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Politics of Anna Hazare Anti-Corruption Movement by Sanjay Kumar

August 31, 2011

Guest post by SANJAY KUMAR

Sonia Gandhi Hinsak Hai
Rahul Gandhi Napunsak Hai
(Sonia Gandhi is violent, Rahul Gandhi is impotent)
(placard displayed by a young man on Barakhamba road crossing, during anti-corruption march on 21st August, Delhi)

Rahul Bhaiyya! Why don’t you get married so that Bhabhi can take care of Sonia Aunty, and you do not have to spend so much (black) money to get her treated outside the country? (placard carried by a three year old girl child)

Manuvadi Krantikari Morcha supports Anna Hazare
(a banner heading for a group of 20-30 middle aged men)

Bihari Nahin Ham Jaat hain
Ham Anna ke saath hain
(We are not Biharis we are Jaats, we are with Anna)
(shout of youth in open jeep in Darya Ganj, after the 21st Aug march)

Gems like these in public space are not likely to be reported by the media. But they graced the rally, and its aftermath, on the 21st August in support of Anna Hazare fast, without anyone in the crowd showing visible displeasure against them. Signs and slogans of this ilk were in minority, and the claim here is certainly not that these represent the core of Anna movement. It was obvious during the rally that a virulent, sexist, castiest and openly patriarchal fringe was trying to make its presence felt in the Anna gathering, which undoubtedly attained a mass character. It is true that the movement against corruption led by Anna Hazare and associates has exploded much beyond expectations of its leadership. The Anna Team has been too preoccupied by its confrontation with the government to put its mind to the desirability of any limits to the permissibility for the open mass it has galvanized. Movement’s spontaneity and open character is its strength. It is snow balling because many social groups are joining it without feeling inhibited by its agenda. Further, the leadership of the movement is on record, in numerous interviews after Sadhvi Rithambra had addressed the anti-black money protest of Baba Ramdev, that as long any one agrees with their anti-corruption stand they do not mind them in their movement. Is the presence of sexist, and casteist elements merely a reflection of the openness of the Anna movement? The question can as well be turned around. Why do such elements feel emboldened enough to come out openly in the Anna movement? Or, why there are no slogans or posters from trade unions and other oppositional progressive groups, and no picture of Ambedkar, which graces the public presence of almost all Dalit groups? Anna Hazare movement resonates deeply with the ‘soul’ of its core constituency of upper caste Hindu middle classes. That is the reason of its phenomenal success. It flows so smoothly into, and draws out these sections so wholesomely, that the deeply ingrained castiesm, communalism, and sexism of these classes is bound to manifest itself now and then, even though the espoused agenda of the movement has no connection with these.

The theme of Anna’s speech on 21st August is sacrifice. He asks his followers to be ready for sacrifice. With the self assurance of a well meaning patriarch he tells the crowd that having no immediate family he can sacrifice more, and will not hesitate to even sacrifice his life, but they too should sacrifice, a little bit, for reforming the country. The discourse is mildly (Hindu) religious, demonstrators at houses of MPs are asked to sing bhajans, the Janmashtami next day is also brought in to remind people of Krishna’s fight against evil. Anna sits in front of a giant image of Gandhi, alone on a snow white stage. Symbolism is perfect for a clean image. His tone is sufficiently aggressive, but not shrill, when it comes to warn the government with a deadline, which predictably elicits a thunderous applause. Anna calls his followers to be fighters to get the government to pass the Jan Lok Pal Bill. Messianism of the call is not in the person, but in the message. He has declared that the Jan Lok Pal bill will eradicate 60% to 65% of corruption. Why this figure, and no other? The hint perhaps is in the fact that in earlier times 60% marks in an examination stood for the much tried for first class. And, one can’t miss the demeanour of a school master of yore in Anna. Crowd’s sloganeering demanding Jan Lok Pal bill is hysterical. Magic wand is the image many commentators have used while questioning such calls. That appears far from the reality. Anna’s followers want JLPBill, but realistically only few of them are likely to share the optimism of a glowing corruption free India after its passage. It is a means to protest. It is a lathi to browbeat a government whose legitimacy has hit rock bottom after series of scams. Further, the entire discourse around and conception of the JLPBill accords with the crowd’s sense of right and wrong.

An old man wearing branded shorts and sneakers is picking up plastic and paper thrown around. His way of doing something meaningful for the gathering he is part of is dignified. There is a protocol of decency in the crowd. It is heartening that in a city like Delhi, where people generally behave as self-centered brutes with each other, there is a crowd in which everybody seems to be a well-wisher of others. It is not just the anger against corruption, but this feeling too that binds the crowd. However, there is something missing. One wonders how many in the crowd will not jump a traffic signal the next day. After all jumping a signal is also attacking some one else’s right, and actually is an example of ‘public’ corruption. It is unrealistic to expect a few hours of bonhomie to overcome the habit of law breaking for self gain that has become a part of every day life. The point however, is that while the discourse on corruption of the Anna Hazare movement identifies villains and is loud about their villainy, it is deafeningly silently about how its audience itself is complicit in creating a public atmosphere of corruption for personal gain.

