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The office of the Jan Lokpal and some thoughts on Nivedita Menon’s post: Anish Ahluwalia

August 25, 2011

Guest post by ANISH AHLUWALIA

The Jan Lokpal

A problem lies at the very core of Anna Hazare’s anti corruption campaign. This campaign wishes to march ahead by defining ‘corruption’ in the narrowest possible sense. Monies illegally made by politicians, members of judiciary, babus while remaining dreadfully silent on corporations, upper middle classes, middle classes who form the bulk of bribe payers…

It also remains mum on SEZ policies, policies that made agriculture an unprofitable business for millions of small farmers, displacement of tribal, abysmally inadequate budgetary allocations for education and health while writing off thousands of crores as non-returnable duties to corporates. Who are the beneficiaries of these policy decisions? Only corporations or does the profit filters down to middle classes as well, in terms of relatively higher salaries and perks? Is this not corruption? Every government and political party has happily sat on police reforms recommendations put forth by at least two state formed committees.

These police reforms recommended freeing police and investigating agencies from the direct control of ruling politicians – was also aimed at the extra judicial actions of the police force. Is this not corruption? And more importantly, can any of the Lokpal bill versions address these? If not, then aren’t we proceeding with the cure without diagnosing the nature or location of the problem? An oversimplified idea stripped of complexities is in effect misrepresentation of the same and in essence falsehood.  The idea of a Jan Lokpal is built on utter contempt for the peoples ability to choose their representative and reluctance to reform existing institutions because it’s a long-term exercise.  How many times we have heard people in cities pointing towards rural India for electing corrupt politicians because of their alleged ignorance, lack of education and caste based priorities? By riding on the Jan Lokpal idea we are only legitimizing this contempt for people’s discretion and democratic rights to decide for themselves.

Let me also ask here how do we understand ‘middle class’? Is it just a fluid economic group or a value system, relatively more conscious of its interests and conveniently unaware of its conflict of interest with lower economic classes? Isn’t it the class that has benefitted a lot more than the urban and rural poor, through government investments in technology, health, education, infrastructure, free market, easier global access? Whatever was left out of the 8% growth dream by corporations and the rich, was mostly pocketed by this class… It’s the unethical short sightedness that has prevented it from identifying its interests with other classes, which is again being reflected in the demand for a Jan Lokpal and chipping away from democratic institutions that are crying for reform and not for dismantling. Hence the critique and suspicion towards the methods of this class…

Vis a vis, Nivedita Menon’s post

Nivedita, it seem has ignored ‘how’ this campaign came to be dubbed as ‘revolution’… I suppose that one has forgotten that a revolution means a change in almost all walks of life of people across the nation… so is Anna Hazare’s ‘movement’ a revolution? I disagree. One cannot ignore the possibility that sometimes large number of people can move from one misconception to another without bothering to examine its long term consequences. And 24X7 high money spinning TV news channels are not going to offer that space to reflect either. If numbers alone were to provide legitimacy then Mahinder Singh Tikait could get in much larger crowds with much compelling demands… except that it wont appear as carnivalesque to residents of the capital.  Nivedita Menon seems so drawn by the mass mela at Ramlila, that she chooses to forget that Hitler could gather bigger crowds for his vision, Stalin did not lag behind either, Subhash Chandra Bose despite aligning with the Nazis and the Japanese Emperor could still raise a large army and much larger support base to pursue what he thought was the right method. He still is a hero for many. Ayatollah Khomeini’s movement too had corruption as a major plank. Even General Zia Ul Haq and Pervaiz Musharraf could boast the support of a sizeable minority, and a fairly large number of people in Pakistan disillusioned by the political classes thought rule of the army was the answer to their woes. One need not be a genius to see the fall-out of these shortsighted methods. A Jan Lokpal type institution, which is primarily touted as a solution to a very narrow spectrum of corruption, will do more to wreck democratic institutions and legitimize the perception of the urban elite that masses are actually incapable of reforming their political systems than solve any problems. The solution sounds more like a line from popular Hindi films – a doctor emerging from a patient’s room announces solemnly, “Meine injection de diya hai. Jaldi hi hosh aa jayega.”  If anything has to be implemented, there has to be debate among as many people as possible rather than a celebration of number gathering and moving through the crowds of Ram Lila Maidan, and announcing self righteously, ‘Oh, I have found my five Muslims, three Christians, 100 women – some of them working class and some house managers from middle class, ifthar at Anna’s Rasoi’. Great – your carnival has arrived and other‘left minded, secular and non party non organized (how many nons do you need to make a perfectly harmless ghetto?) can drop their suspicions and join Anna.

