Saturday, August 27, 2011

Well done India!

There was much talk of the blackmail of the government by Anna Hazare and how democracy is under threat. I wonder what the democratic process should be in this case? Should Anna Hazare (or whoever had a problem) with corruption written a letter and let the government take it from there? Or wait for the next elections to get elected and then pass a Bill? Or break the fast after two days and hope for the best?

Is this the best the ordinary man can do in a democracy? Is the common man completely helpless? Is that democracy?

If there was such a threat to democracy, then the government should have gone by its wisdom and done what it should have to protect the democracy. Which would have included stopping all things that were against the democratic process, including protests for certain Bills. Why did the government not do that? Why did the government not just arrest Anna and put him away? Or just let him fast to death and let it be as it did with many others?

Maybe they could not because this movement was different. No one really expected this movement to become so big, to hold on for so long. And, no one else except Anna Hazare could have carried out this fast, this protest and got so much support. There is something to be learnt from that. Not everyone could have done what he did. None of these speakers who condemn his methods could have sat on protest and attracted such energy. Why is it that he does? Why did the government blink and concede?

Forget the conspiracy theories. I would like to believe that it is simpler than that. One is his credibility. His track record - of which he speaks openly and challenges anyone to check it - is full of achievements that not many can dream of pulling off for some one with his means and resources. He believes he has led a life that is 'nishkalank' or blemishless and that is what gives him the power and conviction to take on such protests.

Another thing that I think served Anna is his belief in the power of the people, in the basic tenet of democracy, that it is of the people really and their real concerns should be addressed. That, I believe, is what drives him to go it, if need be alone. Now not many would have the conviction, the belief, nor the will power to carry it off. He merely protests, as a citizen, and demands what he wants. I think our constitution grants us all that much. Only not many of us can carry off such things, with such conviction. No wonder Laloo, in all his health, cannot believe that such things are possible, that some people can undertake fasts and still survive! Sometimes, belief can do that, as does will and surely the practice that Anna has had over the years. (Even if he did drink glucose and salts, still, no mean achievement I should think Dr.Vaidya? Have you tried fasting for 10 days with water, salts and glucose only?)

Baba Ramdev despite his clout and money and public support could not last long, in fact he was treated with complete disdain by the government which then systematically tore him and his reputation down. What was Baba Ramdev asking? Probably the same things as Anna, but he had not enough belief, conviction in what he did nor did he have the credibility. Only Anna Hazare could possibly have brought this movement to such a head because you cannot break him nor his belief, his conviction.

If the government had done what it did with Baba Ramdev (and protected democracy from being blackmailed) it would have been another story one suspects. Why they did not do it is also interesting. But I would imagine (naively, I know) that they did realise finally that they are after all mere representatives of the people, not the people themselves, or worse, their masters! And when the people start taking it upon themselves to make themselves heard, it speaks of the distance that has grown between the people and their representatives. Somewhere I suspect they realised that.

It is also that time of our history when seventy year old men threaten to 'starve themselves to death' uncompromisingly focussed on the end goal, reminding everyone of how it can be done in a democracy. Forget about the process being good or bad, there may not be many more such instances we get to see of what human will is all about, what true democracy is about. It is after all about the people. And perhaps that is what Anna Hazare has done with this movement, taken the power back to the people. He has made the people ask, demand from their representatives what they are about, what they are doing to safeguard the peoples interests. Now it is up to the representatives, who are hollowly trying to defend their honest ways, to win back the confidence of the public. I do not see anything undemocratic in what he is doing because the government is at full liberty to do what it can to stop him. That they have not been able to speaks for itself. And that in itself is a wonderful tribute to democracy. And to India.

I have heard some of the injured and hurt parliamentarians who have felt that the civil society has exceeded its brief in putting them all in one basket. Forget it guys, you are still not getting it. If the team fails, the entire team has to take the blame, and everyone who is representing the public has to take the blame. If there is an overwhelming cry from the youth that says 'mera neta chor hai', it is time to get the blinkers off and set things right. Not put on the injured and hurt look.

But all said and done, whether corruption goes or not, some points have been made emphatically. Full marks to all concerned, Anna for his fast and belief, his really small and vulnerable Team (the Bhushans, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal - take a bow) for weathering such a rough storm against a powerful system and several factions in Civil society and sometimes from their own associates and holding their own, the public for their overwhelming response and support, the media for keeping the movement burning with some exceptional coverage. But mostly, the Parliament for showing exceptional grace in a situation that could have gone totally wrong. Well done India. Now, onwards, to creating the fair, honest, accountable, equitable, transparent society we all want.

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