Religion in the current Indian public life is a surrogate for a near absent liberal and secular public morality. Anna’s folksy religious discourse reeks of morality, it presents a straight and easy choice in a good vs. evil contest. It is also apt for his politics of ‘nothing but the JLPBill’. The moral over dose compromises objectivity, and quite simply leads to hyperbole. Claims in the name of 125 crore Indians are rampant. ‘Doosri Azadi’ is another catchy phrase. Hindu public religion in the times of Baba Ramdevs, and after the success of cultural nationalist project of the RSS with Hindu upper and middle castes, has become virulent and hatred filled. Notice how many times Ramdev asks for phansi (hanging) for Afzal Guru in his sermons. Anna’s discourse and politics is different from Ramdev, which to an extent explains the difference between the fate of movements led by the two. However, school children protesting for JLPBill in Mumbai, still demand phansi for the corrupt. Absolutist morality of a religious kind with a violent and vindictive mindset is called Taliban in another context. Are Anna’s followers in the so called Indian civil society even aware of such dangers?

A sunshine argument doing the rounds is that Anna’s anti-corruption movement will prove to be healthy for Indian democracy since it has brought the youth and urban middle classes to the politics of the country. Nothing could be further from the truth. Youth in many parts of India, in Kashmir, North-East, Telangana, or in Maoist affected areas, are already in the thick of politics, a politics of the kind that has had, and will have, far deeper affects on their lives, than the politics of the JLKBill gathering at the Ramlila ground of Delhi. The youth of urban middle classes has given enough evidence of its politics by remaining indifferent to many protests in the capital against displacement, price-rise, loot of natural resources, state brutalities in Kashmir and North-East, to name just a few. This youth has agitated too. Just three years ago these youth were on streets against Central Govt. proposal to extend reservations to OBC students in institutions of higher learning. Brightest stars of this youth group, students of Delhi IIT had then come on road with brooms, to tell everybody their future under reservations. (That protest reconfirmed the common sense of oppressed castes in India that the so called upper castes just do not get what it means to be devalued in caste’s name.) Music bands and film stars had joined anti-reservation protests at Jantar Mantar. Media and internet everyday make a political public of urban middle classes. These are the classes which get to air their opinions on programmes like ‘We the People’. If participation in state politics is meant as access to, and influence over state policies, then the ‘upper’ caste, urban propertied sections are the most political of Indian population groups. With the open connivance of University administrations and judiciary, ‘upper’ caste students for the past three years have been garnering seats meant for OBC students. Hence, state money given in the name OBC students has actually facilitated access of ‘upper’ caste students to higher studies. Only last week did the Supreme Court disallow this flagrant violation of law. Access to all institutions of governance, the bureaucratic arm of the executive, the judiciary, the media, quasi-judicial regulatory bodies, etc., is mediated through money power and social capital, which obviously favours urban middle classes. Elected bodies are the only institutions in whose formation, at least formally, access follows the first democratic principle of equality. Here, urban middle classes have increasingly lost their status as leaders of the nation, the status they enjoyed during the freedom struggle and decades after that. Local processes and social churnings beyond these classes have taken over the electoral politics, failing ambitions of these classes to have ‘people like them’ elected. This failure partially explains the venal disregard of elected politicians by these classes. On the other hand, the rest of Indians keep on electing from the same bunch of corrupt netas¸ often rotating them, but finally from the same bunch, election after election in full gusto. Obviously, electoral politics has contradictory significance for different groups of Indians. For the majority of rural folk and urban poor, elections are mostly the only means to access state, unlike influential classes which use other institutions of governance and public opinion.

Urban middle classes have joined Anna’s anti-corruption movement, not as pure white lilies. Their politics in the anti-corruption campaign is not an empty signifier. Nor is theirs an alternative form of politics, as some commentators are claiming. They are not a spontaneous agitated mass, only now waking from slumber to find their bearing in the morass of Indian politics. Their agitation is of a different kind than the others, mainly from the oppressed groups, we are used to seeing in India. Theirs is actually an agitation of a hegemonic block, which has always enjoyed a ‘passive’ access to state power in ‘democratic’ India. Anna’s anti-corruption campaign has come at the right moment to address a limited, but very serious crisis of the legitimacy of an elected government. Legitimacy of the hegemonic block of classes ruling India is not in crisis; nor is the state authority being directly challenged. Such crises and challenges are dealt with entirely different set of political tools and tactics. The issue here is not individual choices; nor are possible resolutions to crises like these affected by conspiracies. Anna certainly did not start his campaign with the aim of resolving the legitimacy crisis of government. Nor was it inevitable that crisis will unfold the way it did, with Anna’s campaign enjoying the central space. The legal form of the tool he chose to confront the government, the JLPBill, and his tatics, eschewing mass mobilization and keeping himself as the main fist of attack, fitted the political needs of urban middle classes well. Even the geographical sense of his assault, rooting himself at a place (Jantar Mantar in April and Ramlila Maidan in August) rather than a roving agitation like a padyatra, fitted the life style of these classes well. You could visit to show your support at your convenience. Anna’s fast was a twenty four hour convenience. The largest rally in Anna’s support on 21st August, one of the largest Delhi has seen in recent history, had many participants driving in their SUVs, widows rolled up, with full AC. Once Anna’s campaign got support of the urban middle classes, the government had to be conciliatory. The contrast with response to Irom Sharmila’s ten year old hunger strike could not me more telling. Anna’s consistency with his demand (some may call it his stubbornness, but credit must be given where it is due ), humiliating an incompetent, and a government too clever for its own good, in one round after another, received increased cheerleading from the crowd. More was the government humiliated, louder were the claps. Government was in no position to call off the bluff, the nature of its rule was such that it sought approval of very classes that bayed for its blood. The game could go on and on, till the crisis of government’s legitimacy worsened to the crisis of state power (government did well in this regard to not use its police force after the first folly of arresting Anna), or the real threats, the riff raffs, the traffic stoppers, usual participants of other kinds of rallies, were not on the scene.