I am suggesting extreme caution in making statements which imply that the campaign has ‘empowered’ people so that now they address their questions directly to the PM and other ministers… Mein Pradhanmantri ji se yeh poochna chahta hoon… They’ve always done it. I think Nivedita Menon has stayed away from UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, CG and MP for too long, and watched far too much NDTV. People in these and many other States do articulate in this fashion… She would have known had she watched their local channels and heard radio broadcasts.

To Nivedita’s anecdotes like that of a woman from Nasik who found the place cordial, warm and carnivalesque – I met a couple of families who after having Hyderabadi chicken at Andhra Bhawan and having shopped in CP came around to ‘check out’ the scene in Ramlila Maidan and also to lend support. What do our anecdotes achieve? They only prove that there are disparate groups with disparate motivations participating in this ‘carnival’. Of course there is nothing wrong if disparate interests, groups and people with disparate tendencies forming a front for/ against a cause.

But one needs to be running like hell from comparisons with Tahrir Square. Comparing nations like Egypt and Syria suffering from 3-4 decades of autocratic regimes to a democracy of inequality like India… Not surprisingly, in a crunch situation, nuance is the first casualty. In Egypt not just a regime but the whole constitution was sought to be changed which could potentially address not one issue like bureaucratic corruption but the entire system. Nivedita Menon should also realize that when one leaves self-analysis for too long, one sometimes feels compelled to do it too quickly… And an idea to piggy-ride a myopic campaign is its immediate outcome.

Any Lokpal?

Nothing can remotely come in defense of this thoroughly corrupt and repressive government… but does the answer lie in this version of the Bill? Those critiquing Anna Hazare’s campaign are not necessarily puritans looking to align with like-minded groups and ideas. They too are aware of methods of political maneuverings and how these can be used to subvert causes.

I agree with Nivedita Menon that the government’s version of Lokpal Bill is rubbish but so is the idea of Lokpal because it stems from short sightedness. We cannot reform electoral process, we cannot reform judiciary, cannot reform police, cannot work towards strengthening CVS, CAG, cannot move to have right to recall public representatives – so we will have one super master to oversee all these. Of course we know if that master also happens to be corrupt we can ask Anna to go on fast to get us a dictator, preferably from the army, and if that’s not viable for some reason then Anna can become our dictator, officially. And if that too doesn’t work we can always pray to God.

Finally I also agree that this ‘movement’ doesn’t need us. It doesn’t need anybody who can question it.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2011 11:43 PM

    Mr Shuddhabrata,

    Please let us know the solution to control corruption!! If not this then what? If you dont have solution then you dont have any right to raise any question…you dumb a**!!

    I am also interested to know that what exactly you are doing/planning to do against corruption?

    -K

    • joe permalink
      August 27, 2011 3:47 PM

      K@
      See the tone of the present tone of the anti coruption lobby. Though i consider myself anticorruption lobby and conditionally support whoever fights

      • joe permalink
        August 27, 2011 4:09 PM

        As quentin torantino showed in ingloriousbasterds , are we all potential fascists in the making , when it comes to ranting. Anybody disagreeing with us, are we as angry as Hitler

  2. voyeur permalink
    August 26, 2011 3:11 AM

    Suppose there are 10 issues. You and I have different agree on 4. Can we not cooperate and find answers to the other 6? There are a lot of views on whether the systemic solution to corruption is less liberalization or more. This debate will remain. How about the corruption that transcends ideology? We can surely fight that together. If we are going to say “if you aren’t with us on condemning neoliberalism, you are against us” I can only quote Nivedita Menon here – “that slogan alas has been ours”

  3. August 26, 2011 5:48 AM

    Anish:

    1) This silly, pathetic rant of yours doesn’t even make a new point that hasn’t been made in hundreds of comments on Kafila. Why does this movement not talk about SEZs, displacement, corporate corruption, police reforms, blah blah… you might as well ask why this movement has nothing to say about climate change or the occupation of Iraq or the declining libido of Delhi’s street dogs. Why can’t there be one battle at a time? The movement looks so effective and powerful precisely because it has a focused demand that it thinks will provide a practical solution to a common problem faced by most Indians. The movement would not have been this big if it were to take a leaf out of ranting, rambling, inchoate got-outrage-for-reason lefties like you and tried to address everything in one go. Also, I don’t see why a Lokpal cannot investigate graft in the awarding of mines – and this would prevent displacement of tribals. But logical thinking seems to be beyond you.

    2) “The idea of a Jan Lokpal is built on utter contempt for the peoples ability to choose their representative and reluctance to reform existing institutions because it’s a long-term exercise.” Very long term indeed. They haven’t been making a Lokpal since 1960s. Such is the movement’s contempt for people’s abilities that the people are turning up in large numbers to support it!

