ANNA HAZARE MOVEMENT – A SKEPTIC’S VIEW
Asghar Ali Engineer
(Secular Perspective September
Lot has already been written on
Anna Hazare’s fast both for and against but more for than against. Why
then need for another article? Every article has a perspective and I have
mine on and also each article for or against throws light on some new
facts not covered by earlier ones. I had written earlier also from
Gandhian perspective but more needs to be written. This was, whether one
agrees with or not, is a very major movement having lot of implications
for our democracy.
First, on how far Hazare is
Gandhian and how far his method is Gandhian? He is being described as
Gandhian by the media apparently because he undertook fast which Mahatma
Gandhi used to. But can anyone become Gandhian just because one undertakes
fast? This is really debatable. Gandhian fast was more about its spirit
than its method or form. In my opinion mere undertaking fast does not make
one a Gandhian unless other conditions are fulfilled.
What are those conditions?
Gandhi was very particular, nay insistent on relationship between means
and ends. He strongly felt if means are wrong, ends cannot remain noble.
Thus above all his point of view was ethical and means are as important as
ends. Now what constitutes means? Is undertaking fast is enough to put it
under the category of ethical? For that we have to examine how Gandhi
undertook fast and under what conditions and for what purpose.
Whenever Gandhi undertook fast
he called it either repentance or self purification. He never insisted
that his demands must be accepted as it is much less at the cost of
democratic institutions. In fact he did not fast against Government. To
say that only my demand is right and there can be no other point of view
is not only undemocratic but authoritarian stand directed against
Moreover, Gandhi never depended
on anyone else when he undertook fast. It used to be his decision and to
end fast also was his own decision. He never constituted any team and seek
their advice nor asked anyone to negotiate on his behalf. Here not only
Hazare insisted on his demand being accepted but also involved his team to
negotiate and decide. Media also repeatedly referred to ‘team Anna’.
Gandhi never depended on
parading people in thousands, much less in lakhs for legitimacy of his
fast but his fast was never coercive and authoritarian. Anna had to depend
on thousands or even lakhs marching to further strengthen coercive
dimension of his fast. One of the members of the team Anna even threatened
on 9th day of his fast that who will be responsible if
something happens to Anna? The implication was the Government will be
responsible and hence Anna’s (which in fact means team Anna’s demand) must
be accepted in toto.
And ultimately this is what
happened. Also, the people who were paraded came from urban middle class
upper caste people and not representative of all sections of Indian
people. Minorities, dalits, tribals and poor, not only did not participate
(by and large) but even felt apprehensive about the consequences of Anna’s
fast which undermined supremacy of the Constitution and Parliament.
These weaker sections of society
definitely suffer from corruption as much as other sections of society and
they will support any fight against corruption. But this fight cannot be
at the cost of other problems of minorities and dalits which appeared to
be so in case of Anna’s fast. They felt their existence and their
fundamental rights are very much dependent on the supremacy of
constitution and parliament.
Anna Hazare’s movement, on the
other hand, appeared to represent majoritarian ethos and got enthusiastic
support from main opposition party BJP and also RSS was seen advising BJP
to lend full support to Anna’s fast and team Anna’s efforts. That made
these weaker sections much more apprehensive. Also, RSS and main
opposition support vitiated Anna’s fast ethically.
It got politicized on one hand,
and on the other, accepting support from a party whose members are deeply
involved in corruption wherever it has its governments in states,
particularly in Karnataka. How can Anna who is fighting against corruption
can accept enthusiastic support and large scale mobilization for a party
who too stands accused of corruption. This seriously affects ethics of
Moreover Gandhiji’s fast
remained a very serious effort to spiritualise politics whereas Anna and
team Anna indulged in politics, accusations and counter-accusation thus
eroding the ethicality of the end. Also, among the crowds there were
people who were drunk and used abusive language. Also, as if all this was
not enough, his supporters, at the instance of team Anna began to gherao
M.P.s to accept Anna’s demands else…Anna himself approved of these acts.
Even Prime Minister’s house was gheraoed eroding the dignity of the office
of premiere authority in democracy.
Also, serious accusations were
made against team Anna that foreign funds were accepted to finance such
huge mobilization. Every day food and water was supplied to thousands or a
lakh of people. Where the money came from? Did money come from impeccable
sources? If so why it is not being disclosed? Some even accuse that VHP
was supplying expenses for food. If there is any truth in this why Anna
accepted finances from these sources. Does he have any link with these
sources. Why did he not ask his team not to accept financing from these
Anna, unlike Gandhiji, not only
never undertook fast against communal violence in the country, he is not
even known to have denounced communal riots. He even praised developmental
model of Modi Government who was responsible for communal violence in
Gujarat in 2002 and what is worse, he praised developmental model which
benefits the rich at the cost of the poor which Gandhiji will never
It is in fact liberalization and
globalization and super-profits being made by the rich which is greatly
responsible for corruption, in fact, today, as unlike in the past, it has
become main source of corruption. Gandhiji was basically concerned with
the last person in society and he used to say that a development model
which does not benefit the last man in the society is not worth it.
And Anna praised the
developmental model of Gujarat which is nothing if not enriching and
ensuring super-profit to multi-nationals and financial sharks. How can
then Hazare be Gandhian? He used Gandhian tool but vitiated it with
unethical and un-Gandhian ways. Anna is reported to have said on many
occasions that the corrupt should be hanged. It means violence can be
legitimately used for such purposes which itself is quite un-Gandhian both
in form and content.
He also asked his followers in
his ‘model’ village to beat with shoes those who drank liquor and also
made them ride donkey and blackened their faces. These are all violent
methods which Gandhiji will never approve of. This clearly shows an
authoritarian strain in Anna Hazare and he seems to be in a hurry to
succeed. Same thing he tries to do with his fight against corruption.
Corruption can be fought with
laws and strong punishments. Hazare always insists on ‘strong punishment’.
As pointed out by me in another article, it is more of a moral than legal
issue. No amount of laws can even remove corruption. Even death penalty
has not succeeded in reducing murder, let alone ending it. In fact our
legal system is also corrupt. Our lawyers are ever ready to prove a
murderer innocent. Gandhiji, on the other hand, maintained that a lawyer
should never take up any case which he is not convinced is based on truth.
And what is the guarantee that ‘Strong Lokpal’ will not become corrupt and
then corrupt lawyers and judges will not be ready to defend them and prove
them not guilty?
Corruption can be more
effectively fought on moral grounds. And how can we have morally sound
citizens when our whole education system is corrupt, based on high
capitation fees for admissions and on the very concept of money spinning?
We need strong value based education to produce strong moral character
than strong Lokpal though the later may also be needed to an extent.
But one does not hear from
Anna’s mouth anything about morality whereas whole emphasis of Gandhiji
was on spirituality and morality. He would dive deep in his moral
conscience for solution rather than talk of laws and punishment. One who
is in a hurry to become messiah does not give importance to voice of ones
conscience. He resorts to external remedies and punishments. To become
Gandhi one must dive deep into moral conscience.
Centre for Study of Society and