national politics is. This also explains their contempt for democracy.

The other observation is about left’s paranoia about “Hindu right”. At one hand, they claim that “Hindu right” is a minority fringe group and on the other hand, every alternate day, a new article arrives in the media bullying the leaders to stay secular and demonizing the “Hindu right”. One may be inclined to ask, “Why are these daily alarm bells necessary if so called Hindu right is such an insignificant group?” This article in Outlook gave the game away

…for this, it is necessary that the Hindu majority stays away from the Hindu Right

This is ridiculous if one just looks at the history of successful socio-political movements in India in last century. Mohandas Gandhi was arguably the most famous leaders in the last century and his followers came from Kerala to NWFP. Contemporary western media almost always called him “Hindu Nationalist” leader. Why? It does not matter how his obsession with celebacy or jihad against contraceptives makes him closer to Christianity, but his frequent “upabas”, talking about Gita or Rama Rajya has tapped into Hindu sentiments repeatedly. If Sri Gandhi, like his self-proclaimed devotees (for example, try a bit of Ramchndra Guha), abused Hindu sentiments left and right, he would not have been even remembered. After all, his influence was probably the missing piece of the puzzle that forced a staunchly anti-Hindu Nehru to arrange a Hindu wedding for his equally staunch anti-Hindu daughter even after a civil marriage in London. The fact that Gandhi could not be secularized still haunts dedicated Marxist historians. Successive movements like Acharya Vinoba Bhabe’s Bhoodan movement or JP’s movement repeatedly used sentiments of Hindu majority who, as the left’s paranoia goes, must be kept away from Hindu right. Some messianic tendencies!

Our combined “Bharatiya-ta” – the inseparable mixture of scriptural directives, rituals, festivals, puranic anecdote, shared history and ability to cast present in the pattern of the past – is the only thing that unites us. Acceptance of this “Bharatiya-ta” is interlinked with the happy accident of being born as a “Bharatiya” (Indian). If such acceptance leads one to be marked as “Hindu right” then it is not the fault of the proud “Bharatiya”, it is in the eye of the beholder. When is the last time left could build a India-wide grass root movement using non-Hindu secular principles? They never did because they repeatedly kicked this common binding thread, split on it and abused it. Every time it was abused, it is India’s integrity that transcended political boundaries over last thousand years was weakened. Every time that integrity is threatened, more men like Vindranwale or Raj Thakarey or YS Reddy will take the mantle and deliver some more damage to Bharat. Every time, some one could recognize that common thread and pay their respect to it (just like Sri gandhi did), it will return dividend in thousand times of the effort. But I doubt the scion of the Gandhi dynasty understands it. But forget him, likes of Arun Jaitley who confessed about “Hindutva”‘s electoral usage to American diplomats, probably does not understand it either. So, Anna or no-Anna, we have to tolerate paranoid statments like the following:

Suddenly, we heard the strains of jaago mohan pyaare jaago and thought oh-oh… How happy our friends will be. (Because most of them are waiting with bated breath, with great hope, for our self-fulfilling prophecy to come true, for the movement go the Hindu right way) Then we thought, but iftar was also celebrated here yesterday, so surely..

Farther explanations are unnecessary.

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Siddhartha Chatterjee

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