Framing Corruption: The ‘Anna’ Way
Corruption and injustice are both ethically loaded terms. Injustice frames the wrong in a wider canvas, calling deeper ethical concerns. Corruption restricts its framework to the legal. There can be unjust laws, but not corrupt laws. Discourses on injustice often call for changes in social structures which make injustice possible, and inevitable. Their image of a just society is often utopian. Anti-corruption discourses on the other hand, move along the safety of a legal scaffolding, their aim is to establish a legal status quo, against a reality vitiated by corruption. In an unjust and corrupt society struggles against corruption and injustice are both liberatory. The point however is that classes with larger stake in the existing social system are more likely to seek change and mobilisation through anti-corruption discourses, than those on injustice. Corruption is a matter of social power, when those holding office use the authority which comes with the office for personal gain against the law. What makes corruption ubiquitous like now in India is not just the desire on the part of the corrupt to gain personally, but also the absence of a public morality, or rather presences of a public (a)morality which participates in corruption as a way of life. A comprehensive framing of corruption would include an understanding of the nature of power of public office in a given society, including techniques of governance, which makes corruption possible, and a critical appraisal of public amorality which accepts it as permissible. Very interestingly, the JLPBill campaign avoids both these in its framework. It over-emphasises the punitive part, i.e public institutions meant to punish the corrupt. It starts by asking why the corrupt are not punished, with an underlying assumption that if only the corrupt could be suitably punished, the problem would be solved. Anna’s claims about the golden arrival of a corruption free India after the enactment of his JLPBill are based on this simplistic understanding. The Lokpal leviathan imagined in JLPBill that rolls in the investigator, prosecutor and judge in one institution, comes out of the desire to create a ‘fool-proof’ system. What if the institution meant to punish the corrupt itself becomes corrupt (which is obvious if social power base and public amorality about corruption is not lost sight of)? This simple counter has been dismissed by Anna and his team as irrelevant. Urban middle classes prefer such framing of corruption. It avoids addressing uncomfortable questions about the nature of social power in India, which would certainly uncover their own privileged position in society. It shields their own complicity in corruption (how many professionals, lawyers, doctors, tradesmen supporting the anti-corruption movement pay their taxes?). The call for punitive measures resonates with an illiberal and vindictive mindset of classes of social order. All these factors explain why urban middle classes in India lapped up the Anna campaign when it appeared at the conjuncture of the legitimacy crisis of the government.

As the anti-corruption movement has acquired a mass character beyond its core support base of ‘upper’ caste, urban middle classes, and has become the process determining the character of government and state in the perception of hegemonic block, a number of diverse engagements with corruption and the anti-corruption movement have emerged from different quarters. For instance a dominant argument from left seeks to explain the explosion of corruption in the past two decades as a direct consequence of neo-liberal economic regime. Neo-liberalism allows for, and in fact encourages, new arenas of corruption through collusion of state functionaries and private capital. However, it also diminishes the controlling powers of these functionaries, which in the earlier regime of state-led capital accumulation, was a fountainhead of corruption. In a society with deeply anti-democratic ethos, with no liberal and secular public morality, with a very narrow base of public rationality (that too limited to state institutions), it is inevitable that any positions of authority will degenerate into corruption. There will be opposition to corruption, because the liberal framework of political governance allows sufficient leeway for it to emerge. But opposition movements will not be able to remove corruption unless the question of a modern public sphere is directly addressed. Let us be clear, even transparency and accountability are very modern notions. Pre-modern social powers based on divine rights or strength of arms, had no need to be transparent and accountable for gaining legitimacy.

If the above argument from the left restricts the social base of corruption, another argument coming from popular struggles tends to expand the notion of corruption. Hence, the forcible displacement, starvation, caste discrimination, etc., i.e. all issues of long drawn out struggles, are now being called instances of corruption. This is surprising, because these have so far been seen from the perspective of much more robust frameworks involving injustice, exploitation, casteism, etc. How will calling these also corruption help struggles against them? Besides calling them corruption is factually incorrect. For instance, displacement due to Narmada dams is not a result of corruption. It is a legal displacement, it has occurred with the concurrence of the highest court of the land. But it remains unjust, and that is still the ground on which to struggle against it. AFSPA in Kashmir and North-East is not corruption. It is a logical and legally permissible companion of armed aggression against people.

