anna hazare

A 1000 elder brothers…

“There was a time when I typed Anna, and google threw up Kournikova” says a friend’s status message on Facebook. Anna mania has gripped India, perhaps far better than Kournikova gripped a bored bachelors imagination. Perhaps. That coming from a 70 + year old gent, is no mean achievement in a country with a penchant for ‘moving on’ from one issue to another with adroitness that could teach the most flexible ape, a lesson or two in dexterity !

These are strange times. A time, when speaking anything against Anna Hazare and his supposedly substantially burgeoning bandwagon evokes a George Bush kind of ‘Either you are with us or against us’ response, that eventually leads to being pilloried a traitor with no love for the nation.

Any word that strikes a discordant note against the grain of Anna and his team, invites a flurry of responses that have ranged from the ‘considered’ to the ‘dismissive’ to the downright silly. Unfortunately, with the last two dominating.

Well, this is a free country. On that note, lets face facts and call a spade, a spade. Half a spade, half a spade.

There are three roads that have lead us here.

The first one. It’s a fact that Anna Hazare stands tall. In a time when chaps half his age could have ‘turning the pages of a newspaper’ as their most intense physical activity, his energy and verve has lit up people. He seems to have a steely resolve and a resolute purpose. Fundamentally, his heart seems to be in the right place.

It is a different matter though, that has had generous helpings from extravagantly dimwitted attempts by those in the government to discredit him and a disproportionately loud and insistent singing of paeans by the electronic media. Matters that we shall keep aside for now.

He oozes confidence and a shrewd team with the likes of Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, add larger than life dozes of credibility that lend themselves well to a perception that his armoury is chink free. That is such a romantic fit to a population that is starved of a charismatic leader with compelling story to tell.

On the second front, the vexed issue of corruption is something that every Indian has encountered. As a giver. As a taker. Or in an off chance, as a fighter! The last few years’ litany of loot is ridiculously unparalleled. The brazen size of the embezzlements and the shrill cry of a media that seems to be in perpetual hunt for a good story, catalysed by the penetration of the internet with space for the common man and woman to vent, collate and seize up the collective spirit have had a substantial impact on the psyche of the populace.

On the third front, the government seems to have floundered much like a pathetic array of generals who ride on new horses named ‘arrogance’ ‘pelf’, ‘doubt’ and the like, only to completely lose their way and meander aimlessly. Specialising in retreat after retreat, as foray after foray seemed ill-conceived, inconsistent and remarkably insouciant.

So there. Three different fronts. All leading up here. Inflammable material needing just a spark, placed next to each other ! Bingo. So we have an issue at hand. .

An emotionally charged and ‘affected’ population that has for long grown up aiding or staying mute to a culture of ‘giving’ to get by / to get ahead etc etc, suddenly sees a messiah who has brought the manna they were in search of, in a zipped file! Which they can download and install and ‘lived happily ever after’ endings would follow.

Anna Hazare’s charisma, in-your-face 24 hour media coverage and our own impatience to shake off a 40 year lull in four weeks, have had many of us jumping in. Candles. Topis. Flags. Dharnas. Shouting Vande Mataram and such else.

Don’t get me wrong. The intentions are pure to a large extent for most people, that have joined the protest. ( Builders, who ever so often seek black money on the sly, joining the protests presumably because they could pass on huge discounts to consumers that they otherwise would have to pay as bribes are one of the reasons as to why I say ‘most people’). The selfless passion that several other ordinary people have brought to the front through this movement is goose bumps creating stuff and reinstates hope that ‘all is not lost’.

Yet, even as the pitch gets shriller, could we care to read the Jan Lokpal bill in its current form. Examine the practical implications and sustainability please? Just give it a read. Lets understand what we want! The bill and its provisions are a far distance away. Nevertheless, that’s my opinion. Lets give it a read , form an opinion and enter the debate.

On another note has anybody considered the kind of a precedent we are setting in forming laws for the country ? We are not in cowboy backyard. India has a set of rules and governed by a constitution that is supreme. Sure, many of us are supporting the Jan Lokpal bill. But, since when did ‘many’ become ‘all’? Or ‘most’, for that matter ?

Lets face issues : Corruption is no CIA implant or a conspiracy hatched in a Pakistani madrasa. It is perpetuated by ‘us’. So much so, its existence is a ‘way of life’ for us! It is too far well entrenched for one Kryptonian bill to change it, as though it is some rogue software virus that could be removed by hitting the delete button on a keyboard.

Think about this. The political class is not the only one that is corrupt, although it sits at the helm of it all. Offering money to the cop in the corner, after breaking a signal is as much a form of corruption as is not raising a voice when the Reddy brothers offer a diamond studded crown worth 45 crores to Lord Venkateshwara, especially after illegally blasting away the good lords backyard in Bellary!

To many of us, corruption is an issue only when we part with money when everything is hunky dory on our side. Yet, to break the queue, skew the law in our favour, evade taxes, to get ahead, or to get an undue favour ( which, by the way, is quite often, given our laws) we could grudge but willingly pay! Or take a slightly circuitous route of saying ‘I wont pay’, but pay an agent ‘service charges’ to facilitate ‘transactions’.

As a society, our moral compass has shifted. To get it to point in the right direction would require the collective will of everybody. The collective will of ‘We the People’. A will to stand in queue. A will to endure discomfort that is far greater than an empty waving of the flag. Many a time, fighting a lonely battle. To face the heat that is many times more than holding on to a simple candle. That’s what it takes, to stand up to the corrupt.

A simplistic law is far from an effective solution. We cant rid a cancer in the blood with a cleanser for the face.

The fabric of the country is dialogue. An inclusive participative dialogue. A willingness to listen and engage. Not a set of deadlines and a ‘do this or else…’ set of demands. My way or the high way’ may sound good coming from a Bollywood superstar in a scripted movie. Real life is no cine script, where blockbusters are rarer still. Change happens in small doses.

Lets get real. Anna Hazare is no Mahatma Gandhi. 2011 is not 1947. And by the way, we are not fighting a parliament that is in London.

There is now a certain level of focused conversation on corruption across the country, all credit to Anna Hazare and his team. This is a unique moment pregnant with possibilities. Hopefully, pragmatic sense would prevail and this societal momentum will be channelized for greater dialogue with everybody.

Lets consider Inclusive and participative dialogue providing space for words to get spoken and voices to be heard. Hopefully it would also provide the self indulgent indignation of every ‘I am Anna’ topi wearer a chance to pause and ponder on his or her own actions and responsibilities as well.

Lest it whittle away in the excitement of participating in the frenzy of war cries ranging from “2nd freedom movement” and such else. Taking with it whatever hopes that there was for change to emerge and further deep rooting the disease..