    3) You write: “How many times we have heard people in cities pointing towards rural India for electing corrupt politicians because of their alleged ignorance, lack of education and caste based priorities? By riding on the Jan Lokpal idea we are only legitimizing this contempt for people’s discretion and democratic rights to decide for themselves.” Perhaps you don’t know there are a lot of rural Indians out there in Ramlila Maidan. Go see. And see this report about the movement resonating in rural India: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?278064 As far as contempt is concerned it is your contempt for the poor that needs to be called out. It is the poor whose lives are ruined by corruption – suicide over non-payment of NREGA wages, for example. Google it – but you want to tell the rural Indian, the migrant labourer, the factor worker that s/he should not support this movement until it supports police reforms. What the fuck? And as for ‘democratic rights to decide for themselves’, you may have been following what the Parliament is doing. Not only did the people’s elected representatives accept the Lokpal idea, made a Bill, have agreed to the movement’s changes and only 3 sticking points remain. So the people’s representatives don’t differ with the movement that much. And do you seriously think if there was a referendum The People would have said no to Lokpal? It is only your contempt for the people I can see here. I am in Delhi now but when most of the Anna tamasha was happening in Delhi I was on Bihar and people in an East Champaran village wanted my views on the movement.

    4) You write: “It’s the unethical short sightedness (of the middle class) that has prevented it from identifying its interests with other classes, which is again being reflected in the demand for a Jan Lokpal and chipping away from democratic institutions that are crying for reform and not for dismantling. Hence the critique and suspicion towards the methods of this class…” Firstly, it must be your own middle-class navel-gazing that makes you think this movement is an exclusively middle class movement. You may want to ask the views of those around you who are not middle-class (if such people exists around you and you can see them). You may want to actually go to Ramlila Maidan and see if the movement is a middle-class conspiracy. The movement is not seeking to dismantle democratic institutions. It is asking for the state to restore the faith of the people in democratic institutions. It is constantly talking the language of democracy, and indeed wanting to build an institution (Lokpal) that will make democracy deliver better for the citizenry. You seem to have a problem with that.

    5) You write: “Nivedita, it seem has ignored ‘how’ this campaign came to be dubbed as ‘revolution’… I suppose that one has forgotten that a revolution means a change in almost all walks of life of people across the nation… so is Anna Hazare’s ‘movement’ a revolution? I disagree.” That is a strawman, in simple English also a lie. It is some of the media and ramblers like you who have been using the word revolution. The movement is not calling itself that and not imagining itself that. And if you think curbing corruption will not have an effect on every Indian’s life you have perhaps never seen corruption in India which makes me wonder if you live in Tokyo rather than Timbucktu?

    6) You write: “One cannot ignore the possibility that sometimes large number of people can move from one misconception to another without bothering to examine its long term consequences.” So basically you mean janta gadhi hain, no? Aur aap mahaan hain because I thought you were accusing the movement of showing contempt for the people.

    7) You write: “And 24X7 high money spinning TV news channels are not going to offer that space to reflect either.” Well, Kafila hain na! And perhaps you also read newspapers. There have been a lot of columns out there.

    8) You write, “If numbers alone were to provide legitimacy then Mahinder Singh Tikait could get in much larger crowds with much compelling demands… except that it wont appear as carnivalesque to residents of the capital.” That is a misrepresentation of Nivedita’s point, and also of what Tikait stood for! Tikait’s crowds were about their sectional interests and that is why the question of whether Delhi’s residents should be enthused by Tikait’s crowds is a non-starter. In her post Nivedita does address the question, but in the end and perhaps you didn’t get there because you were perhaps in too much of a hurry to get out your silly rant. At the end of the post Aditya and Nivedita write: “Finally, many have asked – should we be in places just because large numbers of people are there? Of course not, but do we have to turn away sharply in the opposite direction because the people are there?” Here: http://kafila.org/2011/08/22/if-only-there-were-no-people-democracy-would-be-fine/

    9) You write, “Nivedita Menon seems so drawn by the mass mela at Ramlila, that she chooses to forget that Hitler could gather bigger crowds for his vision, Stalin did not lag behind either, Subhash Chandra Bose despite aligning with the Nazis and the Japanese Emperor could still raise a large army and much larger support base to pursue what he thought was the right method…” Firstly, your Hitler reference reminds me of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law And as far as pulling crowds is concerned, why could your analogies not be equally about Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Mandela or Kanshi Ram or JP? To say that Aditya/Nivedita are saying that big crowds give the movement legitimacy is a gross representation of their argument. I don’t think that’s deliberate on your part. You just don’t get it. Reading the post again might, perhaps, help. But perhaps not.