Another argument has implored the left to join the anti-corruption movement, lest it be taken over by the rightwing. This argument presents the current movement as an eruption of popular anger against corruption of state functionaries. It assumes this eruption to be a pure questioning of the nature of governance, with no presumed answers. This argument does not recognize interests of upper caste urban middle classes in supporting the anti-corruption movement, and how these interests have already fashioned, not absolutely, but yet in a way, the discursive and political terrain of this movement. It is not that leftists and other social groups, say Dalits, do not understand importance of anti-corruption struggles. But they find the support base of Anna Hazare movement, its discourse and politics so against their own other interests that they think it wise to not to join it, lest they end up gifting it a wider legitimacy than it deserves.

Now, that on 27th August the current crisis has ended with the government agreeing to most of the demands of Anna Hazare, it becomes possible to speculate on the future of corruption in India. A central govt. Lokpal, broadly on the lines demanded by Anna Hazare, is likely to see the light of the day sooner rather than later. Formally it will be a deepening of the association of the people with the state, as it will give an avenue to people to place their grievances before a state institution not directly under the control of government of the day. In a democracy people are expected to be associated with the state, as the state is actually their state. But is India a democracy? If so, then of what kind?

The formally liberal democratic structure of governance given in the Constitution of India has surprised both its supporters and critics alike. Equal right to vote has firmly established competitive electoral politics as a legitimate means to form government, with incumbents getting regularly unseated. Yet this politics has not led to the emergence of a rights bearing individual citizen as the basic building block of the political process. Rather a competitive politics of patronage has consolidated, reconfiguring old communitarian groupings like the caste. Political parties with different social bases and ideological and programmatic orientations have emerged and consolidated, as should have been expected in a pluralist politics. Yet, almost all parties are severely undemocratic internally, with many degenerating to dynastic rule. Privileged sections retain privileged access to state and its institutions, as is the case in all capitalist countries. However, even for privileged groups this access is essentially mediated through patronage networks; a great source of corruption in itself. Welfare is one way through which liberal capitalist states try to square the requirement of popular legitimacy with the constraints of the rule meant to serve the privileged. Indian state is no different in this regard. A surprising development is that a number of state institutions have been established that bring people closer into the state fold as self validating agents, rather than as mere targets of welfare, and hence liberal framework has widened. Panchayati Raj institutions, Right to Information Act, Forest Rights Act, etc. are the most important in this regard. Even MNREGA has done the same for the poorest of Indians to a limited extent. Lokpal, in what ever form it comes, will soon get added to this list. More institutions designed to ensure more rights to people should have reduced corruption, but the reality does not warrant this expectation. It seems wherever corruption has reduced, it is more due to developments in technologies of governance, and the decay of old regulatory framework, rather than these new institutions. Panchayats in fact have become new channels of corruption.

There are many liberal capitalist societies that have little corruption. What distinguishes them is a very deep and wide practice of citizenship, and an evolved sphere of public morality. Will the institution of Lokpal usher India in that direction? One can not be very optimistic on this point, particularly after looking at the politics of the movement that is bringing the Lokpal into being.

(Sanjay Kumar teaches Physics at St Stephen’s College, Delhi. He is associated with a group committed to the regeneration of revolutionary socialist politics in India.)

31 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2011 2:11 AM

    Sanjay Kumar’s hard-hitting post ends by pointing to ‘a very deep and wide practice of citizenship, and an evolved sphere of public morality’ in liberal capitalist societies. What made this possible?
    1) The constitutional right to private property which the Janata Govt. rescinded. Liberal Societies are characterized by clarity of title to realty. Adverse possession hardly occurs and is just something in the textbooks. In India it is routine. You may be living in the same place for thirty years without knowing who the land belongs to. The owner herself may not know. If there is no clarity of title in the private sphere how will people have a concept of Public property? ‘Encroachment’ is an English word. Yes, in some Shastra or other there is some similar rule- but its meaning seems to be ancestral land can never be permanently alienated. Look at what happened in Bihar. It went from one of the best administered states in the 60’s to a byword for anarchy where kidnapping was a major industry. Why? Fuzzy land title.
    2) A well developed theory of torts with deep ‘common law’ roots- contrast this with the Indian trend over the last thirty years. Without tortious liability clearly established as a regulative principle as between individuals, people don’t have a concept of their rights and entitlements w.r.t the Govt. The Law begins by resolving the problems of private individuals and then gives them a rubric or template for their dealings with Govt. The reverse can’t happen because of the vast discrepancy in power between the subject and the state.
    3) The impartial and impersonal nature of laws and institutions in Capitalist countries arises from the importance of treating metics (foreign born artisans, labourers, entrepreneurs etc) fairly. To begin with, the Metic may have a client-patron relationship (like the mawali in Islam) with a dominant tribe but as the Polis develops a Metic friendly ‘Universal’ and impersonal law code and institutions come into existence. Corruption, in fact, is a way of legitimating ‘Universal’ laws and impersonal Institutions by saying ‘look, all this is just a charade. Don’t worry, if any foreigner/low caste/Minority fellow wants anything we will bleed him dry and cause him to curse the womb that gave him birth!”
    4) Long experience of ‘tragedy of the commons’ type situations. The worker is aware, because of the long folk history, that the fire-brand agitator may kill the golden goose. The ‘gypsies’ who encroach on land are aware that they will soon destroy all the attractions and amenities that caused them to set up camp there in the first place. In the West, History as opposed to some supernatural mythology about Gandhi’s fasts and Jhansi ki Rani, is taught in Schools.
    I would like to know if there is an Indian theory of the Metic as opposed to the bhoomiputra. It seems to me, that the migrant worker would benefit most from Universal and Impersonal institutions. The son of the soil can always be cheated by saying to him ‘don’t worry, Our leader loves you alone. We will squeeze the foreigners and feed you ghee and sugar.’

    • Sanjay Kumar permalink
      August 31, 2011 9:12 PM

      All very important points indicating how the encapsulation of the right to property is also a sign of the weakness of liberal democracy in India. Despite money ‘power’ (as distinct from legal property) being the final key to get social and economic resources, it is obvious from everyday experiences that property is not supreme in India. Our system can not get mobile phone owners protection from unsolicited business calls and smses. Despite paying upto one rupee per km express way tolls, vehicle owners in India are not assured of a decent and safe journey. Property in older western countries reformulated the entire terrain of social relations. As researches by scholars like E P Thompson show the establishment of the rule of law, and by implication that of the property, was a very messy, violent and authoritarian process. The establishment of the transferable right to property for few, was also simultaneously the destruction of the non-market right to resources of the majority.

      Which way India seems to be going? The mass character of Indian independence movement brought in a formally liberal governance structure, not of the eighteenth or nineteenth century variety, when liberalism was hardly democratic. Ambedkar and Nehru were not looking at Locke, Smith or even Mill, for solutions, but were inspired by Laski, who was grappling with the issue of redistributive justice raised by socialism. Indian property sections have long decided that it is better to break the law of the land, than to follow it. When state controls were in place, black market was the quickest, and often the safest, way to make money. In the neo-liberal era too, when state controls have virtually gone, indian capital has not brought itself any glory, if disclosures in the 2-G scam are even half true. In a way, Indian propertied sections are ‘anti-public’. The most recent tendency is to get into enclaves, separated from the rest of the society. A parallel tendency is ‘secessionism’. If it were possible, i.e were affluent countries to loosen immigration restrictions, Indian propertied sections would much rather enjoy the NRI status, than be citizens of India.

      Sanjay Kumar

  2. Mahesh permalink
    August 31, 2011 8:12 AM

    great piece of writing. It opened my eyes to the reality that corruption as defined by Anna movement is actually a non-issue. In some sense corruption of certain kind is good from a equality and soialist perspective. Poor and the marginalised are actually gaining from corruption and its only the middle class which is having problems with corruption.

    • vallyettans permalink
      August 31, 2011 10:14 PM

      i completely disagree with you. how come the poor and marginalised gain from corruption. corruption itself is one of the very reason for their impoverishment. you are actually not seeing the big picture

  3. devika permalink
    August 31, 2011 11:03 AM

    Please, enough of ad hominens! The same arguments, round and round, and the same burning at the stake of various straw men, the same selective reading of the evidence! “Another argument has implored the left to join the anti-corruption movement, lest it be taken over by the rightwing.” Indeed, how worse can you caricature the positions of people you don’t agree with?

  4. August 31, 2011 12:25 PM

    Uprising of Honesty

    Visiting Azadpur Vegetable & Fruit Market can be a real fun. Lalas in the market do brisk business. They are new crusaders against corruption. That’s why they sent truck loads of Bananas every day to Ramlila Maidan. Amazingly, it is hard to find any business transaction taking place through checks or DDs.

    Chadani Chauk’s Lalas were fountain head of food supplies to Ramlila ground. Turned anticorruption crusaders, Chandani Chauk Lalas however don’t know that there is some called bills or receipts.

    The Madhu Vihar traders shut shops in support of Anna Hazare. They how ever, are fond of doing business in black only.

    Many people from Patpar Ganj were headed towards Ramlila area with twin tasks- to endorse Anna anticorruption movement, and to meet up with their CAs in Dariya Ganj.

    “Na Ghoos Loonga na Goos Doonga” pledge ceremony was greeted with fatigued voices. “Jan Sansad is bigger than Delhi’s Parliament” was greeted by hysteric applause.

    Postscript- Any idea about Aaj Ka M L A Ram Avtar!