    10) You write: “One need not be a genius to see the fall-out of these shortsighted methods.” I will not accuse you of being a genius. But do you condemn all mass struggles that draw their strength from the crowds because they all produce fascists and dictators? So you will also compare Medha Patkar with Zia ul Haq now? If the masses of India were to rise up and camp at Ram Lila Maidan under your leadership to demand police reforms, shall I presume you will become Hitler? Lol

    I could go on and on but I think I have wasted enough time on you…

    • Sachin Malhan permalink
      August 26, 2011 2:13 PM

      Don’t for a second regret a single word you just said. I’m framing your response and putting it up :) For way we too long we have tolerated terrible generalizations, incorrect correlations, the inability to reserve judgement, ideology (some distorted form of identity) that obscures everything, and finally the lack of that most important thing for any form of change – the right measure of innocence. What a well deserved bitch-slap! I hope Mr.Ahluwalia has the humility to introspect and evolve.

  4. himani dehlvi permalink
    August 26, 2011 10:38 AM

    good to see articulation of ideas putting this ‘anna tamasha’ in perspective. please find a larger platform of readership to combat all the hysteria generated by electronic media.

  5. August 27, 2011 12:12 AM

    Shivam Vij
    You must be pretty agitated to precede your arguments by calling me ‘silly, rambler, pathetic rant’ etc. I suppose were you to write anonymously you could have used much worse expressions. You probably thought it would make your arguments more forceful.
    After writing a post of about 1300 words, you realize you have ‘wasted enough time on me’. Were you wasting it because you had too much of it? Were you countering just my arguments? No, you were trying to address a large number of people like me with your arguments that are held by probably even larger number of people. This is precisely the point. Anybody debating this is looking at various contexts of issues involved here. Fortunately many of them are able to differentiate between ‘focused’ and ‘unidimensional’.
    I am not going to delve any further on problems in defining corruption in such a narrow spectrum as is being done. or how one more agency and a legislation can not bring about an end to corruption. But I will answer your question about why I did not compare this campaign with movements of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela. For two reasons.
    1. Their movements had the vision to transform an entire nation and its way of living and they were ‘focused’, not ‘unidimensional.’
    2. They were not silent against all the perpetrators of abuse unlike Team Anna. You can Google Manu Joseph’s and Seema Chishti’s articles to learn more. I am sure there are a lot more people voicing opinions on whether AH campaign can be compared with that of JP and Mahatma Gandhi.
    You mentioned about why a single point battle is not important. It is important and everybody knows as much. But many believe the methods and it’s consequences have to be well debated.
    Another thing I should clarify on is people’s discretion to decide for themselves and their representatives and strength of numbers. But both these must be viewed keeping in mind conflict of interests, visions among and within classes and communities in a society as plural as India. Of course never forgetting that consent manufacturing achieved by various political agencies can lead masses towards misconceived ideas. And by masses I don’t mean ‘they’, I mean me, you, many others like us who are capable of being sucked into misconception despite having our sense of history, discretion and intelligence. I am sure you are aware that we are always finding our way through contradictions. This is the location for debate, so hold your contempt. It may agitate you further if I say much greater numbers gathered in Ayodhya to demolish Babri Mosque and many still would like to see a temple built there. Another example of unidimensionality and what consequences an idea can throw up.
    It’s easy to distort arguments. You know well that even Suresh Kalmadi would not like to say that curbing corruption wouldn’t change people’s lives. At the same time I agree with many people who believe Lokpal Bill is not the answer. But you are well aware of arguments surrounding the issue.
    And I am not wasting my time on you because I am not replying to you alone.
    Enjoy Ramlila and hope they will kill Ravan this time.
    Anish Ahluwalia

  6. Kaveri permalink
    August 27, 2011 3:21 AM

    Shivam, you seriously need to take a step back. Any position different from your own appears like a rant to you, whether Ghazala’s or Anish’s! “I have wasted enough time on you.” Really? From a kafila moderator? And Sachin, ‘bitch-slap’? You guys prove exactly what this campaign can degenerate into.

  7. joe permalink
    August 27, 2011 3:43 PM

    We need not be too happy about the turn of events in Egypt, eventhough it raised much hope.The loopholes in planning and organsiation is now coming out, with people victimised brutally by the current regime of Army, and an economic continuity as per the dictates of imperialism

  8. Sachin Malhan permalink
    August 27, 2011 4:12 PM

    Apologises for using the term ‘bitch-slap’ – a quick reference to any slang dictionary will show that its not so much pejorative as it is a reference to a sound defeat of any argument. But still – no place for that on Kafila hence the sincere apologies.

  9. symphonybug permalink
    September 2, 2011 11:53 PM

    Are you negating Anna’s effort because he did not integrate the “corruption” as a whole in Lokpal.What do you expect that he would have had woven an immensely complex anti-corruption bill and expect a pat-on-the-back from the government.I mean he was able to mobilize the mass because they were able to understand the simple concept of corruption in terms of black money.And the attention received by Anna from the government is the result of solely the public’s unanimous out roar.Dont be so negative and desperate to attract attention by your vague writing.Its just the first step taken(without any net result yet)against the vital corruption.And you know how he was able to accomplish it.Obviously the fate of Lokpal is still so hazy even after this much.

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