  5. Himanshu Upadhyaya permalink
    August 31, 2011 12:54 PM

    Sanjay Kumar writes, “Political parties with different social bases and ideological and programmatic orientations have emerged and consolidated, as should have been expected in a pluralist politics. Yet, almost all parties are severely undemocratic internally, with many degenerating to dynastic rule. Privileged sections retain privileged access to state and its institutions, as is the case in all capitalist countries.” I wish Sanjay could have extended this enquiry of whether what we call ‘civil society’ or what formations were called ‘nn-party political processes’ in those nascent days of Lokayan. To hazard a hypothesis,’did certain alliances that supported Anna led anti corruption movment put the decision to render support to vote through all the participant members of those alliances? Even I doubt that the choice of a messiah like and iconic individual to lead was arived at by popular mandate, rather then two individulas souting for this person – one of them has even gone to press with a boastful statement “we told Anna, you are Anna of Maharashtra now, we will make you Anna of India”. (ref Caravan magazine) Little wonder than that the same person felt the need to invent a slogan, ‘Anna is India, India is Anna’ little realising the parallel with the Energency time slogan, put forward by a member of Indira’s coterie. Yes, the puzzle is precisely that, why ‘coterie,’ ‘camp’ and ‘Team (a charitable branding by media) seems to prevail over the ocean of humanity, without goig through any semblance of democratic referendum seeking exercise. Did I hear some one say, ‘internal democracy’?

  6. August 31, 2011 3:57 PM

    Considering that Anna Hazare is from an OBC community (his father was a labourer), I propose that middle-class upper-caste intellectuals trying to defame him are betraying their anti-OBC fangs.
    [Runs!]

    • August 31, 2011 7:52 PM

      Now that is an enlightening angle! :D

    • Sanjay Kumar permalink
      August 31, 2011 8:02 PM

      Would you also say that dalit activists too have shown their anti-OBC fangs by going the anti-Anna way? As far as ‘middle class upper caste intellectual’ social category is concerned there are more of them in the pro-Anna camp than against, or outside.
      Sanjay Kumar

  7. August 31, 2011 5:10 PM

    Open letter to Ford Foundation and Arvind Kejriwal on charge of US bankrolling anti-corruption agitation

    Business Standard published this morning an interview with Arvind Kejriwal and Steven Solnick, India country Rep of Ford Foundation in an article titled Claims that Hazare’s movement is US-funded baseless: Arvind.

    They confirmed Arundhati Roy’s charge that Kabir, a Kerjiwal NGO received $ 400,000 during the last 3 years as funding from Ford Foundation. On the broader allegations whether the US steamrolled the Anna Hazare anti-corruption agitation, they drove themselves further to a corner. We send them an open letter as a reaction to their interview.

    Read more: http://exitopinionpollsindia.blogspot.com/2011/08/open-letter-to-ford-foundation-and.html

  8. SGeorge permalink
    August 31, 2011 8:52 PM

    As usual SK makes a lot of sense. His deep understanding of the issue and absolutely unbiased post is a reflection of the actual truth. As opposed to the article by Arundhati Roy, which I personally think echoes the same sentiments, this one leaves little scope for counter arguments. Clear as the day. While I doubt the people who happily rode in their SUVs to Ramlila Maidan to prove their righteousness, will accept or even consider the points raised in this article, any neutral right thinking person will have plenty to think about after reading this. Incredible post from an incredible teacher. B-)

  9. Pitaji permalink
    August 31, 2011 11:09 PM

    too many adhominems and too many strawmen. This article sounds as if middle class india is vicious and violent like the Taliban. A steriotypical commie diatribe against the emerging indian middle classes.

  10. Dr Sayan Das permalink
    September 1, 2011 12:38 AM

    Thanks for a more nuanced take on anna and his augustkranti than the shrill cries emanating in support of team anna from the large media houses(& the abovementioned mostly urban section of the hindu middle class).I mostly agree with your take;but just to inform you,the institutionalised leftists,namely,the cpi(m)-the west bengal state cpi(M) actually, taking out a rally(in kolkata,of course!) in support of the anti corrruption movement seemed more to be out of populist intent than anything else.however this remained limited to this singular act of solidarity only as the people of west bengal(or kolkata ) including the popular media(for somewhat different reasons than yours)didn’t jump into the bandwagon like rest of the indian metros.the reason of the public giving the movement cold shoulder is a bit unclear to me;perhaps as a result of decades of communist rule;but certainly not because the people of west bengal has the deepest of regard for our august democracy as the regional media is suggesting!However it was rather funny to see the english media(which caters to the minutest of indian population) acting as nation’s consciencekeeper.The whole movement, perhaps has opened up newer possibilities;but how they ultimately turn out is another matter.but from the word go this particular second independence movement smelt smack of a movement of the privileged class,by the privileged class & for the privileged class;mostly!(notwithstanding the fact of anna himself being an OBC)

  11. Sudeep permalink
    September 1, 2011 1:07 AM

    the kind of slogans you describe are not new to the ground level political scene in India.. Let alone the youth, even people who hold high political office are known to indulge in some gutter talk now and then.. Sample..

    Gali gali me shore hai, Rajiv Gandhi chor hai.
    Gali gali me shore hai, Indira Gandhi chor hai.
    Congress I, Kahan se aayi, Dr Mishra ki maa byahi.
    Tilak Tarazu or Talwar, inko maro jute char.

    Why pick out a few slogans from the many? Why not talk about the slogans raised from the dias..?

    Almost anyone and everyone gets to endorse Anna’s campaign, it does not follow that people who endorse Anna get his endorsement.

    In fact, till now, they have not handed out even a single endorsement. Even Ramdev, in many ways an ally, only gets qualified endorsement.

  12. naveen jankar permalink
    September 1, 2011 10:51 AM

    indian religion is corruption itself – worship is merely for “ichchhapurti” – blatant bribing of the gods for self-gain combined with the convenient washing away of all bad behavior in periodic pilgrimages and rituals. how then can we rid (or at least temper) the country of abuse of power and opportunity?

    • Kitapati permalink
      September 1, 2011 7:10 PM

      Which other country’s religions are not corruption. Is it exclusive to India.

  13. prakash pant permalink
    September 1, 2011 10:57 AM

    very well articulated article but reeks of statuscoism. The basic question is what harm willl befall our muslim and dalit brothern if a strong anti corruption ombudsman is established in india. These are very basic tactics employed by rulers since time immemorial to break any popular resistance by creatig divisions. In india our obvious fault lines are hindu muslim divide and upper caste lower caste divide. So it is nothing ingenious that government and its agents are employing this strategy. It is too obvious. But times have changed, wave of chane willl sweep away this decadant system.

  14. Naresh Goswami permalink
    September 1, 2011 4:48 PM

    sanjay’s take on the Anna phenomenon is deeply problematic. He tends to go overboard, misses the core and exhibits antipathy towards people, which curiously, though unintentionally, tells more about the ills of the block he seeks to represent.
    This attitude of sarcasm and portraying people participating in Anna’s movement as largely petty and devoid of sincerity or self-styled representatives of a patriarchical order, is going to do no good to the revival of left in India. What he says is actually a self-defeatist critique which only serves to alienate the common people from radical alternatives in politics.
    It would be good if sanjay could turn the same lens on the crisis of credibility that left finds itself steeped in. I believe, that problem with his views is deeper and essentially epistemological; he would have us believe that Anna’s so called foot soldiers did not represent ‘People’. The assumption here is that every protesting citizen, in a free wheeling movement, has to pass a litmus test of what it constitutes to be people. And what necessarily follows from it is the desire to have a pre-defined notion of people, amenable enough to be fitted in our scheme of change. Or how else would you find people, already initiated and capable of appreciating historical debates and nuanced understanding of struggles?
    This is perhaps why entire left in India, has reduced to academia, devoid of vitality and unmediated interface with the reality. The arguments rallied by sanjay to prove his point vastly miss the simple fact that in a layered and complex society like ours, there have to be multiple people and struggles. And anyone who first sets the litmus test for people to be worthy of being called pro-changers, will forever be waiting for a bus which has never been there.
    It actually shows the antipathy for people. And though queer, as it would seem, says more about the mind set of left radicals than the people, who have squarely lost the ability and an organic engagement with the people. They devise strategies according to their own locations, no matter how distant they are from reality. And when these tactics fail to take them anywhere, they break into an indiscreet critique of people, pushing them to wall. It is a pity that rather than questioning their own methods, understanding of ground realities, they tend the hold the people on street responsible. What we see here is a wish to have a tailor made people, worthy of receiving our benevolent radicalism!
    This is simple and pure arrogance. There can be no other word for it.
    The malaise, I believe, has emerged from the fact that most of our radicals make a sense of Indian reality through books, bypassing a live and direct connect with the people. And this has been a constant feature of both -established and the independent left. They reach out to people with a heightened sense of superior knowledge with the idea that common people are ignorant and they don’t understand the cause of their miseries. It’s true that very often apparent reality is passed for the hidden or fundamental reality. And people are driven more by it than the substantive reality. However, one can not afford to discount people’s own perception of their miseries and yet expect them to lap up what one offers them. This appears to be the basic tenet of every grand project of change proposed by the left. I think that all of us need to understand that everyone in this world has his/her ideology and working principles around which they structure their lives. And we can not ask them to change their way of life unless we give them respect, or more importantly, love them.
    But sections of left have worked themselves out into a strange bind: it takes them unusually long to respond to a situation or a movement that is coming up. It first tends to compare statistics of the ongoing movement with other historical movements, and finding the dissimilarities between the former and the existing, they end up with no participation or meaningful intervention.
    This is perhaps the root cause of the terminal breakdown that the entire left finds itself in. It has forever been waiting for its moment. Even at the risk of indulging into simplification, I would like to propose that all strands of left, despite their endless differences, share one thing in common: much of what comes from their camp is derivative intellectualism. All their arguments are built around a fixed body of knowledge, rarely exhibiting the desire to learn from what happens in the everyday sphere. It seems as though they are speaking to some imagined interlocutors already initiated and informed. There does not appear any desire, on their part, to engage directly with the given fact and then build the logic out of it. on the contrary, the case is the other way around. First, they build the idea and then look at the reality to crop it off to insert into the idea. This has been, by far, the basic undoing of almost every strand of left.
    This is how most capable of opinion makers within left, all well versed and genuinely committed to people’s cause miss the crux of an open movement, i.e. Common people’s spontaneous courage to take on the government. It’s painful to see how they fail to understand the clear message of this movement.
    So, finding faults with the people as to who is progressive and who is retrograde would do no good to the cause of alternative politics. Let’s us go to people with an open and uncluttered mind.
    To conclude, all the blind spots that sanjay identifies with Anna phenomenon, have always been there. There is really nothing new about exposing them. The challenge is, thus, to raise your voice above the multiple cords and let your idea decisively over-determine the existing strands of movement.

    • September 3, 2011 11:16 AM

      Devastating reply Naresh! I guess the problem we all face, not just those on the left, is that we tend to forget that we see the world through a lens often colored by our own biases and programming. When you buy into an ideology, or worse, begin to believe in it uncritically, everyone who doesn’t agree with you is wrong by definition. I sincerely believe the left has much to contribute to this movement and India in general. But they need to get down from their high horse first.

  15. Subramanian permalink
    September 4, 2011 1:07 PM

    Most people who have contested sanjay’s write-up did not understand the spirit behind which it was written. Sanjay has not stated that the anti-corruption movement was per se wrong. What he said was that this type of movements which have an element of over-riding the constitution could go against the unpriveleged people. This would not be in the interest of the upper caste middle class of urban India, since these unpriveleged people who number almost 3 times the former would easily run roughshod the former. Do not under estimate the pwer, stength and untiy of the unpriveleged.
    As regards the corruption, the urban upper caste middle class have been the biggest beneficiary of corruption since their fathers and forefathers were in government service at top and middle levels were they could get bribes. In fact, they had got the first right to the various resources that this country could afford for centuries, including the illicit and anti-national bribes.
    These urban upper caste middle class were supportive of the disinvestment of various government undertakings since this would prevent the unpriveleged classes into such undertakings by way of reservation. This was heralded by the most corrupt and pervert PM of India Narasimha rao and his now more famous FM; and this was continued by the BJP (by creating a special ministry for disinvestment), which originally critisized that the new policy of liberalization of Congress was anti-national and if they came to power they would implement a swadeshi form of liberalization. But after coming to power they forgot the swadeshi form of liberalization, since they being the Hindu upper caste party they cannot make policies that are detrimental to the people whom they represent. For the BJP the Hindu OBCs and SCs are not strictly Hindus.
    The very urban upper caste middle class which wanted the government to divest various publc sector institutions were the ones first to moot the idea that Satyam Computers should be taken over by the government to save it (rather to save their people who were investors and employees of the company) afetr it was hit by the scam, which the government did not rightly.
    Let somebody enlist the various corruption scams and the individuals involved and we can see which category of people have contributed towards the same – the minuscle SCs and the OBCs (whose reservation started only in 1996) would be nowhere in the picture in this achievement.

  16. sapna permalink
    September 6, 2011 6:57 PM

    dont blame to congress if lokpal is delay thats also due to some other parties i think opposition smiling and never think what they are doing just wasting our time on these stupid issues and what else they can do.

  17. rasi permalink
    September 6, 2011 6:59 PM

    Lokpal is dealy and we think its due to soem specific party but we think its politics again and again. party peopels are making us fool and enjoting their food in five star like ramdev….

  18. zania permalink
    September 6, 2011 7:01 PM

    i think sanjay ji you also think about ramdev what you think for him congress is responsible. opposition using these peopels and wasting our time.

    vote for congress at least we will get some thing.

  19. Aanchal permalink
    September 7, 2011 7:10 PM

    vote for congress at least we will get some thing.

  20. R.LAKSHMANAN permalink
    October 7, 2011 6:07 PM

    ya!! this is good hand by sanjay ji . the awareness should be created among public. they should not encourage the corruption……

  21. May 2, 2012 6:32 PM

    u are absolutely right Sanjay ji . we the people of India should fight against corruption and get our 2nd Independence.

  22. Navin permalink
    June 21, 2012 2:45 PM

    Sanjay,
    First – Bravo. You made me come back to my curiosity of this movement. I have read more. i am sure you are aware of the anti- dalit duvet in Ralegoan Siddhi. I am sure you will also know someday about the bomb making spots sponsored by R.S.S and ignored by Gandhian Hazare.
    Second – I read this article twice. I also have to say that many of these so called journalists have been pleasantly amused by this movement, choosing to look at the more funnier side than exposing the murkier acid belly of the movement. I was perturbed, and may be amused too.
    Third – I don’t know if you have observed, there is a slow penetration of the ‘looking away’ trend among the Jurnos and other government machinery. Infact you will discover someday, that Col Purohit was not the only one. I hope that it just does not get too late. Somehow it seems to me is that there is a diaphanous cadence to the extremist acts that are following up one to another.

    Thanks for you article. Food for thought. Heart to wrung.

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